Sustainable tools[1] to meet fundamental human needs.W

Sustainability is expressed as meeting present environmental, social, and economic needs without compromising these factors for future generations.[2][3][4] A practice cannot be said to be 'sustainable for X years/generations.' The use of any span of time disqualifies the activity. Sustainability is for perpetuity.

Sustainability also means greater efficiency in resource use, ultimately giving benefits to economic growth and overcoming poverty, as well as health and quality of life.

Sustainable design and development[edit | edit source]

Sustainable design and sustainable development are critical factors to sustainable living. Sustainable design encompasses the development of appropriate technology, which is a staple of sustainable living practices.[5] Sustainable development in turn is the use of these technologies in infrastructure. Sustainable architecture (see Green building) and agriculture are the most common examples of this practice.[6]

Sustainable development requires to be designed and implemented. In this respect, it also has a psychological dimension. It requires human abilities and skills. If humanity did not exist, there would be no need for sustainable development. A society is therefore required in which these skills are cultivated and knowledge about them is passed on. It is crucial how we experience and shape our relationship to the social, ecological and economic system, i.e. to the world.

People need sufficient food and security. This is nothing new and is the starting point of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. With the motivation theory of Abraham Maslow it can be explained that people are only then able to devote themselves to higher goals if they do not starve and fear for their safety. It seems like a dilemma that the disruption of the ecological balance contributes to starvation, so that those affected find it difficult to engage for this balance.

But humanity is complex and the ecosystem is even more so. Unfortunately, people have only a very limited ability to handle complex systems successfully. The philosopher Jean Jacques Roussou already drew the picture of humanity alienated from nature. Together with abstract thinking, humans have acquired the ability to form a society that can exist at least in the short term, although it seriously endangers or even destroys the basis for life itself.

According to self-determination theory, basic human psychological needs can be reduced to the experience of social relatedness, autonomy, and competence. Giving sustainability priority in meeting these basic needs appears to be a major challenge that we must address.

News and comment[edit | edit source]

  • Vermont Green: The new US club attempting to do things differently, BBC Sport (May 11, 2022)
  • Low-technology: why sustainability doesn’t have to depend on high-tech solutions, The Conversation (Feb 18, 2022)

External links[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Adams, W.M. (2006). "The Future of Sustainability: Re-thinking Environment and Development in the Twenty-first Century." Report of the IUCN Renowned Thinkers Meeting, 29–31 January 2006. Retrieved on: 2009-07-25.
  2. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency "What is sustainability?" Retrieved on: 2007-08-20.
  3. United Nations General AssemblyW (2005). 2005 World Summit Outcome, Resolution A/60/1, adopted by the General Assembly on 15 September 2005. Retrieved on: 2009-07-25.
  4. This widely accepted definition of Sustainability comes from the Brundtland Commission in a 1987 report for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), specifically referring to economic development. Other terms can replace "development", however, and the definition remains valid. "Activities", behaviors", "practices", "energy", "consumption" are some of those terms.
  5. Fritsch, Al; Paul Gallimore (2007). Healing Appalachia: Sustainable Living Through Appropriate Technology. University Press of Kentucky. p. 2. ISBN 0-8131-2431-X. Unknown retrieval date, revised: 2009-07-25
  6. Wheeler, Stephen Maxwell; Timothy Beatley (2004). The Sustainable Urban Development Reader. Routledge. ISBN 0-4153-1187-X.

Discussion[View | Edit]

UN Sustainability Goals[edit source]

Do others think it a worthwhile idea to develop a United Nations Sustainability Goals page here on Appropedia? I am surprised to not find one here. I am contemplating starting to build one inside Appropedia, and then would propose that the link on this page (to a UN page on the topic) would be replaced by a link to the Appropedia page. Is there some place where discussions about the "Category Tree" hierarchy and organization take place?

Thank you in advance for helping me to acclimate to Appropedia editing.

Tom Stanton

Proposal[edit source]

I took me more than a few weeks to write this proposal. On the other hand we had and still have a pandemic that screws things up. I wrote the proposed text in German and had it translated by Google. While I reviewed it afterwards it may be better to have "a native" looking over it. Stay healthy! Wilhelm


The illustration on top of this page intro relates the concept of sustainable development to basic human needs. It does so from a psychological perspective based on the theory of human motivation by Abraham Maslow (1943). Linking sustainable development to psychology is up to date and necessary (see references below). However, the theory of needs by Maslow may not be best suited to do so.

I see two possible flaws and respective improvements here:

(1) Maslow based the hierarchy of needs on research done with successful, wealthy people. But the concept of sustainable development, I believe, is most tangible when related to a concept of needs closer to the live of individuals who are having a hard time. I am thinking about the basic human needs addressed by the ILO Core Labour Standards or the UN Sustainable Development Goals (no. 8).

Keeping the psychological perspective on this topic is nevertheless central. I agree with Maslow that people and society with them need to feel safe and to have enough food in order to fully develop higher motives. That I would keep upright.

(2) The hierarchy of needs by Maslow comprises the category "love and belonging". But even in a sustainable society there will be individuals who feel lonely and disliked. I see a blurring of the concept of sustainable development here, it sounds like "creation of a perfect world". The theory of basic psychological needs by Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan (see below) could be better suited, maybe.

I have to admit that I still don't know exactly how I'm going to implement this, but I wanted to address it, especially since I am planning to make some major changes, especially I intend to replace the above illustration.

(There is more to write about the psychology of sustainability beyond "needs," but that doesn't affect any existing content.)

I look forward to your feedback on my proposal; I will now wait a few weeks and then be bold :-) and begin with the revision. Wilhelm (talk) 20:36, 23 January 2020 (UTC)


Deci, E. L. & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior (Perspectives in social psychology). New York: Plenum.

Aguinis, H. & Glavas, A. (2012). What We Know and Don’t Know About Corporate Social Responsibility: A Review and Research Agenda. Journal of Management, 38(4), 932–968.

Hahn, T., Figge, F., Aragón-Correa, J. A. & Sharma, S. (2017). Advancing Research on Corporate Sustainability: Off to Pastures New or Back to the Roots? Business & Society, 56(2), 155–185.

Kuntner, W. & Weber, W. G. (2018). Tensions within sustainability management: a socio-psychological framework. Journal of Global Responsibility, 9(2), 193–206.

Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50(4), 370–396.

Ryan, R. M. & Deci, E. L. (2000). The darker and brighter sides of human existence: Basic psychological needs as a unifying concept. Psychological Inquiry, 11(4), 319–338.

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