Another T-shirt. A plastic bottle of water. A chocolate bar. An iPhone. In rare situations, those might be actual needs that someone has, but in most cases those are all wants. As humane educators we often encourage people to think about the stuff they have and the stuff they want to buy and ask, "Is this a want or a need?"
In an effort to live a "healthier, happier life" photographer and artist Erin Hanson decided to graphically capture some of her wants and needs, so she created the series "Need to Want Less."
I think it's a great concept that's adaptable to classrooms -- having students illustrate their various wants and needs and comparing and discussing. Having students go through their backpacks (or mentally through their rooms at home) and drawing the various objects and symbols that represent their wants and needs, and then, as they learn more about the impacts of their choices and about what their lives actually require in order for them to be happy, perhaps witnessing their "needs" piles becoming smaller.
Bringing in resources like Peter Menzel's books Hungry Planet and Material World can also remind students about the levels of wants and needs that others around the world have and may lead to critical discussions about fairness, equity, enoughness, sharing, and nurturing a world in which there is enough for the planet and all its inhabitants.
Image courtesy of Erin Hanson.
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