"The glory of God is man fully alive, and the life of man is the vision of God." -St Irenaeus of Lyon

The Nature of Manufactured Want

In times of plenty, people easily demand things that they do not otherwise need.  Many of our demands surprise us when confronted with the logic.  I have spent several weeks reviewing literature regarding wastewater irrigation systems.  At the close of finishing up my paper, the New York Times ran an article concerning water shortages in the southwestern United States.  First I thought, “Aha! This article discusses why people should be aware of wastewater reuse strategies!”  But as I read, I saw a more intriguing picture of the nature of human needs.

Las Vegas is pursuing some intriguing options to secure its water feature.  One of the main initiatives by the city is “to encourage homeowners and businesses to eliminate their lawns in favor of the rock, grass and cactus landscaping.”  But what are lawns doing in Las Vegas, a city housed entirely in the desert?

The lawns exist because the water resources existed.  When people have ample supply, they can cultivate ample want.  They can cultivate these wants to the point where the want lacks common sense.  Having a lawn in Las Vegas becomes an issue of freedom and choice.  The focus remains on the desires of individuals rather than on consideration of the environment.

Please note the frame here: the argument rests in context.  What foliage belongs in the desert?  How can we appreciate the desert’s beauty?  How do we come to terms with living, and even with flourishing, in the desert?

Consumerism can distract us from a broader frame of contextual fit.  While the environment always requires some modification to support human flourishing, we can fit our human-built world more closely to the context.  And who knows?  We may even approach decisions that offer promises towards justice.


2 responses

  1. You’re not kidding here. It’s not a question of whether it’s right or not, just can I do it and should you be able to stop me. The means to do something becomes the license to do it. That’s what we’re dealing with in much of our society, particularly with regard to life issues.

    But you know, Las Vegas is really all about that. From the very beginning, being able to live in Las Vegas comfortably was all about air conditioning wasn’t it? There wouldn’t be a Las Vegas without that. Who would want to go there otherwise?

    2 October 2010 at 3:46 am

    • Well, one could make the argument that from the very beginning, being able to live in Minnesota comfortably was all about heat. People have used an array of measures for climate control. Some of my favorites are the updrafts built into desert dwellings.

      Humans require a human-built world. For instance, we need to wear clothing. But do I really need 45 shirts?

      2 October 2010 at 8:41 am

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