Take a few seconds to look at the image above and ask yourself, what do you feel when you look at it?
As you can see, there are tons of garbage waste shown in the picture above, and it’s something that has been happening around us for a long time. Unfortunately, the amount of disposed waste around the world has increasing as time progresses, and it’s slowly affecting our lives. From Flash Floods, to the ever-impending threat of Global Warming, our world has slowly started to exhibit signs of change due to pollution. Our Mother Earth has been suffering but no one seems to care.
Deforestation, industrialization, and urbanization are one of the few main causes of environmental degradation. We know these actions should be prohibited, and steps are being taken to prevent these actions, but why aren’t there any significant changes?
We, as humans, are so self-centered, that we unconsciously damage the earth day by day. One of the reasons being is because of our self-actualization. In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, environmental consciousness belongs to the highest level of needs which is the Self-actualization Needs. This is where people can see and accept reality as it is.
There are five stages of human needs in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and it explains the psychology behind human motivation. Physiological Needs goes first. According to the Hierarchy, the basic requirements that we need to survive are food, water, air, and sleep. The moment we get enough of these requirements will be the moment when we are motivated to move to the next stage, Safety Needs.
In this stage, we only require things that can help us to survive. Surprisingly, this does not include the environment. We have the need to earn money, build up resources, and look for shelter that protects us from danger. Once we are satisfied with these terms and mentally feel safe, we will have more time to think about what we want next.
Then, we will start to care about things that gives us happiness in the Love and Belonging Needs stage. We start to desire intimacy, family and friends, and want to feel a sense of belonging in society. We seek love and a sense of comfort from others. The moment we feel comfortable, we then proceed to the next stage.
Next, the Esteem Needs stage then comes into play. We start seeking achievements, reputation, status, and promotional opportunities at work. After we achieve that self-confidence, a sense of accomplishment, and receive respect from our peers, we then usually start thinking out moving on to the final stage
Finally, we then move onto the final stage, Self-actualization Needs. After achieving the other four levels of needs, only then will this highest level of needs be put into thought. It’s a derivative need, such as self-realization and realizing potential. It is the stage where we can do whatever we want; usually matters like seeking higher spiritual satisfaction, unless there are problems that are happening below this stage. In this stage, this is where we tend to help others gain happiness, but when is the time for us to think about helping our Mother Earth?
The need to think about our environment and saving our world is the stage that is on the very tip of the pyramid. Most of us are focused on the other needs, and only a handful of us are able to reach this highest stage of need. While we are still worrying about work, finances, or not being happy enough in life, we are unable to proceed to the next stage, to start being concerned about the environment. We can’t pursue a higher purpose until all the lower needs are met, so how can we truly worry about environmental degradation when we, ourselves, are struggling with other issues? This is why we need to fulfill the four stages one by one and its needs before moving to the top of the hierarchy.
Moreover, the lack of environmental knowledge is also one of the reasons why people don’t seem to care about the environment. Due to the behavioral change models, if we were all highly educated, we would be more aware of environmental issues, and would be more active to help make a change. In the end, everything is linked to our knowledge, attitudes, and behavior. We are all connected to each other, and our Earth. We should take responsibility to protect and save Mother Earth before it is too late. All of us are able to make a change, regardless of how small and insignificant your action may seem, the effects of it may be significant and leave a large impact.
"Be the change that you wish to see in the world" -Mahatma Gandhi-