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Related Words, Beliefs, Background

Worldview Theme #24: 

Struggling With a Basic Need: Sustenance

alphabetical listing: A to K 

  alphabetical listing, continued: L to Z
Contrast Worldview Themes #24 and #26B --   these themes involve orientations, beliefs or behavior that are (more or less) diametrically opposed! 

absolute poverty -- when people are barely able to meet their minimum subsistence needs for food, water, clothing, shelter, livelihood, etc.

agriculture--the technology and practice of farming--preparing the soil, planting, nourishing, cultivating, and raising crops for food or fiber--or raising livestock, fish, etc. for human consumption.  Its earliest beginnings, nearly 10,000 years ago, allowed humans to start trading hunter-gatherer lifestyles for more settled existences.  In the last century, the development of manmade fertilizers, pesticides, mechanized farm equipment--and more recently new varieties of grains--has greatly increased agricultural productivity.  While globally agriculture still employs 35 % of the world's workers,  in affluent countries the corresponding figure is much less (in places dropping below 1%).

assertive coping mechanisms--strategies that psychologically healthy individuals use to constructively deal with anxiety and stress. They include: 1) changing the environment or situation, 2) changing one's behavior, and 3) when 1) and 2) fail or are impossible, learning to mentally manage the stress and minimize its internal effects.

basic human needs approach--a strategy which directs development assistance to the poorest people in an effort to meet their needs for food, clean water, shelter, clothing, health care and education.

cannibalism–eating human flesh, either as part of a ritual or attempt to survive extreme adversity.

development -- the process of improving the quality of human life, especially in poor countries. Besides targeting raising people’s standard of living, increasing their freedom (in terms of choices available to them) and creating conditions allowing for the growth of their self esteem are major development goals.

do it yourself approach--rather than pay certain professionals (carpenters, plumbers, electricians, auto mechanics, tax preparers, lawyers, etc.) self reliant people who wish to save money will do the work themselves.  Typically they begin by educating themselves as to the professional details of the task they face.    

dry farming--agricultural practices dependent on rainfall since they proceed without irrigation.

ecological groundedness -- a feeling of being intimately, confidently , enjoyably -- sometimes even joyously -- connected to the wild, natural community where one lives.

end of game strategy -- a strategy that can be adopted by a participant in either games or real life interactions with others in which belief that the game is about to end determines the strategy employed. Examples: 1) if you are certain you’ll never see a particular person again, you may decide that it’s okay to cheat that person out of something , and 2) if you are certain that Armageddon is fast approaching, you’ll have little incentive to care about the long-term environmental health of the planet.

famine--widespread lack of access to food that occurs when war, drought, flood, or other natural disaster disrupts the availability of food amongst people who are already chronically undernourished.

fatalism, poverty and responsibility -- There appears to be a link between the prevalence of belief in fatalism and living in poverty. It has been suggested that some poor people become resigned to their poverty and feel that no matter what they do, since they were destined to be poor, they can’t escape it. An important realization, that many who have worked with helping people get off welfare have had, is that escaping welfare / poverty begins with taking personal responsibility. This is consistent with believing people have free will and that confronting the issue of whether to take personal responsibility is unavoidable. On the other hand, a poor person who is fatalistic, when asked to take personal responsibility, might reply, “No one is ever free, so taking personal responsibility is meaningless”.

fear--a strong, primary emotion associated with unpleasant anticipation of danger and pain.

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)--a United Nations agency that works with developing countries in an effort to 1) raise levels of nutrition and standards of living, 2) improve production and distribution of food and agricultural products, and 3) promote rural development. One FAO program--The Special Programme for Food Security--seeks to cut the number of the world's hunger (food insecure) people (currently estimated to number 852 million) in half by 2015.

food preparation and processing--steps that are taken before a potential natural food source is actually consumed as food by human beings.  This can involve removing fibrous plant material or animal skin coverings / innards, washing, chopping, grinding, storing, cooking, and additional processing that can include chemical treatment or preserving.  Some health experts urge people to consume most of their food in as natural a state, with as little processing, as possible.

harm avoidance -- cautious anticipation of difficulty in certain situations results in people characterized by this to plan carefully, pessimistically worry, be shy, socially inhibited and sometimes avoid strangers. At times, such people lack energy to cope with situations that produce anxiety, so they passively retreat or hide from them altogether.

happiness and suffering -- Dostoevsky wrote, “Without suffering, happiness cannot be understood”. In equating Hell with “the suffering of being unable to love”, he again links these two concepts in an extreme sense, with love representing some extreme state of happiness, Hell a place of extreme suffering.

homelessness—a social condition characterized by lack of adequate housing and regular places to sleep, and dramatized by pictures of poor people in otherwise affluent western countries—with all their belongings in shopping carts--sleeping in public parks or under highway overpasses.  Causes of homelessness include poverty, unemployment, lack of affordable housing, mental illness, substance abuse, domestic violence, etc.  Estimates put the number of homeless in the United States in the 150,000 to two million range, in Europe around three million, and in whole world at one hundred  million.  

hunger--an uneasy sensation, craving or urgent need for food (or specific nutrient) due to lack of it. Prolonged lack of food produces the weakened condition associated with being chronically hungry.

hunger, types of--some are highly visible and have obvious effects--the worse being death from starvation.  The seasonal hunger that occurs between the time when food runs out from one harvest and next crop is not yet ready to be harvested can sometimes lead to this.  Other types of hunger, less visible, are associated with having some food, but not enough to meet basic nutritional needs. These include malnutrition, chronic undernutrition--where over a long period a person consumes fewer calories and less protein than their body needs, and  malabsorptive hunger. The latter, typically associated undernutrition, occurs when one's body is not able to absorb nutrients from food (often due to parasites in the intestinal tract from drinking contaminated water.)  

hunter-gatherer society--one in which people derive their sustenance from wild plants and animals, and often (seasonally or otherwise) move if necessary.  Before the domestication of these resources, beginning over 10,000 years ago, all humans lived in such societies.  

illiterate -- inability to read and write due to lack of education, either because of lack of opportunity or motivation, not because of physical or mental defects.

immigration issues -- Relatively high paying jobs in developed countries attract workers from less developed countries. So workers migrate -- both legally and illegally. In recent years, many of those who migrate legally are highly educated and skilled -- the very workers that poor countries can ill afford to lose. The great majority of these migrants move permanently and thus constitute a brain drain on the less developed countries. Illegal immigrants generally are not so skilled and tend to fit into jobs that natives find unattractive -- as agricultural laborers, construction workers, in food processing plants, as motel maids, groundskeepers, etc. They provide a huge source of labor -- one survey put this pool at 5% of the total U.S. workforce -- typically at the bottom of the wage scale. Despite their demonstrated role in western economies, many perceive these illegal workers as taking jobs away from poor, unskilled native workers. And many complain about the benefits illegal immigrants receive in the form of free local health care, education, social services, etc -- although the taxes paid by these workers adds up to a substantial amount (a recent U.S. survey put their annual social security payments at $50 billion!). Complicating the movement of people across international borders are security / terrorism concerns.

indigenous people--in 2004 the United Nations provided the following definition: "Indigenous communities, peoples and nations are those which, having a historical continuity with pre-invasion and pre-colonial societies that developed on their territories, consider themselves distinct from other sectors of the societies now prevailing on those territories, or parts of them. They form at present non-dominant sectors of society and are determined to preserve, develop and transmit to future generations their ancestral territories, and their ethnic identity, as the basis of their continued existence as peoples, in accordance with their own cultural patterns, social institutions and legal system."

insecurity -- lacking confidence and assuredness, feeling uncertain and unsure -- perhaps even unprotected and unsafe. Feelings of anxiety often accompany feelings of insecurity.


  money--a token or object that is generally accepted (both legally and socially) as a medium of exchange in paying for goods provided, services rendered, or settling debts. It also provides a measure of value or standard for gauging relative worth / wealth. Most economic transactions directly or indirectly involve money--one exception being a barter economy where money is not needed.

needs, Maslow's hierarchy of--American psychologist Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) ranked needs from most basic to highest as follows: 1) physiological: air, water, food, shelter, sleep, sex; 2) safety: security / not feeling threatened; 3) belongingness and love; 4) self esteem and esteem by others  5) growth needs: both cognitive and  esthetic leading to self actualization. Maslow stressed lower needs had to be satisfied first (e.g. a starving person isn't concerned with esthetics), and that higher needs are more uniquely human. The scheme can be represented using a pyramid.

needs vs. wants--the former are something that you have to have, the latter are something you would like to have.  If you haven't guessed, needs are more basic, things like air to breathe, food to eat, water to drink, shelter, and other things-- including other people and non-material things they can provide, and other intangibles.  As an example of what might be in this last category are needs that involve feelings such as  "the need to feel valued".  How do you decide if something is really a need or merely a want?  One way is to ask yourself the question, "Can I survive without this?"   

pesticides--substances used to kill or control pests: organisms which interfere with human well being or activities (agricultural, in particular). They are classified according to the type of pest they are used on (e.g. insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, etc.)  While such use of naturally occurring substances goes back thousands of years, the first manmade pesticide to be widely used was the insecticide DDT, developed in 1939.  Like DDT, many pesticides can poison humans and damage the environment. By the 1960s--with the publication of Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring, it was recognized that DDT interferes with bird reproduction. It is now banned in many countries.  A new generation of pesticides--some of which are biological agents, instead of manmade chemicals-- promise less environmental impact.

photosynthesis--a process of plants, algae, and certain bacteria in which sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide are absorbed and transformed into chemical energy of carbohydrates (sugars, starches), and oxygen is given off.  Light trapping green pigments known as chlorophyll typically play a key role in this process. 

population and family planning--refers to efforts to limit the number of children in a family.  The goal of such planning is to insure that all children born 1) are truly wanted, and 2) can be adequately supported and raised to adulthood given the resources available. While implemented at the individual family level, policies can be formulated at the national government level. This has most notably occurred in China, where the "One Child Policy" was adopted in 1979 to address population growth concerns.  Family planning services typically focus on promoting and providing access to birth control devices (contraceptive pills, condoms, etc). Where those fail, counseling as to whether to use an abortion clinic's services may be provided.  More draconian options include forced sterilization--which has been used in the United States to prevent mentally deficient people from reproducing.  

prostitution, forced--a form of sexual slavery in which someone is forced into working as a prostitute.  Poor women in developing countries are often required by extreme poverty to sell their bodies, or lured into the sex trade by false promises (sometimes of a good job in an affluent country) and are unable to escape.

scarcity--a condition that exists when peoples' "wants" exceed the limited resources available to satisfy them.  The related need to decide how limited resources are allocated leads to rationing and a means for doing so.  Price is one such rationing device. People compete  for what is scarce, and in making choices incur opportunity costs. 

slash and burn--agriculture in which forest is cut and burned, ashes fertilize the soil, the ground is planted and crops produced for a few years, before declining fertility necessitates repeating the pattern elsewhere. 

subsistence economy -- the production in such an economy emphasizes the bare essentials (food, clothing, shelter, etc) needed for people to subsist .

sustenance -- in general the means of support, maintenance or subsistence needed to sustain something. In an economic sense, refers to bare essential goods and services (food, clothing, shelter, etc) needed to maintain people at a minimum level of functioning.

sweatshops -- manufacturing operations (typically of garments, shoes, etc) in poor countries in which workers are paid very low wages, work long hours, and toil under very poor conditions (perhaps in unsafe environments, laboring without respect from management, being exploited, etc.) Critics charge that the low prices affluent Western consumers expect are made possible by the sweat and misery of the world's poor.  

thrifty (or frugal) orientation -- making do with less, saving money and resources by finding creative ways to solve practical problems and maintaining one’s current possessions, thereby improving their functional efficiency and extending their useful life.

tribe--a social group whose members are linked by family ties or common ancestors.  Often tribes consist of many smaller clans. Before the founding of nation states, human social structure was predominantly tribal.  Today some use the term to refer to any indigenous society.    

underdevelopment --a socioeconomic situation in which people’s standard of living, freedom (in terms of choices available to them) self esteem and hope for the future is seriously and persistently depressed.

waste treatment--steps that are taken to make waste water or sewage safe to discharge back into the environment. It typically involves removing chemical contaminants and dangerous microorganisms. If sewage is involved, end products of this process can be both liquid effluent and sludge--which conceivably can be used as fertilizer. 

water treatment--steps that are taken to make water fit or more desirable for human consumption. This can include filtering out sediment / minerals, purifying to remove chemical contaminants, disinfecting (boiling, chlorinating, etc.) to remove microorganisms, etc. Unsafe water supplies--chiefly resulting from contamination by pathogenic microorganisms--are the cause of diarrhea, cholera, typhoid, and other diseases. Diarrhea alone annually kills nearly two million people worldwide--typically children in developing countries.

welfare assistance—government provided monetary or other assistance designed to provide an economic or social safety net for those disadvantaged members of society who are unable to support themselves.  Eligibility is determined by income below the poverty level and other “means tests.” Recipients are typically required to demonstrate that they are seeking employment or have enrolled in job training.

World Bank -- an international financial institution of over 180 member nations whose purpose is to promote development in poor countries by providing loans and technical assistance.  Beginning at the end of World War II as the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), in 1960 it was expanded with the creation of the International Development Association (IDA). Today, the IBRD and the IDA together constitute the World Bank.


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