PROJECT: Desire accounts for one part of human behavior. The capability of fulfilling this desire accounts for the other. The goal of human ecology is to add a third condition – protecting and restoring the environment.

Humanity’s past serves as a vast, ready-made test site for ways of acquiring food, shelter, fuel, and delight. A chronology of this 150,000 year history might be written in five volumes with the following titles: “Hunting and Gathering,” “Farming and Crafting,” “Trading and Raiding,” “Manufacturing and Retailing,” and “Digitizing and Networking.” The title of the sixth volume will be determined by you and all the other people. Will it be “Struggling and Expiring” as some predict?

In a brief flicker of geological time we humans have created an electronic, technocratic, bureaucratic wonderland that expands our adaptive advantages and supplies our desires. But will this wonderland become a wasteland? This question arises from the fact that humanity’s gleaming record of accomplishments is often tarnished by the adverse conditions they engender. Human ecologists are seeking a new definition of human accomplishment – one that entails safeguarding the delicate equilibrium between the planet’s many systems.  Essentially they are overhauling the definition of ‘desire’ by associating it is ‘frugality’, and ‘delight’ by associating it with restraint.

Human ecologists study the relationship between humans and the environments in which they live, play, and work. The artists in this section not only study human behaviors; they help people monitor their own activities. The diverse strategies they utilize to accomplish this goal include defacement of a luxury item(Ant Farm), discourse (Beuys),  empowerment (Dory), instruction (Fournier), parody (Gelitin), visualization (HeHe), ritual (Kaprow, Red Earth), edify instructive demonstration (Lee, Starling), opportunity to reform behaviors (Mandiberg, Yeh), reward for positive behavior (Reyes), pleasurable physical engagement (Schneemann), interaction with life-affirming processes (Sherk).

READ TO LIFE! Any three chapters listed above.

PROJECT: Desire accounts for one part of human behavior. The capability of fulfilling this desire accounts for the other. The goal of human ecology is to add a third condition – protecting and restoring the environment. The following project applies all three conditions to you. Consider yourself a test-case in a human ecology project studying human behavior. 

PART 1. CURRENT PERSONAL DESIRES

1. Biological and Physiological

Air: Negligible (  ). Slight (  ). Moderate (  ). Strong (  ). Intense (  ). Crucial (  ). Excessive (  ).

Food: Negligible (  ). Slight (  ). Moderate (  ). Strong (  ). Intense (  ). Crucial (  ). Excessive (  ).

Drink: Negligible (  ). Slight (  ). Moderate (  ). Strong (  ). Intense (  ). Crucial (  ). Excessive (  ).

Shelter: Negligible (  ). Slight (  ). Moderate (  ). Strong (  ). Intense (  ). Crucial (  ). Excessive (  ).

Warmth: Negligible (  ). Slight (  ). Moderate (  ). Strong (  ). Intense (  ). Crucial (  ). Excessive (  ).

Sex: Negligible (  ). Slight (  ). Moderate (  ). Strong (  ). Intense (  ). Crucial (  ). Excessive (  ).

Sleep: Negligible (  ). Slight (  ). Moderate (  ). Strong (  ). Intense (  ). Crucial (  ). Excessive (  ).

2. Safety – protection from elements, security, order, law, limits, stability, etc. 

Negligible (  ). Slight (  ). Moderate (  ). Strong (  ). Intense (  ). Crucial (  ). Excessive (  ).

3. Belongingness and Love – work group, family, affection, relationships, etc. 

Negligible (  ). Slight (  ). Moderate (  ). Strong (  ). Intense (  ). Crucial (  ). Excessive (  ).

4. Esteem – self-esteem, achievement, mastery, independence, status, etc. 

Negligible (  ). Slight (  ). Moderate (  ). Strong (  ). Intense (  ). Crucial (  ). Excessive (  ).

5. Material Goods – fashion, art, devices, toys, etc. 

Negligible (  ). Slight (  ). Moderate (  ). Strong (  ). Intense (  ). Crucial (  ). Excessive (  ).

6. Cognition – thirst for knowledge, meaning, etc. 

Negligible (  ). Slight (  ). Moderate (  ). Strong (  ). Intense (  ). Crucial (  ). Excessive (  ).

7. Aesthetic – pleasure in beauty, balance, etc. 

Negligible (  ). Slight (  ). Moderate (  ). Strong (  ). Intense (  ). Crucial (  ). Excessive (  ). 

8. Self-actualization  – need for self-fulfillment, personal growth, peak experiences. 

Negligible (  ). Slight (  ). Moderate (  ). Strong (  ). Intense (  ). Crucial (  ). Excessive (  ).

9. Transcendence – desire for spiritual fulfillment. 

Negligible (  ). Slight (  ). Moderate (  ). Strong (  ). Intense (  ). Crucial (  ). Excessive (  ). 

10. Other Desires

PART 2. CAPABILITIES FOR FILLING YOUR DESIRES

The technologies (and many more) have recently been added to humanity’s stock of tools for your sustenance and satisfaction. Note which help satisfy each of the strong desires you identified in the preceding survey.

  • High-speed and high-volume wireless transfer of electromagnetic energy using silicon chips and optical cables
  • X-rays, CAT scans, and magnetic resonance imaging
  • Nanotechnologies
  • Surveillance technologies to monitor nuclear testing, arms build-up, air quality, water quality, traffic, endangered species, theft, terrorism, soil conditions, climate change, and so forth
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Robots
  • Artificial hips, knees, retinas and corneas, ear drums, pacemakers, etc.
  • Controlled release of energy residing in coal, oil, and the atom
  • Psycho pharmaceuticals
  • Machines that flatten land, dam rivers, bore holes in the earth, extract ores, and so forth
  • Cloned and genetically engineered life forms
  • Aviation
  • Air purifiers, water purifiers
  • Chemically synthesized substances for pharmaceuticals, construction materials, adhesives, cosmetics, disinfectants, flame retardants, food additives, detergents, fabrics, and many other products
  • Chemical fertilizers, insecticides, growth hormones, fungicides, herbicides, and antibiotics
  • Surveillance technologies to monitor nuclear testing, arms build-up, air quality, water quality, traffic, endangered species, theft, terrorism, soil conditions, climate change, and so forth
  • Landfills
  • Contracts, brokers, credit ratings, bookkeeping, stock companies, promissory notes, and stock exchanges
  • Other
  • PART 3. Reform the manner in which you normally fulfill one of your desires so that its impact and footprint are reduced. In order to transform your action into an art project, utilize the strategy of one of the artists in this section to convince others to adopt your behavioral reform. For example, if you desire sleep, you might propose adding a blanket instead of relying on central heating. In this instance your artwork might consist of a bedtime ritual (like Kaprow) that includes turning down the thermostat and pulling up the covers. If your desire seems costly and unessential, you might abandon it altogether. In this instance, you might reward this sacrifice (like Reyes).

    RESEARCH / DISCUSSION: Based on the Personal Desire survey above, select one strong desire that you are feeling at this moment and answer the following questions:

    -Is it inherent or a product of socialization?   

    -Is it necessary or expendable?

    -Is it shared with many people?

    -Is it a recent or a long-standing component of human experience?

    -Is it easy or difficult to fulfill? 

    -Is the satisfaction long-term or temporary?

    -Is fulfillment a matter of luck, will, skill, ingenuity, money, other?

    -If the desire is frustrated, will you try again?

    -What are the environmental impacts associated with fulfilling this desire?

    -Would you develop or suppress this desire based upon its effect upon the environment?