Need vs. Greed

Nov 11th, 2013 | By | Category: Other Resources

By Suzanne York,

Being in India – a country of 1.3 billion people – sort of puts the whole notion of sustainability on its head.  The poverty, pollution, chaos and shear numbers makes everything a challenge, to put it simply.  Here on the sub-continent, and globally, can a healthy, “resilient” environment be created in the next decade or two for both the environment and humankind, or is society just not up to the task?


Certainly reams of paper have been dedicated to this topic.  But for a very quick summation, let’s turn to Gandhi.

One of the basic tenets of Gandhian environmentalism is that “the earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not any one’s greed.” These are words that should guide our society as it struggles to find a better course amidst some huge issues, including inequality, inequity, population growth, environmental degradation, and climate change.


“A community or country in which women are not honored could not be considered civilized.”

Inequity/The 1%:

“The rich should be taught the doctrine of stewardship and the poor that of self-help.  To live above the means befitting a poor country is to live on stolen food.”


“The ideal of creating an unlimited number of wants and satisfying them seems to be a delusion and a snare. Self-restraint and not indulgence must be regarded as the law of life.”


“Humankind should act in such a manner that it is a part of Nature rather than apart from nature.”

Land Rights/Poverty:

“No man should have more land than he needs for dignified sustenance.  Who can dispute the fact that the grinding poverty of the masses is due to their having no land that they can call their own?”


“Democracy must in essence mean the art and science of mobilizing the entire physical, economic and spiritual resources of all the various sections of the people in the service of the common good of all.”

There is much, much more that could be listed here, but in our “30-second soundbite” world, the above quotes quickly highlight a few of the important topics of the day.

The world is headed toward 9.6 billion people by 2050, and respecting women and nature, providing healthcare/voluntary family planning services, education for all girls and boys, and ending poverty/reducing consumerism are all issues that we ignore at our own peril as we try to balance the needs of nature and people.

If more people revisit the words of Gandhi and others such as Martin Luther King, Jr and the Dalai Lama, we stand a good chance of bettering our world. As the cliche goes, we only have one planet.


Suzanne York is a senior writer with the Institute for Population Studies and was in India in early November 2013.

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One Comment to “Need vs. Greed”

  1. admin says:

    Those are wonderful quotes from Ghandi. I hope I can use some of them soon in my own writing. Thank you

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