Sufficiency is having enough for a life of well-being.
The question is what IS enough for a life of well-being. Everyone is different and we all have different wants and desires but our fundamental needs are very similar. Once our fundamental needs are met we have ‘sufficient’.
Unfortunately, there are hundreds of millions of people who do not have sufficient food and other goods to meet their fundamental needs. At best these people will have chronic health and physical development problems, at worst they will die. About 800 million people in the world are undernourished and over 7 million people die a year from hunger.
The fundamental material needs that all people have are shelter, food and water, clothes and transport.
Shelter provides privacy, comfort and safety. In particular a home keeps us comfortable, warm (or cool) and dry. It provides us privacy and safety from others. It allows us to do a full variety of individual and family activities. It can do all this without being big.
Home size varies throughout the world. The average home in New Zealand is a whopping 209m2 whereas the UK is only 76m2 and Hong Kong is a meagre 45m2. In London, minimum sizes have been set for home sizes:
Presumably a minimum size is a sufficient size.
The benefits of a smaller home are:
- it is cheaper to buy (or build) and maintain
- it uses less energy to warm and cool
- it is quicker to clean
- it does everything a big house does!
Food and water
To be healthy every person needs sufficient food and water. Diet can be a very complex subject, and whilst there is some conjecture about the ideal diet, the food pyramid gives a good indication of what and how much of each type of food we should be eating each day. If our diets are too unbalanced one way or the other over a long period it will lead to health issues.
It is an interesting fact that the foods we should eat the least (meats and animal products) are also the ones that are the worst for the environment.
Clothes are beneficial in many ways. Clothes keep us warm, they keep sun and bugs off, and they are an adornment that helps identify us and bespeaks our personal style. But most people will wear 20% of their wardrobe 80% of the time. Of the other 80%, there is probably a large proportion that we would not miss at all. It would be quite easy for many people to halve their wardrobes without any ill effect.
Cars have become such a dominant feature of our lives in developed countries. In New Zealand, like many other countries, it is common for families to have two or more cars. Cars are enormously convenient. Unfortunately, they are also enormously damaging. The best alternatives are walking and cycling. These are good for our health, for our pockets and for the environment. They reduce congestion, accidents and stress. If it isn’t practical to walk or ride then take public transport. You may still need a car from time to time but you certainly won’t need two.