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Template of human necessities

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Made by Swim robb

Template of human necessities

08/08/2018 at 14:08

Data Inventory

Starting a community like Project Kamp has a lot of things that need to be accounted for. In fact there are so many things to account for that it becomes quite difficult to keep track of all of them. A community uses a lot of different resources and simultaneously produces lots of “outputs” as well. It takes a lot of resources to sustain any human life for that matter, let alone an entire community or society. To accurately figure out how big my actual footprint is and how much I’d have to produce in order to sustain my own life is a pretty big obstacle in the effort of going “off-grid”.

Has anyone made a template for accurately collecting and calculating this data?

I started years ago to log all of my financial transactions into an excel spreadsheet. This gave me quite an accurate overview of how much money I invest in each of my necessities like nutrition, transportation, housing, appliances, internet etc. This spreadsheet then revealed to me how much I consume of each of these categories on a yearly basis. Food for example: Quite a lot of it is needed for me to thrive by my current standard of living. In the effort of going “off-grid” I must find out how much of everything my diet consists of is needed. Which items can I grow and supply myself?, how much resources are needed to produce these?, and which of these I have to purchase from other sources? All of this data will then reveal how much vegetables need to be grown in the summer, how much mushrooms and honey need to be produced and even how much livestock is needed in order to provide myself and others with adequate nutrition without having to purchase this produce, or lower the standard of living.

That was only a small glance at the category of food & nutrition. There are many other necessities that have to be accounted for and keeping track of all of them is quite a formidable task. So has anyone tried to do so? Is there anyone who has designed a system which not only keeps track of all the resources consumed by human necessity, but also keeps track of all of the outputs that one produces? A system that will enable one to calculate accurately what the actual footprint is. That’s after all the thing we strife to reduce by going “off-grid”. The closest things that I could find after asking the all-mighty google were a couple of guestimating “carbon footprint calculators” and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The calculators just show your supposed environmental footprint on the basis of a couple of a couple of questions like “do you ride your bike?” and “have often do you eat meat?” These were basically nothing more than a couple of depressing questionnaires.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs was a step in the right direction but this theory consisted of a template in the form of a simple pyramid like hierarchy. On the bottom there were basic needs like air, water, food, sex, housing etc. On top of that were safety, love, esteem and at the very top “self-actualization”. Abraham Maslow proposed this theory in 1943 so obviously he forgot to mention internet, smartphones, computers, technology and the reality of finite resources. As far as personal development goes, this template works okay I suppose. But when it comes to creating a systematic overview of all of a community’s needs and the inputs & outputs required to facilitate these, this template isn’t very useful.



So why not design a better one?

* An universal systematic overview of all the necessities required to sustain a human life by current western standards of living regardless of climate or culture.

* Scale-able, from individuals, to communities, to networks and societies.

* Keeping track of the recourses consumed and the outputs generated. To be able to calculate and anticipate necessities accounted for by production and resources that need to be purchased so to prevent scarcity or unforeseen expenses. This data will enable for the calculation of the actual footprint of this individual or community by the current standards of living or less.

* Reduction of this footprint, size of the community and collaboration with the environment, other communities, etc. could be an adequate measure of success. Abundance of local biodiversity, produce, amount of inputs minimized, outputs utilized for profit or production, projects and knowledge shared, could act as a measure of economic success which will enable the possibility of financial gain for the community which in turn can be utilized for growth, research, development and other investments to further advance to the common goal of reducing our ecological footprint and dependence on external resources.


A Template of necessities

The illustration of Project Kamp made by Dave could be interpreted as a template of necessities. Basic things like Food, Housing, Sanitation, Energy, Communication, community, Technology are accounted for and provide a first glance at the necessities of the community living and working there. There is a template of basic needs used in survival situations. Relying upon nothing but the environment this protocol is called “the Laws of Threes” and describe the 4 main components that human beings need to survive.

On average someone is able to go three minutes without oxygen. Luckily air is abundant and does not require a lot of energy to obtain.

Fire:One has three hours to maintain core body temperature before going into hypothermia or overheating. Having a shelter to protect you against the elements is of vital importance for everyone. Fire is a good way to keep warm and a shelter is a good way to stay dry or out of the sun’s rays.

Water:After three days without water dehydration will take its toll. Water is another essential component of everything that lives. Obtaining clean drinkable water is paramount to every human being. Polluted or untreated water contains bacteria and viruses that will cause severe illness and obviously will diminish your success in any situation.

Earth: Resources like food, wood, stone, metal etc. are all originating from the environment and the earth itself. It will take three weeks for someone to start dying of starvation. Growing food from topsoil usually takes more time than that. These resources are finite and need to be harvested and maintained responsibly, even replenished if possible. In many areas of the world topsoil depletion is a threat to agriculture and biodiversity.

These 4 categories appear in every culture and in many books as “the four elements”. It is a start when it comes to identifying someone’s primary necessities and the resources any environment can provide in a survival situation. Now let’s identify human’s secondary needs. These are things like: A car, a bed, a laptop, medicine, health care, social interactions, clothes, etc. Now keeping track of necessities gets a bit more complicated. In my excel sheet I’ve collected all of my expenses on these necessities for over 5 years now. Revising the layout of the sheet, distilling it to its most efficient form. Eventually I categorized all of my needs and activities into 12 categories. These I could apply on everybody else’s necessities around me as well and could serve as a template to keep track of the things necessary to thrive by the current western standard of living.


12 categories of secondary necessities. 

– Nutrition: 

In a survival situation I’d eat whatever I could find, but by current standards of living, food is playing a more developed role in the form of nutrition. Providing enough produce and variety everyone can decide which nutrition works best for her or his body. Everybody is different, everybody’s body is adapted to different foods. But adequate nutrition is an universal need in the western standard of living.

– Clothing: 

I need clothing to control my body temperature, to protect myself while building stuff. Some acquire more than other and clothing differs in climates. but everybody needs clothing one way or another. Clothing is a big part of many cultures, societies and life in general.

– Community: 

Social interaction, relationships, family, friends, forums. A human being is not made to be alone for long periods of time. Isolation and loneliness causes all sorts of ailments. On a larger scale isolated communities, families or societies are also subject to a whole range of side effects. Like a piece of software that doesn’t get updated anymore it develops all sorts of problems. A healthy individual or community is one connected and interwoven with many others for optimum diversity and growth.

– Housing: 

A shelter or a van is a start, but if I’d want to maintain part of my western standard of living I will require an house. A place to sleep in and to call my own. To me, having a home is vital for my peace of mind. Again housing is different in each climate and culture, but is nevertheless an universal need for every human being. Even nomadic communities carry tents with them to use as a home where they sleep and take shelter in.

– Sanitation: 

Clean water, soap, a shower, a toilet, a sewage system, all of this is plays a role in many lives. Hygiene is the first defense against disease and needs to be facilitated. From washing in a river and pooping in a different hole every day, to having a multi jet shower with complete septic tank and sewage treatment facility. Everybody needs some form of sanitation. Otherwise diseases will proliferate and the immediate environment will be compromised.

– Health Care:

The second defense against disease and deterioration is health care. Medicine, dental care, tooth paste, first aid etc. Accidents happen, people get sick every now and then. In the western world we’ve institutionalized most of our heath care. In other cultures people know bush medicine or have other methods of preventing and curing ailments.

– Energy: 

Energy in the form of electricity to power appliances, fire to heat a home, gasoline to drive a car. We are all heavily dependent on energy and I would love to make the investment to be able to generate my own. Almost every society or community invests quite some time and resources into obtaining energy and absolutely is a necessity in daily life.

– Technology: 

From an ax to an android smartphone. Technology has been interwoven with our standard of living for a long time and this society cannot thrive without it. My Laptop, table saw, tools, Arduino’s, you name it, technology plays a massive role in my life and in every community. Solar panels, water cleaning systems, plastic recycling, tools and computers are all products of technology that will probably play a vital role in Project Kamp.

– Policy: 

Human rights is a form of policy, finance is a form of policy, democracy, agreements, commerce, contracts, law, property are all forms of policy. Policy is interwoven in every culture and is an essential part of it. Without it, daily life would be quite unpredictable and pretty unorganized. Even a monetary system with a fiat currency is a form of policy. An agreement how to interact and sharing responsibility with everyone who participates. This contributes to a common form of safety and trust. Does a community operate as a capitalist democracy, socialist co-operation, an hierarchical company, an organic organization or any other form of decision making? Policy is key to social success.

– Information: 

Internet, the #1 source of information, Information enables me to grow, to learn, to make decisions and to act. Books, papers, sciences, education, tutorials etc. Without all of this I would not be able to design furniture, cook a meal, play guitar, read or write, grow food or build a house. Information and free access to it, makes any individual, community and society thrive.

– Stimuli: 

Entertainment, fiction, sports, music, recreational consumables, leisure, anything that cures boredom and ventures into the spectrum of human mind is something that I need on a daily basis. I cannot maintain my current standard of living without music or sports. Everybody needs pleasure and stimuli to feel happy, healthy & balanced in some way or another.

Mobility: Being able to travel and having access to transportation is another necessity. Having a car opens up a whole range of possibilities and enables one to raise his or her standard of living dramatically. But this usually comes at the cost of lots of energy and resources nonetheless forms of mobility and the ability to transport goods and resources are a necessity.

With these 12 categories I’m able to list all of my necessities in a systematic way. I’ve visualized this data in a template below. Giving this idea a clear layout which is easy to navigate when levels of details are added and data is attached to each category. The ambition would be to develop a platform where an individual or community could get an insight on the vast amount of data and variables when it comes to summarizing primary and secondary human necessities, while keeping track of economic inputs and outputs. Simultaneously this template could serve as an inventory, for a community or an individual. To provide data like how much resources are available, what rate of food production is maintained, which tools and other technologies are provided for, etc.

As far as I know there is no systematic method for developing a “self-sufficient” community and most “off-grid” communities I’ve been to do not keep track if and how much they’re actually reducing their footprint on the environment. The questions I would like to ask are:

– Could this template work to organize a forum like this with the perspective of human necessity at its center? (I’ve added a sketch below)

– Could this template function as an economic model with human necessity at its center when it is utilized as an inventory for a community or larger network?

– Could this template become the basis of a program that keeps track of all of the resources, inputs, outputs flowing through this network to eventually provide a community with data like “how big is the environmental footprint?” “how much topsoil is used or even replenished?” “How many people can this community provide for without the need for extra resources?” etc.

Excel spreadsheets are nice but do not work that intuitively for most people, simplicity and a shiny graphic interface would make it much more accessible for the majority of people. Below is an initial graphic design of this template, also some other sketches organizing the topics in this forum with human necessities as its architecture. I would love to read comments and feedback!


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15/08/2018 at 10:11

Beste Robb,
Je idee klinkt goed en ben benieuwd hoe ver je al bent ermee..
Ik sta zelf op het punt een soort gelijk ‘project kamp’ te gaan doen incl het organiseren van creative workshops voor kids en volwassenen om meer awareness te creëren voor dit soort onderwerpen. Het kamp is bij Barcelona, Spanje. Zo’n template zou perfect zijn om ook echt aan te tonen hoe en wat.

Hoor graag van je,


30/12/2018 at 19:46

When you noted that most off-grid communities don’t keep track of the communities inputs, outputs, or their utilization of local resources, I had to wonder if its actually possible that in terms of gross per-capita efficiency in utilization of all resources, if there is a meaningful difference between off-grid and on-grid communities.

Perhaps something like what you are describing could be used to answer a question like that as well.

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