Sustainability is the capacity to achieve enduring self-reliance by satisfying physical, psychological, ecological & socio-cultural needs.


Sustainability can be thought of as an ongoing game with you as your own player. Ecological, socio-cultural & economic systems are interdependent aspects of the gameboard with governing rules or laws. Individuals in government, business, education, non-profits & the community are the players that influence other players & the gameboard. Each individual entity, group & system has needs. We can achieve sustainability by satisfying those needs.

The objective of the game is to optimize physical, psychological, ecological & socio-cultural health & freedom.


The gameboard represents the 3 interdependent systems that we interact with:





There are 5 main types of players with a couple key subsets:







The rules of the game exist for the levels of each interdependent system:


Laws of Nature


Laws of Society


Laws of Finance


Laws of Human Nature


There are three nested systems that comprise essential elements of sustainability:


If the economy were to collapse, society and the environment would still exist. Money is just a medium of exchange that makes it convenient to buy things we want and need. The better we manage finite natural resources, the longer we can satisfy our needs. How do we create the best goods, services and associated economic structures to ensure ongoing security and enrichment?


If society were to collapse, the economy would necessarily collapse as well, but the environment would still exist. Individuals are the core components of groups, which are the main elements of a social structure. Though many groups have varying beliefs and values, we’re all trying to satisfy the same basic needs. How do we foster the most supportive and accessible social structures to satisfy those needs for generations to come?


If the environment were to collapse, society and the economy would inevitably collapse, as well. Land, Air, Water and Energy (the LAWEs of Nature) are the primary, yet limited, resources we depend upon to satisfy our most basic needs of food, air, water and shelter. Social and economic laws must be consistent with the laws of nature, if we’re to avoid collapse. How do we improve the conditions of these most basic & precious resources to ensure future generations will thrive?


Hawaii’s one of the most remote, highly populated places on the planet. It’s also one of the most ecologically & socio-culturally diverse places. The coastlines of our islands make it clear that we have very finite natural resources, just like Island Earth. In this and many other ways, our islands & community are like a mini version of the entire planet… a small scale microcosm of the global macrocosm… which makes Hawaii a perfect place to pilot scalable, regenerative solutions.

In order to become more self-reliant, we have to prioritize how our needs are met and create appropriate structures for needs-based local economies and wants-based global economies.

Five GroupsThe Players

We are each part of one or more related groups – government, education, business, non-profit and the community. Each of us strive to make life better for ourselves, others and the places we live. When each of the interdependent groupsʻ perspectives are taken into consideration in relation to the needs of the ecological, socio-cultural and economic systems, it will enhance our capacity to become more self-reliant and help improve quality of life for all.


As a tax-paying and voting constituent, an individual is the most basic part of our democratic government. The government is intended to act in the best interests of its citizens and do so within the framework of an evolving legal structure. How do we create the best legal structure to help improve all lives most, including future generations?


Educators, students and families (primarily mothers) are the key components of an educational system. The ultimate benefits of education are to enhance our skill sets so we are more able to satisfy our physical, psychological, ecological and socio-cultural needs in most circumstances. How do we create the best educational system to improve such skills?


Jobs and money are the core elements of business. For most of us, at least 50% of our waking day is dedicated to earning money by making, providing and/or selling goods and services, which then enables us to purchase what we want and need within our means or credit limits. How do we create the most accessible, affordable, healthy goods and services?


Sending, processing and receiving information are the most basic aspects of communication, which create and modify beliefs and values for each recipient. The internet, TV, radio, movies, print, etc. are primarily tools for sending information, most often with the intent to influence beliefs and associated actions. How do we use these tools to best enhance life?


Private innovation and open source movements have enabled massive scale use of hardware and software across all areas of human interest. Web-based and mobile solutions have an unprecedented capacity to affordably engage a large percent of the global population. How do we best leverage these tools to help benchmark, monitor and optimize health & freedom?


Community-oriented organizations often bridge the gap between government, business and the community to address issues of social equity and the many externalities not accommodated by flawed neo-classical economic models and associated laws. How do we efficiently identify the needs of the systems and effectively overcome barriers not addressed?


An individual is the most basic part of a group or community. As parts, we affect and are affected by each other. The benefits for a community increase with each person acting in their own and others’ best interests. How do we best help meet our physical, psychological, ecological and socio-cultural needs?

GROUP RULESThe Seven Triads of Sustainability


The involvement of the community in any activity that affects them is necessary in all stages of project implementation.

  • Communication (verbal & non-verbal) – Effectively sharing information, ideas and opinions
  • Commitment – An agreement or pledge to do something in the future out of mutual respect and shared responsibilities
  • Cooperation – Working together towards common and mutual benefit. Group bonds are enhanced as common interests, objectives, and standards are identified.


Everyday individuals, households and communities make choices that have broad and lasting impact which include issues of ownership, visioning, flexibility, informed consent, community choice, etc.

  • Consensus Building – creating collective agreement within the community is important for action
  • Awareness Building – facilitating overall understanding of the causes and effects of actions
  • Review and Hearings – involving all members of the community to discuss, debate and critically analyze the issues


A relationship between individuals or groups that is characterized by mutual assistance and responsibility for the achievement of a specified and agreed upon goal. The key to effective community partnership is that members of a community bring to the table different resources, skills and knowledge needed to take action.

  • Interdependence – mutual respect of each members strengths and weaknesses
  • Clustering – bringing together the different skills and resources needed for a particular/specific action
  • Networking – interacting with people who have similar interests or concerns, or providing support


Works when societal norms and practices enable and encourage communities to take increasingly greater control over their own development, without impinging upon the accepted rights of others which includes issues of impartiality of resource allocation, adaptation of external and internal pressures, responsiveness, representation, information disclosure, etc.

  • Transparency – processes, institutions and information are directly accessible to those concerned with them, and enough information is provided to understand and monitor them
  • Accountability – capable and responsible members have more authority and responsibility for decision-making, can improve delivery of the community’s aims and objectives, and can improve management of human and financial resources
  • Efficiency – the best use of locally available resources to maximize the output achieved

Knowledge & Information

Knowledge and Information lies at the core of a community’s ability to become aware, make appropriate decisions, communicate and act. This principle includes issues of learning, formatting and packaging information, targeting, delivery mechanisms, information sharing, technologies, etc.

  • Appropriateness – in a form that can be easily understood
  • Timeliness – quickly made available to assist in shaping short-, intermediate- or long-term consequences
  • Accessibility – all are able to acquire the desired knowledge and information regardless of socio-economic barriers or aptitudes

Continual Improvement

The setting up of a corrective and preventive action system, as well as a learning environment that makes use of lessons learned and involves all members of the community which includes issues of capacity building, indicators, etc.

  • Monitoring and evaluation – checks the progress of a project
  • Feedback – community members’ input helps increase efficiency and effectiveness
  • Needs Assessment – setting up targets and goals against which progress can be measured and monitored


As goals and processes, lifestyles depend externally on the smooth implementation of the other six triads, but are intrinsically linked to behavior patterns, ethics and value systems of individual community members which includes issues of quality of life, respect, dignity, self-esteem, etc.. Success will largely depend on choices adopted by the community and the value placed on various types of consumed resources.

  • Behavior – integration of being-feeling-thinking, having, doing and interacting
  • Values – defined levels of worth or quality (good/bad) based on needs satisfaction (pleasure/pain)
  • Ethics – group-defined propositions of appropriate conduct, primarily based upon satisfaction of needs.

An example rule or ethic is the integration of:

  1. circumstance as social learning theory: “Do unto others as you’ve had done unto you” reworded as “you give what you get”
  2. intent as the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you’d have done unto you” reworded as “you get what you give”

Circumstance precedes intent, but they quickly become a feedback loop to create the following cyclic rule:

…you give what you get what you give…

Individual RulesNeeds-Based Rules of Behavioral Development

Behavior is the integration of being-feeling-thinking, having, doing and interacting in relation to how well our physical, psychological, ecological and socio-cultural needs are met. Each item in the following list represents increasingly complex layers of a nested system.


Existence is fundamentally the system we are interconnected and interdependent with. Genetics are our insertion point into the information configuration space of reality. Instincts and autonomic functions exist at this base level with an inborn drive to satisfy needs (aka pullback attractor states). Our physical and psychological health adjusts to external inputs and internal processes via key mechanisms like neuroplasticity and epigenetics, which are subsets of homeostasis and allostasis.

The grid represents the four interrelated parts of an individual. The left half identifies psychological aspects of life and the right half identifies the physical. Similarly, the top half represents the individual side of life, while the bottom suggests the group. Existence is the first assumption we can make regarding behavioral development. Upon conception, we become a viable part of our ecological, socio-cultural & economic systems.

EXISTENCE MATRIXPsychological (mind)
the less intangible, information-oriented and often qualitative side of life
Physical (body)
the more tangible, energy-oriented, quantitative side of life
  • not formed yet - to be shaped through developmental process
  • psychology, philosophy
  • physiological structure and capability
  • physics, chemistry, biology, anatomy (sensory receptors), genetics, neuroplasticity
  • culture
  • social norms
  • mores
  • ethics
  • values
  • constantly changing with individuals interacting in their environment
  • sociology, anthropology, philosophy
  • environmental structure and capability
  • economic structure and capability
  • ecology, economics, systems theory


In a sense, epigenetics enables experiences to be imprinted preconception in egg and sperm. Neurogenesis begins about 3 weeks after conception, establishing the start of neuroplasticity and a lifelong path for creating, retaining, recalling and modifying experiential impressions. The interaction of sensory receptors with external reality and mechanisms of homeostasis and allostasis provide base pleasure-pain info relative to met or unmet needs. Retention and relation enables perception of the subjective here and now. Habits begin to form at this stage… classical conditioning (mid-term)… because we are innately driven to minimize pain and maximize pleasure via need satisfaction.

Pain is an internal signal of some physical or psychological imbalance with internal processes and/or external reality. It lets us know that certain needs are not being met. Pleasure is a bit trickier because if it’s not systemically and critically analyzed, it easily leads to short-, mid- or long-term pain. So, if we are interested in minimizing our pain and that of others (future generations included), we must cautiously indulge our pleasures. With experience the individual begins to form a psychological framework in which their unique thoughts and feelings begin to form their personality.

EXPERIENCE MATRIXPsychological (mind)
the more intangible, information-oriented and often qualitative side of life
Physical (body)
the more tangible, energy-oriented, quantitative side of life
  • internal model (perception) of reality
  • constantly changing (new information, new experiences = new perceptions)
  • unique perception based on one's culture, education, gender, age, physiology, etc.
  • highly subjective per root cause of information asymmetry
  • frequently inaccurate
  • philosophy, psychology, meditation
  • physiological structure and capability
  • physics, chemistry, biology, anatomy (sensory receptors), genetics, neuroplasticity
  • culture
  • social norms
  • mores
  • ethics
  • values
  • constantly changing with individuals interacting in their environment
  • sociology, anthropology, philosophy
  • environmental structure and capability
  • economic structure and capability
  • ecology, economics, systems theory


Meaning is a natural neurophysiological and psychological by-product of an experience that’s stored and then related, via memory, to background experiences (the root of our perception of change and basis for information asymmetry). This is also the stage in which a “value filter” develops to define level of worth or quality (good/bad) via satisfaction of needs (pleasure/pain).

It’s not the environment or external stimuli described in “objective” terms that influences our behavior, but rather the meaning that each individual attaches to his or her experiences of the environment, which is a function of the totality of all previous experiences, something to which one can’t possibly have complete conscious access to. This hard view of subjective meaning creation has been described as information asymmetry, extreme relativism, solipsism, operational closure, semantic impenetrability, computational constraints and/or computational irreducibility.


Logic suggests that the cognizance of inevitable change, resultant from retained, related and recalled memories, forces projection beyond the present moment, causing the drive for needs to be met (pleasure) and fear of needs being unmet (pain – the root of insecurity).

  • As individuals and group members, we have physical, psychological, socio-cultural and ecological needs (existence)
  • We have experiences of varying need-satisfaction quality, including needs being completely unmet
  • We may not have learned, via experience, what our needs truly are and/or have inaccurately correlated wants to needs
  • We may not have learned how to meet our needs or are unable to
  • We strive to maximize pleasure and minimize pain by satisfying real and perceived needs
  • If base physical needs aren’t satisfied first, psychological needs will not be adequately satisfied
  • Many physical resources are finite or non-renewable
  • If we all are driven to satisfy our needs and many of those needs are based upon finite resources, then we require a process that balances and sustains the supply and demand. Without it, conflict and/or collapse is inevitable.
  • Pain is an internal signal that certain needs are not being met and is most often correlated to some feelings of sadness, fear or anger and associated behaviors.
  • Insecurity is a fear of pain
  • Fear is an expectation of a painful future experience
  • Expectations are projections based on the patterns of past experience
  • Patterns are the foundations of belief, trust and truth
  • Insecurity, then, is a belief that certain needs won’t likely be satisfied


Actions or behaviors are experience-driven efforts to accommodate logic by satisfying desires or needs and reducing or eliminating pain or the fear of possible pain. This is the stage where intention arises. It’s also associated to operant conditioning (long-term).


Learning is largely a heuristic approach to understanding existence and experience. Trial and error reveals level of success in modifying our strategy to maximize pleasure and minimize pain. This stage is where the knowledge filter develops and adds to our needs-satisfaction repertoire by recognizing new or modified patterns. Neuroplasticity is deeply involved in this stage. There are varying ways of learning as well from teacher lead (pedagogy) to learner lead (andragogy) and ultimately to auto-didactic or self-directed (heutagogy). Learning integrates data to form information. Information correlates with other information to create knowledge. Knowledge clusters and connects with lots of other information and knowledge to create wisdom. Wisdom continues connecting more and more knowledge nodes to get closer to perfect information or truth.


Beliefs are learned patterns of success or failure in certain processes. Experienced long-term stability of the patterns establishes trust in them as real or perceived truths, which the brain is unable to distinguish, which sometimes creates placebo and nocebo effects. As we learn about ourselves with respect to the systems we interact with, patterns emerge more readily, acting as guides to help maximize pleasures and minimize pains. Increased pattern recognition creates increased awareness of interdependence.

Understanding our intricate interdependencies deepens proportionately with enhanced physical and psychological need-satisfaction within our ecological and socio-cultural systems, enabling us to progressively act more efficaciously in the best interests of all.


Wisdom is physical and psychological balance and the ability to extend such understanding outward ecologically and socio-culturally to help optimize health and freedom to the greatest extent one is able to.

Love & Truth

Love is acting in each other’s best interests due to an implicit and explicit understanding of our common, interdependent nature. Acting in each other’s best interests means to help each other satisfy our needs as if they were out own. It’s also the ability to recognize when one is in need, particularly when their behaviors seem rooted in sadness, fear or anger. Sadness is the most authentic and transparent of the pain-based emotions. Anger is the most inauthentic pain-based emotion that often attempts to mask and/or aggressively project and transfer the pain to someone or something external to them. Anger is the most challenging to deal with but also most often the greatest need and loudest cry for help.

Additional Rules

  • Each moment represents our best attempt, given our current knowledge and skills, to satisfy our needs.
  • Physical, psychological, ecological and socio-cultural needs are the general motivation for everything we do.
  • Vital limited resources, like land, water, air and energy, must be cared for and distributed equitably to accommodate everyone’s needs for generations to come.
  • Once survival needs seem to be continuously met for the immediate and short-term, we are ready to satisfy deeper and broader needs for the mid- and long-term.
  • The progressive satisfaction of the needs provides an individual the luxury of time to consider, explore, feel and understand more encompassing systems. It's also the key to a thriving economy, since innovation is the lifeblood of the economy and diversity is the lifeblood of innovation. Diversity is opened up much more so when needs are adequately satisfied.
  • Unsatisfied, basic needs increase the likelihood for violent behavior, elevated health care risks, etc., which translate to higher risks and costs for everyone over the long-term.
  • The longer (time) an individual’s short-term needs go unsatisfied, the greater the risks for others. Risk is also often related to proximity (space) – the closer someone is to an individual who hasn’t satisfied their short-term needs, the greater the risk.
  • Once we have satisfied and sustained our short-term needs, it is beneficial for us to help others satisfy their short-term needs because it minimizes our own risks.
  • Individual desires and actions are externally influenced, which tend to be motivated toward satisfying a socio-politico-economic system’s needs.
  • A system’s needs, however, may vary from our individual needs, so it is necessary to critically evaluate each system. Does it take the full spectrum of individual needs into account? How can the needs be identified, described and satisfied? How can the system be modified to accommodate the individuals' needs?

finite & classifiableNEEDS & SATISFIERS

In order for any of us to live truly good lives we must satisfy our basic needs.

Human needs are few, finite & classifiable (wants are infinite & insatiable). Needs are also the same in all human cultures & across historical time periods. What changes over time & between cultures is the way or means by which the needs are satisfied. It is important that human needs are understood as a system – i.e. they are interrelated & interactive.

Max-Neef - 1989

The vertical column on the left represent types of needs. The horizontal column on the top represents existential qualia or different parts of us that make us who we are. When the rows intersect with the columns, we are able to more specifically identify what will help us satisfy our needs. There are multiple types of satisfiers and each satisfier may have different qualities influencing their efficacy: intensity, duration, certainty, delivery, cost, proximity, fecundity, purity, quality, instrumentality, expectancy, direction, number of people whose interests are involved, etc.

  • Physical and Psychological health
  • Food
  • Shelter
  • Work
  • Feed
  • Clothes
  • Rest/Sleep
  • living environment
  • social setting
  • Care
  • Adaptability
  • Autonomy
  • Social security
  • Health systems
  • Work
  • Co-operate
  • Plan
  • Help
  • Take care of
  • Social environment
  • Dwelling
  • Respect
  • Sense of humor
  • Generosity
  • Sensuality
  • Friendships
  • Family
  • Relationship with nature
  • Share
  • Take care of
  • Make love
  • Express
  • Emotions
  • Privacy
  • Intimate spaces of togetherness
    • Critical capacity
    • Curiosity
    • Intuition
    • Literature
    • Teachers
    • Educational
    • Policies
    • Analyse
    • Study
    • Meditate
    • Investigate
    • Schools
    • Families
    • Universities
    • Communities
    • Receptivity
    • Dedication
    • Sense of Humor
    • Responsibilities
    • Duties
    • Work
    • Rights
    • cooperate
    • dissent
    • express
    • opinions
    • Associations
    • Parties
    • Churches
    • Neighborhoods
    • Imagination
    • Tranquility
    • Spontaneity
    • Games
    • Parties
    • Peace of mind
    • Day-dream
    • Remember
    • Relax
    • Have fun
    • Landscapes
    • Intimate spaces
    • Places to be alone
    • Imagination
    • Boldness
    • Inventiveness
    • Curiosity
    • Skills
    • Work
    • Abilities
    • Techniques
    • Invent
    • Build
    • Design
    • Work
    • Compose
    • Interpret
    • Spaces for expression
    • Workshops
    • Audiences
    • Sense of belonging
    • Self-esteem
    • Consistency
    • Language
    • Religions
    • Values
    • Work
    • Customs
    • Norms
    • Get to know
    • Oneself
    • Grow
    • Commit oneself
    • Places one belongs to
    • Everyday settings
      • Autonomy
      • Passion
      • Self-esteem
      • Open-mindedness
      • Equal rights
      • Dissent
      • Choose
      • Run risks
      • Develop awareness
      • Anywhere

      TYPES OFSatisfiers

      Satisfiers can be economic goods, types of social practices, organizations, political structures, subjective conditions, values and norms, spaces, contexts, types of behavior and attitudes. These satisfiers come in three forms: depleters, maintainers and enrichers. Enrichers are best for all situations. Maintainers also work, but less effectively, while depleters should be avoided entirely if possible.


      Depleters come in three unsavory flavors:

      1. Destroyers don’t actually satisfy needs at all but destroy the possibility of satisfying a need and impair the satisfaction of other needs. An example of a destroyer is the arms race. It was meant to satisfy the need for protection but instead threatened to destroy those societies that were to be protected.

      2. Pseudo-satisfiers generate a false sense of satisfaction. Stereotypes are examples of pseudo-satisfiers which appear to satisfy a need for understanding, but which do not give real understanding.

      3. Inhibiting-satisfiers oversatisfy a given need, thereby hindering the satisfaction of other needs. E.g. an authoritarian classroom may oversatisfy the need for understanding and hinder participation, creation, identity and freedom


      Maintainers (or singular-satisfiers) accommodate one particular need. Insurance is an example of this. It satisfies the need for protection, without satisfying or hindering other needs.


      Enrichers (or synergistic-satisfiers) contribute to the accommodation of several needs while taking care of one intended need. Breast feeding, for example, contributes to satisfying the need for subsistence while also contributing to protection, affection and identity.

      UNDERSTANDINGHuman Emotions

      Emotion is a complex set of interactions among subjective and objective factors, mediated by neural/hormonal systems, which can: (a) give rise to affective experiences such as feelings of arousal, pleasure/displeasure; (b) generate cognitive processes such as emotionally relevant perceptual effects, appraisals, labeling processes; (c) activate widespread physiological adjustments to the arousing conditions; and (d) lead to behavior that is often, but not always, expressive, goal directed, and adaptive

      Kleinginna and Kleinginna 1981 p. 355

      Most of our feelings or emotional responses are based on how well our needs are presently satisfied or were in the past. Below is an infographic of emotions. The root of our emotions are satisfied or unsatisfied needs. If satisfied, we experience some form of pleasure. If unsatisfied, we experience some form of pain. Negative emotions, and their correlated behaviors, most often mean that some need hasn’t been met or that a memory of an unmet need has been triggered. Pain is our cue that something is out of balance and must to be accommodated to regain that balance.