The Patterns of a Conservation Economy
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Organic produce at a farmer's market.
Image by Howard Silverman.

Fundamental Needs

In the midst of unprecedented wealth throughout the bioregion, there are still rural and urban pockets of poverty, hunger, sub-standard housing, and poor health-care.

The long-term cross-cultural studies of economist Manfred Max-Neef suggest that fundamental needs fall into nine universal categories: subsistence, protection, affection, understanding, participation, idleness, creation, identity, and freedom. A Conservation Economy is structured to meet these needs for all people. Household Economies, Local Economies, and Bioregional Economies ensure that these needs are met as locally as possible.

A regional food system provides healthy food from reliable regional sources, minimizing the need for food imports of unpredictable price and quality. It emphasizes broad access to food resources across the landscape, as well as stable land tenure for farmers and fishing rights for fishermen. It treats food security – availability of affordable, healthy food – as a fundamental right.

Health is the most fundamental need of all, and the health of people is utterly dependent on broader Ecosystem Services like pure water, clean air, fertile soil, habitat for food production, a stable climate, and many others. These ecosystem services must be properly maintained as an investment in public health. In addition, a wide range of health care modalities (e.g. Western, Eastern, Naturopathic) should be made available at affordable cost.

Shelter for All implies that a wide range of housing types is available, with an emphasis on sufficient levels of affordable and healthy housing. In a conservation economy, there are abundant opportunities for people of all ages to have Access to Knowledge in order to develop new skills and livelihoods, participate in Civic Society, and deepen their Sense of Place.

Fundamental needs are best met in ways that build Community and Social Capital. They are the foundation for human development. An emphasis on fundamental needs leads to a sufficiency for all rather than an excess for a few. This in turn reduces resource consumption while greatly enhancing the quality of life. As work is aligned more and more closely with genuine needs, it gains meaning and becomes more joyful.

Ensure that everyone in the bioregion has fundamental needs met as a non-negotiable condition of attaining a conservation economy. At a minimum, these needs include nutritious food; shelter; healthcare; education; and ecosystem services – all provided affordably and reliably.

Examples of this pattern in action:

Partnerships For Change
Partnerships For Change is a San Francisco-based 501(c)(3) "social profit" organization, dedicated to the acceleration of social and economic transformation through innovative media, participant-centered conferencing, and public policy initiatives.

Organizations whose work incorporate this pattern:


Illich, Ivan. Celebration of Awareness: A Call for Institutional Revolution. Heyday Books. Berkeley, CA. 1989.

Max-Neef, Manfred A. Human Scale Development: Conception, Application, and Further Reflections. The Apex Press. New York, NY. 1991.

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Pattern Index

A Conservation Economy

Social Capital

Fundamental Needs

Subsistence Rights

Shelter For All


Access To Knowledge


Social Equity


Cultural Diversity

Cultural Preservation

Sense Of Place

Beauty And Play

Just Transitions

Civic Society

Natural Capital

Ecological Land-Use

Connected Wildlands

Core Reserves

Wildlife Corridors

Buffer Zones

Productive Rural Areas

Sustainable Agriculture

Sustainable Forestry

Sustainable Fisheries


Compact Towns And Cities

Human-Scale Neighborhoods

Green Building

Transit Access

Ecological Infrastructure

Urban Growth Boundaries

Ecosystem Services

Watershed Services

Soil Services

Climate Services


Economic Capital

Household Economies

Green Business

Long-Term Profitability

Community Benefit

Green Procurement

Renewable Energy

Sustainable Materials Cycles

Resource Efficiency

Waste As Resource

Product As Service

Local Economies

Value-Added Production

Rural-Urban Linkages

Local Assets

Bioregional Economies

Fair Trade

True Cost Pricing

Product Labeling