University of Minnesota Duluth student promotes living on needs through TEDx event

For one week, Claire Drawe lived in the woods with nothing but bottled water, a backpack and a sleeping bag. She took herself back to the basics, living in a society free of everyday wants. UMD Psychology major Claire Drawe explains the difference between a want and a need during the TEDx event hosted on Tuesday, March 1. Photo Credit: Tara Mortenson

On Tuesday, March 1, Drawe told her unique story at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) TEDx event. During the day, students, staff and community members were able to share their creative ideas and inspirational thoughts through a series of short conferences.

TEDx derives from a national event known as TED Talks. TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) strives to spread ideas through worldwide conferences. Speakers have ranged from Bill Gates to David Blaine.

Drawe, a senior Psychology major at UMD, centered her TEDx talk on the true difference between a want and a need and how she is applying this concept throughout the Duluth community.

“You don’t need more than 2,000 calories a day. You don’t need alcohol, iPods, computers or gym memberships. But you do need clean water, air, shelter and food,” she said in her talk.

Recognizing that she was extremely fortunate to have basic needs that so many others lack, Drawe challenged herself to spend several days without wants. Although she knew a warm bed and so many other privileges would welcome her home, she came to a fascinating conclusion at the end of her experiment.

“When you realize that you have all those basic needs met, there’s an overwhelming urge to give back to the community that gave you that,” said Drawe, who was encouraged to get more involved with the Duluth community as a result of this project.

“Although I would love to be able to change the world with something like this, it needs to start on a local level,” she said. “Individuals are capable of making change. If each individual can believe they can make a change, it’s possible.”

Drawe isn’t the only one who has been through a challenge like this. I had a similar experience during a study abroad trip to Australia last year.

The moment I stepped off the plane, the 104-degree heat wave wasn’t the only thing that shocked me. I didn’t have a cell phone, an Internet connection or a television. My computer was dead and I had no American outlet to charge it. I had no car, no Australian money and no idea how I was ever going to live past that moment.

Although my experience was not by choice, I learned similar lessons as Drawe through this encounter. I bring this story to you exactly one year later, with an overwhelming appreciation for the simple luxuries we are given that are sometimes forgotten.

Additionally, UMD students in a Mass Media Addictions course participated in a two-week trial without any form of media, including Internet, music and television. UMD senior Will Seifert shared his experience.

“In a world where these things are everywhere, it’s hard not to take it for granted,” he said. “When we could go back to using media, the first thing I did when I woke up was use Twitter on my phone. Then I turned on the TV. I felt almost back to normal.

Although Seifert completed the challenge with a few struggles, he believes we are all capable of living in a world without these everyday accessories.

“I completely appreciate that we have these things to use, but I think if we didn’t have them, we’d be able to live without it,” Seifert said.

Agreeing with Seifert’s prediction, I challenge each of you to take an initiative in Duluth to give back to your community. Drawe suggested a few volunteer opportunities around Duluth including the Damiano Center, Safe Haven Shelter, YMCA and Animal Allies. She believes giving up our wants every once in a while has the ability to touch many lives throughout our community.

“You begin to realize that the things you want aren’t so important, and you can start giving yourself to other things, like your community.”

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