Living Environments

We human beings are acquisitive creatures. We acquire knowledge, skills, friends, pets, spouses, children, and material things of all kinds. Many of us like to collect objects—large and small, or at least feel that we could have them if we wanted to. We may fill our lives with objects that we continually examine, admire, fondle, embellish, think about, and talk about. Our dearest possessions become a part of us—an extension of ourselves—and make us feel important, attractive, and perhaps even immortal.

Though many people are content to collect small things, such as rings, tools, or knickknacks, individuals of all ages also desire and cherish automobiles, houses, properties, and other large objects. By making us feel independent, safe, significant, and free, these possessions may literally "become" us and serve as the external manifestations of who and what we are.

Human beings are also territorial creatures. Territoriality, of course, is a part of acquisitiveness. The property in this case is the yard, farm, block, neighborhood, city, and perhaps even the state and country where we live. These places make up our life spaces, immediate and extended. As with our other possessions, we are fond of our territory, consider ourselves a part of it and it a part of us. Consequently, most of us would be prepared to defend it if the need arose.

This chapter is about the places in which people live, why they chose those places, and what they do in them. The major portion of the chapter is concerned with housing, whether it is owned, rented, or merely "borrowed." But a house is not necessarily a home, and how long we remain in a particular residence depends not only on whether we can survive and flourish there but also what the physical and social environments in which the residence is located mean to us.

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