Environment, ecology, sustainability, conservation, green. For decades these words and a handful of others have anchored the movement for a more sensible treatment of land, water, air, and nonhuman life. It’s hard to picture where the effort to protect nature would be without these words.
They are often used interchangeably, one word being picked over another for some reason — or for no reason at all. Environment is the most general but also the most politically charged. We say ecology when we’re trying to sound like we know something about science. Sustainability is a vague term that describes a way of living that we think we need to work toward. Conservation generally signals the protection of land. And there’s green, which, more often than not, refers to something you can buy.
And so on closer examination, the terms are not as interchangeable as one might have thought. Is an ecologist part of the sustainability movement? Is someone who goes out of their way to buy green products an environmentalist? Are the environmental and the sustainability movements even pursuing the same goals?
Who cares, you may say. We don’t have time to fuss around with nuances of language while the world goes up in flames. And after all, none of the words are bad for the Earth — all act as a gateway, an entry point to a world where the well-being of nature, or the well-being of one’s grandchildren, is more important than the economic bottom line and being comfortable.
The reason to care is that we need terminology that invites everyone into the effort to transform the way we live on the planet — people of all economic means, all political persuasions, all ethnicities, and all nationalities. Speaking at the October 2007 Bioneers conference, activist and Orion advisor Van Jones presented the crowd with a moral challenge. “As this movement moves from the margin to the center of politics, from the margin to the center of culture, from the margin to the center of the economy — who are we going to take with us, and who are we going to leave behind?”
Does the environmental movement’s terminology take everyone with us? If sustainability means buying a $26,000 hybrid car, or shopping at Whole Foods (“That’s a whole paycheck for anyone outside of Marin County,” said Jones), then sustainability is not taking everyone with us. If environment means saving land and natural resources first and figuring out how people are going to make a living later, then that’s not our word either.
It is significant that Jones described his challenge not as a strategic one, but a moral one, because, more and more, morality is what the work of saving the planet is all about. For many of us, human morality and the survival of the planet are now one and the same. The only way to transcend the morass is through love of nature, love of our neighbors, love of family, and the recognition that the needs of all are one and the same. The fact is, we are only going to get serious about the challenges that lie ahead when each of us arrives at a deep and abiding understanding that to do anything else is downright wrong. And everyone needs to be invited to participate in that process.
Whatever word we finally arrive at that sums up a new model for how we live on the planet, it has to reflect a grounding in peace, justice, health, and spirituality as well as in science, policy, and economics. Whatever this movement is, whatever you call it, however you describe it, however you try to bring more people into the fold, it will only succeed if people know and believe in their hearts and souls that it is not just the right way forward, it is in fact the only way forward. We are in need of a good word. Got any ideas?
The editors ask if we have any ideas. The word that you are looking for is in your excellent editorial, that is the word love! Imagine a world in which we love each other, ourselves, and our surroundings! Now that we have lost a healthy relationship with the above, we need a moral imagination to discover our connections with inner and outer realities. Thank you for raising our consciousness!
I agree. Love it is.
I believe the community will more usefully address the issue if they understand the Dependence on Nature Law. Everything that society does and uses entails irreversibly drawing down on the limited natural bounty, both income and capital. It is inherently an unsustainable process summed up by this natural law.
Don’t forget “ecolacy” (Garrett Hardin, Two Cultures – or Three Filters? On being ecolate as well as literate and numerate. The Social Contract, Spring, 1999):
“I have augmented C. P. Snow’s two paths to a culture (the literate path and the numerate path) with a third one, the ‘ecolate’ path… It is now clear that as the human mind processes the inputs from experience it uses three different filters, each connected with its characteristic question. –
Literacy: What are the appropriate words? Numeracy: What are the operational numbers? Ecolacy: And then what? More consistently than the first two filters, the ecolate filter is focused on time and the probable consequences of a proposed action. Ecolacy presumes a consequentialist ethics (which is often at odds with the motivational ethics produced by earlier, and predominantly literate, intellectuals).”
(See http://www.garretthardinsociety.org/ for more info.)
Biodynamic and organic farming enriches the soil even in the desert. The law of matter is death; we can’t forget that life forces sustain us. We must re-enliven the earth as true stewards of the land for our own good.
How can we promote Ecolacy?
When me and my friends are standing around at a protest someplace, we frequently end up talking about ‘re-balancing’. When our culture has so skewed us from human needs and human values, we lose sight of the earth-friendly values that gave our lives meaning. By re-balancing our lives we re-balance our relationship to the earth and everything.
I like thinking that way since it doesn’t involve trying to get back to some ideal time before we’d screwed things up so badly. It’s more like the walker on the tightwire who pauses while he catches himself out of balance and goes on from there. Kind of reduces guilt and keeps focus on what needs to happen to keep in balance right now.
I really like the idea of this work “moving from the margins to the center of politics”, even though it’s still doing it slowly. It’s really important to search out the vocabulary that tries not to freak out people on the opposite margin.
It seems to me all words used in this whole and huge area become over-used, misused, misunderstood, abused and so on. My area of interest is focussed on ‘sustainability’ in the hope participants endeavour to consider and act on all the complex inter-related and interdependent issues holistically; nothing is an island.
Some time ago I ‘played around’ with the ideas of cultural, environmental, social and economic i.e. the core components of ‘sustainability’ and came up with the acronym CESE. When spoken it sounds like “See, easy.” It could be easy; often-times it is not. To me it has a ring of ‘positivity’ and even fun about it. Periodically I wonder if the idea has any merit.
I think “stewardship” and “responsibility” are good general terms for what we are working toward, and terms that people across the social and political spectrum can identify with.
How about “Economical”? We are working toward realigning ourselves with the Great Economy of nature, which is the only real economy.
I don’t see the need for fancy-sounding buzzwords to repolarize people. Just explain it in plain English (or whatever language you use), like the common sense it is. “Love” is good, too. Why confuse people with more terms they won’t know the definitions of, and will only assign to “those hippies”? This movement will have to be made attractive to mainstream, ordinary people.
Love? We’ve experienced the consequences of unbridled corporate and metropolitan love–concupiscence for Mammon and narcissistic materialism. Thus Eros and Amor: they leave me agape.
That’s not Love, dear. That’s Greed. 🙂
I agree w/ Mandy. When a system or behavior is sound ecologically it is always efficient economically!! Thus I would also suggest that we begin to frame our discussions in economic terms, one that I believe would be most potent is PROPERTY RIGHTS. I believe much of the degradation of our eco-system is due to an erosion of personal property rights by the government.
Often our criticisms are channeled at huge corporations, (and rightly so), but more often than not the damage done by the government is much broader, deeper, and often serves as the means by which corporations practice their maleficence and the avoid the consequences of it.
Here is a blog I wrote for Blog Action Day that expands on these ideas.
We definitely need to bring love and compassion into the equation. And an awareness of spirit, but this needs to be done carefully so as not to turn too many folks off. Introducing a new word (ecolacy) seems to me counterproductive. Another buzzword to educate people about that will ultimately end up being no different than the words we use now. Economical is too fraught with baggage to be transformed to Gaian/Earthy useage, though it’s true that the Great Economy of Nature is the real “bottom line” as Mandy said. I agree with Rob. D. about the damage done by government allowing/encouraging corporations to degradate ecosystems, and I do support property rights — to a point. There’s always the attitude of “I’ll do whatever I want on my land because it’s mine!” Corporations buy up property so they can do whatever they want with it as well. And community and reciprocity need to be brought into the discussion somehow.
What about “nonviolence”? It certainly encompasses the peace movement, but it is also a useful lens for all of these issues. What would nonviolent farming look like? It probably wouldn’t use pesticides–some of which, after all, began life as weapons of war. Nonviolent global economy? People-centered and local, with fewer exploitative multinationals. Nonviolent health care? Universal.
Also, nonviolence has got a history that draws from every margin of society. Just think of the heroes: Gandhi, MLK Jr, Cesar Chavez. No hybrid-drivers or Whole Paycheck shoppers there. If Van Jones is right (and I think he is) about the “unbearable whiteness of green,” then we can look to nonviolence for real inclusion. Thoughts?
Very nice Caitlin. I like non-violence as well!
Returning to the idea of property rights for a minute. Here is how Ron Paul describes the negative effect that the government plays in the property rights & pollution equation.
Worth noting, the term “locavore”–which refers to eaters who are committed to supporting local, responsible food producers–earned recognition as Word of the Year of 2007 for the New Oxford American dictionary.
Love is the most overused and confused word in the English language, and to say “that’s not real love” only makes the point.
Though I’ve been a lifelong nonviolent practitioner, it is a term too alien to most and is itself a negative, defined by what it is not.
I’m with smlowry that the key concepts are community and reciprocity: the integral web-of-life community, and the forgotten principle of reciprocal relationship, giving as much as one takes, the balance of rights and responsibility.
This topic of finding a good word is dear to my heart. Last year I challenged myself to write an article for my local newspaper without using those “words”. I am ready for a word that carries no baggage. Here is the article I wrote:
MY HOME, WISCONSIN, USA, NORTH AMERICA, PLANET EARTH
I know I’m being philosophical here but I am appealing to my friends to think about the decisions each of us make everyday. I have no expertise on this issue; I do have a lot of concern, passion and hope for a best possible future where all living things not only survive but thrive. Some people refer to this moment in time as the great turning, when we finally awaken to the fact that each of our actions has an impact.
The issues are big! And, we have choices as individuals. We can choose to contribute to the greater good of our planet. A few examples of other countries who are striving to do good are Bhutan who has adopted Gross National Happiness (GNH vs. GNP) as a national priority, Costa Rica who doesn’t have an army, though it sits between Nicaragua and Panama, and the Netherlands, who’s committed to being self sustaining by 2025.
Each of us is responsible for how we live our lives. Consider these questions. We have power as consumers. Does it matter where we shop? Does it matter to the employees who work at the store? Does it make a difference to the person in Sri Lanka who made that sweater? Does he earn a living wage? Or to the freight handlers who transported the sweater? Or to the sheep in New Zealand where the wool came from? Do the sheep in NZ have an impact on the land they graze on? Did the people who tended the land before the sheep farmer did have anything to do with what grows there today? How much energy do we use to keep it clean? And, what happens to that sweater when we don’t want it anymore? Does it impact our quality of life?
When is what we have, enough? Is it ever enough? Is more, better? Is less, better? How can we learn to comprehend the impact of our decisions on our world? OK, OK, I’ve read this far you say. So the point of interdependence is well taken but will it really influence anything we do in practical ways? Ah, we’ve taken the first giant step when we admit our awareness of the interconnectedness of everything.
For heightened awareness, try sitting on the ground outdoors vs. sitting on a chair inside a building. Notice the difference between eating something you grew yourself vs. when you buy it in the store. Notice how a smile brings joy equally to your child or to a stranger. The pull of the connectedness increases. We become a small part of all whom we meet and they are a part of who we are now too.
As we live our lives, do we strive to do our best, and try to do it with kindness, compassion and with intention to do no harm at home and at work? Do we live life with gratitude for being here – acknowledging each individual person, each animal and each blade of grass – on planet earth today, all of us, together?
It all matters, it all makes a difference. Everything is interconnected, the over 6 billion of us, the billions of animals and plants in the world are interdependent. Air we are… water and earth…. and spirit we all are.
Earth Day 2007 Barbara Gilmore
I agree that “impact,” “responsibility,” and “interdependence” are important terms. I also go back to M Fox’s book A Spirituality Named Compassion. We need Deep Ecological Compassion.
I’m enjoying the discussion and curious to read more thoughts….
Why do they call it “Clean Coal?” It’s not clean. It’s slightly less dirty because they capture more of the sulphur and mercury, but it’s not really clean. Not like solar, wind, geothermal, and marine current driven power systems.
Maybe we should call it ‘Killer Coal’ because a) people die in the mines, b) mercury, c) it’s killing the planet.
They say nuclear doesn’t produce greenhouse gases, however, on a per kwh basis, the nuclear fuel cycle produces about 20% of the green house gases as coal. Other byproducts of nuclear power include tremendous amounts of heat, which kills marine life, and, then there is the ‘Nuclear Constipation Problem;’ they – we – can’t get rid of the wastes. And these problems are nothing compared to the security “challenges” of nuclear power.
Advertising works because people make decisions based on gut feelings, then rationalize those decisions: Politicians are elected on their appeal rather than their platforms or policy goals, cars bought because of ‘sex appeal’ not their utilitarian value.
In my work as a local activist; writing letters to the editors, representatives in Washington and the state capital, in my blog posts, in conversations with people I am trying to win over, I don’t say ‘Renewable Energy.’ I say ‘Clean Energy.’ It evokes what George Lakoff would call an cognitive frame, and an emotional response. If solar, wind, marine current, geothermal are clean, then nuclear, oil, and coal are dirty. Period.
Maybe we should call it the ‘True Blue Clean Energy, True Blue Sustainable Farming, True Blue Economics.’
Larry “XB Cold Fingers” Furman
Larry Furman asked, “Why do they call it “Clean Coal?” It’s not clean. It’s slightly less dirty because they capture more of the sulphur and mercury, but it’s not really clean. Not like solar, wind, geothermal, and marine current driven power systems.”
Truth be told, “renewable” technologies, such as solar et al, are not clean either, but only cleaner.
All technological “solutions” are dirty – they have both known and unintended consequences on our culture and our environment.
The only way to reduce the “dirt” of our energy technologies is to drastically reduce our appetites (and our numbers).
The argument that “photovoltaic solar and wind power are ‘cleaner’ but still have an impact on the environment” is a red herring.
It’s not like saying “the Prius, which gets 45 miles to the gallon, is almost as bad as the Hummer, which gets 8.” It’s more like saying “the bicycle is almost as bad as a Hummer, because it too is manufactured in a factory.”
While we have to learn to live in harmony in the ecosystems, all humans have an impact on the planet. What should we do? How many of the 300 million Americans will voluntarily live as hunter gatherers for the rest of our lives? I won’t.
But, if given a choice, I’ll put solar panels on my roof, even if I have to cut down some trees – I can plant other trees – and I will continue to fight to replace coal, oil, gas, and nuclear with conservation, solar, wind, geothermal, and ocean current power systems.
The argument that all technological “solutions” have deleterious consequences is anything but a “red herring”.
What is a red herring, however, is to suggest that the choice is between being consumers or hunter-gatherers.
The lifestyle of Americans is simply not sustainable, regardless of the efficiency of the technologies used to produce it.
Either we volunarily reduce our “needs” by an order of magnitude or Gaia will reduce our numbers accordingly. The choice really is that stark.
The only ways to generate power and live in a sustainable steady state are via solar, wind, geothermal, and other renewable technologies.
And of course we need to generate what Lovins called ‘negawatts,’ to reduce our levels of consumption.
So what do we do?
Mutually Assured Survivability
In September, when climate scientists reported that the impact of global warming and further ecological devastation, if left unchecked, will be the equivalent of global nuclear warfare, it occurred to me that climate destablization and chaos is mutually assured destruction in another form, “Act Two” of the MAD century.
The phrase “Mutually Assured Vitality” or “Mutually Assured Survivability through Sustainability (MASS) then came to me as what this movement is actually about: mutuality: human and human across cultures and classes and regions, and nature and human in mutual, reciprocal relations of sustenance; assurance in our interactions across cultures, classes, regions, etc., that no one group will act to destroy the survivability of another by committing to sustain what sustains us.
From MAD to MASS, critical mass, holy mass, the massive effort needed for the masses of humanity…although I confess I like the phrase Mutually Assured Vitality better.
But I do think framing this movement as linked to ‘mad/MAD’ destruction which gives people a reference point of an example of living through such ‘mad-ness’ before would give the movement a frame of urgency.
I’ve been meaning to write this up more formally (I am a writer). Do others think this has possibilities to express in more depth?
Brett Little has the best comment so far – Go with love!
I suggest the term “mindful living”. Each of us needs to be mindful or aware of the effects our choices have on the environment and the welfare of others, and make choices that avoid harming the planet and each other.
Gandhi said, “We must be the change we wish to see in the world”. Too many who consider themselves environmentalists think environmental change simply means stopping industry, developers, farmers, etc. from polluting and damaging the earth. Those are the wrong doers. They are problem. Not me.
Greenies often fail to recognize their own culpability and contribution to environmnetal degradation. In my area, SUVs with “Save the Bay” bumper stickers are a common sight.
The “Big Green” organizations have contributed to this situation. They have been preoccupied and singularly focused on a regulatory approach to environmental change aimed at industry, developers, farmers, etc. Big green has failed to inculcate a notion of taking personal responsibility for the health of the planet or to define an ethic of what it means to live in harmony with the earth and our home ecosystems. It’s THE big void in the environmental movement.
The essence of such an ethic is to weigh the environnmental and human costs of our lifestyle decisions and to then make the best decisions we can. This is what it means to “live mindfully.” We need to do so now more than ever.
I’m reading a lot – some are encouraging:
Deep Economy, by McKibben,
Blink, by Gladwell,
The Tipping Point, by Gladwell,
How to Win A Local Election, by Grey,
Policy Paradox, by Stone.
Others are not:
Politics Lost, by Klein,
Worse than Watergate, by Dean,
Against All Enemies, by Clarke,
The End of America, by Wolf,
How Would A Patriot Act, by Greenwald, and
One Party Country, by Hamberger and Wallsten.
I’m also reading Lakoff –
Don’t Think of an Elephant,
and have to read
Ecological Economics and Eco-Capitalism.
I always use the term “Clean Energy.” I rarely use the term “Renewable Energy” and almost never use the term “Alternative Energy.”
“Renewable Energy” matters to environmentalists. It doesn’t matter to most of my neighbors – at least not the ones who drive SUV’s and don’t bother recycling. But that’s who we need to reach. The people who drive Priuses get it.
“Alternative Energy” – you say that in New Jersey and they think you’re talking about alternative lifestyles, alternative marriage. It’s not something that inspires most people.
But “clean” matters. People spend money on clean. (That’s why the other side says nuclear is clean and says “we have ‘clean coal'” and why in my version of “We Shall Not Be Moved” (on the xb cold fingers web site) I sing “Ain’t no such thing as ‘Clean Coal.'”) If one set of technological alternatives is “Clean Energy” then the opposing set is dirty.
So thinking about what Lakoff has said in “Don’t Think of an Elephant”, and “Thinking Points” (I haven’t read “Moral Politics”, and “Whose Freedom” yet) and what Hamberger and Wallsten have said in “One Party Country: The Republican Plan for Dominance in the 21st Century”, and viewed in the context of Klein’s “Politics Lost” and Frank’s “What’s the Matter With Kansas”, it’s clear to me that we need to use terms like ‘ecological economics’ and ‘eco-capitalism’ if we want to capture the hearts and minds of Americans who believe in the ‘free market economy.’
I agree that “alternative energy” is an odd term. I know of someone who lives off the grid on solar energy of various forms, but occassionaly requires the “alternative energy” of a gasoline generator. We’ve got the real energy confused with the alternative energies which have wrought so much havoc on the Earth.
And I’m happy with the concept of “ecological economics”, as this covers two of the three E’s of the sustainability movement: ecology, economics, and equity. But let’s not confuse it with “eco-capitalism” which, to me, is an oxymoron because capitalism is based on the principle that some have the right to control the means of wealth production. It is fundamentally anti-democratic and unsustainable.
I’m glad you like ecological economics. As for ‘Eco-Capitalism’, however, capitalist pigs give capitalism a bad name.
The right to control production doesn’t mean there should be no regulation. That was a problem in the Soviet Union. Some people controlled production, but there was no regulation, no oversight. A lot can be said about the problems in the Soviet Union, but you can’t say it was “capitalist”. That’s part of the problem in China, and why their ecological disasters are just beginning. There’s no regulation, no oversight. It’s totalitarian capitalism. Communist Capitalism. Now there’s an oxymoron.
But as to controlling production — as a writer I have the right to control production of my work. You may like my songs or my satire. But you can’t claim they are yours. As a writer and a worker I have the right to fair compensation. This means collective bargaining. At the same time, freedom to build doesn’t imply freedom to throw toxic wastes into the air or water, or just leave unused marterials in a heap.
One of the Conservative myths is that the market is truly free. It’s not. It’s kind of expensive. It costs a lot of money to have police and courts to enforce contracts. It costs money to educate people to design, build, sell, and buy stuff.
Similarly, privatization and deregulation do not lead to less government, but less responsible government. If there was no regulation in pharmaceuticals, for example, there would be no quality controls. Chalk could be sold as aspirin, or anti-cancer medication. If there were no building codes, well, then let the buyer beware.
So the question is, how do we move people to see the progressive and sustainable vision? to feel the progressive and sustainable heartbeat, to hear the progressive and sustainable song? to internalize and live by progressive and sustainable values?
Larry, you’re confusing entrepreneurialism with capitalism, which is a market ideology that has such necessary consequences as externalization of ecological and social costs, regulation to control its worst excesses, antagonistic unionism, and a sharp division of wealth and power.
There are no building codes in rural Vermont. I’m a builder, a craftsperson, an entrepreneur. I charge only for my time, make no “profit” (unearned income), use locally-sourced materials, and serve my customers (and the broader environment) responsibly without regulation or oversight.
That’s ecological economics – a completely different paradigm from capitalism, and one we need to return to.
THE MIME IS COMPASSION
QUOTE FROM: Eric Hoffer, ‘longshoreman philosopher’ from “The Spirit of an Age”, an essay out of “Between the Devil and the Dragon”. Harper Row 1982
“It is a paradox that in our time of rapid, drastic change, when the future is in our midst, devouring the present before our eyes, we have never been less certain about what is ahead of us. Our need for predictability is far more urgent than in the past, and we are addicted to forecasters and pollsters. We watch our experts read their graphs the way the ancients watched their soothsayers read the entrails of a chicken. Perhaps, as things are now, it may well be that the survival of the species will depend on the ability to develop a boundless capacity for compassion. Compassion seems to have it’s roots in the family. We think of those we love as easily bruised, and our love is shot through with images of the hurt laying in wait for them. Parents overflow with compassion as they watch their children go out into a strange, cold world. Can compassion be made to leak out into wider circles? Does the present weakening of the family in both free and non-free countries increase the tendency to transfer family attitudes to other institutions- to schools factories, offices, and various forms of associations? This would mean, of course, that the spread of compassion would cause a wide diffusion of espirit de corps, which is the creation of family ties between strangers. Would the adoption of a tragic view of life be fruitful of a strong feeling for others? We feel close to each other when we see ourselves as strangers on this planet, and when we see our tiny planet as a tiny island of life in an immensity of nothingness. We also draw together when we become aware that night must close in on all living things, that we are condemned to death at birth, and life is a bus ride to the place of execution. All the squabbling and vying are about seats on the bus, and the ride is over before we know it.”
Thanks to the Editors and all who have contributed to this discussion.
It seems to me that striving for a single word is self defeating because what everyone in this discussion seems to be advocating has ALWAYS subtly permeated life. Thus, what we are about is a journey, not a destination. We are continually uncovering that which already exists and is not presently being perceived by us.
Let me give an example of something that exists despite its not being recognized in a given situation: community. Community already exists and always has. It is uncovered not built. And that is accomplished by our taking the time to connect by revealing who we are.
Also, what resonates in one of us may not resonate in another so we need multiple ways of expressing that which we are about.
For me, it must contain neighborliness because the archetype, friend, is at the core of who I am.
Finally, I am intrigued by the idea of property rights being a way toward this. What I heard was PERSONAL property rights. What seems to always get left out is the property rights inherent in the concept of the Commons. I can’t see that anyone has the right to poison earth that s/he owns. Rather the idea that every individual’s rights end where his/her neighbor’s nose begins seems to apply here.
I hope this discussion continues.
Thanks to all who have contributed to this lively thread — the editors at Orion have enjoyed it.
I am reminded, reading it, of the Confucian belief in the importance of “the rectification of names” — that is, the proper naming of each thing in the universe. As we have seen, the abuse of language is not a distant problem — witness the twisting of such terms as democracy, freedom and torture in contemporary American society, not to mention Orwellian phrases such as Operation Enduring Freedom and the Clean Skies Initiative. Using language accurately lies at the heart of speaking, and hearing, the truth.
Executive Editor, Orion
The “green” trend has lent itself easily to a fickle society searching for a soul. It somehow gives meaning to senseless consumption. Makes it less senseless…I love the bus ride metaphor. Why the metaphor though? Ultimately we will begin to decide how instead of how well we will survive. There is a truth unfolding. The subtle hint of which is “green”.
This is a great discussion.
When I say ‘Clean Energy’ I mean energy that is generated or transformed without greenhouse gases, toxic wastes, radioactive wastes. When the coal industry says “Clean Coal” they mean a very expensive way to burn coal that requires a tremendous investment in carbon sequestration technologies – some of which don’t exist yet.
But what I want to do is figure out how to talk to people who don’t get it yet. They could be children and teenagers whos parents drive SUV’s and they could be the adults.
I want to make them think, but I don’t want to make their heads explode. A term like ‘Clean Energy ‘ is something they will ‘grok’. They will understand it and feel comfortable with. When they ‘Oh do you mean like ‘Clean Coal’ or ‘Nuclear'”? I say “No. what the coal industry calls ‘Clean Coal’ is marginally less dirty, but expensive and not really clean. And nuclear, well, it’s not safe – not insurable – produces tremendous amounts of deadly toxic wastes, presents national security ‘challenges’, is really expensive – it’s really a dumb way to boil water. What I mean by ‘Clean Energy’ is solar, wind, geothermal, and some other really clean energy technologies.”
What do we address first? Social entitlement issues, consumption out of shear ignorance? We have to find a bridge between here (we know where that is going) and there. “There” I suppose is the “sustainability” we all love to throw out there. The reality is you address energy, you still have to deal with education, intolerance and poverty or whatever social issues you would like to insert here. Funny thing is we are all on the same page protecting whatever seems the most dear to us as a species. It is unfortunate that it has become so dissected and polarized. Our relevance to the planet doesn’t seem quite as important as our planet’s relevance to us.
The two words I use are humility and respect, and they both apply to how humans see themselves in relation to other species and the whole we are just a part of. It affects how I live and what I eat. The planet is not ours to manage or dominate or own. Our numbers and lifestyle must be reduced before any words matter, and we’re not wise enough to do it voluntarily.
Without a fundamental concern for equity and justice that is general absent from discussions of the environment and sustainability, there can be no sustainability. WE must not only address these issues but then act on our convictions.
Inspiration is a difficult thing to produce. I am reminded of the advice given to writers; write impetuously, rapidly, with abandon.
Naess’ idea of an ecosophy.
Emerson’s transcendentalism always pays a returning to. “[The Natural world] is a fixed point whereby we may measure our departure. As we degenerate, the contrast between us and our house is more evident. We are as much strangers in nature, as we are aliens from God.”
I think in terms of “earth’s echoes” — ecology — the basic respect for all to create, sanctify and sustain life itself — economy — the respect for all to create a “living” for self, family, community — and ecumenicity — the respect for all lives and all living — celebrating but transcending creed, color, class or caste, age, language, nation, gender, sexuality, condition in life, etc — utter diversity with respect for identity, utter complexity with respect for integrity. Thank you.
While we might say “the key to the future is a sustainable agricultural and economic system in which each members’ net negative carbon footprint, or their net incremental carbon cost is zero, Johnny Appleseed would simply say just plant more trees, especially apple, pear, plum, pecan and walnut, and grow more grains and vegetables, and roots like the groundnut. And,” he might add, “do you really need to drive to the mall in a military transport vehicle?”
Words are power. Power is control. Control is change.
I agree that it is important to find a word or phrase that connects us all, brings us together, binds us as one. My submittal:
Carbon Free. (Free at last?!)
I think sustainable living is the word. Living sustainably does not mean buying expensive things; it means working towards the main goal of eliminating your waste. It means recycling and re using your products(like using mason jars instead of buying hundreds of “eco-friendly” bottles); it means growing your own food; it means riding bikes to work; it means living an innovative life. I think it means living an inexpensive dialy life.