Forget ‘the environment’:
we need new words to convey life’s wonders
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If Moses had promised the Israelites a land flowing with mammary secretions and insect vomit, would they have followed him into Canaan? Though this means milk and honey, I doubt it would have inspired them.
So why do we use such language to describe the natural wonders of the world? There are examples everywhere, but I will illustrate the problem with a few from the UK. On land, places in which nature is protected are called “sites of special scientific interest”. At sea, they are labelled “no-take zones” or “reference areas”.
Even the term “reserve” is cold and alienating – think of what we mean when we use that word about a person. “The environment” is just as bad: an empty word that creates no pictures in the mind. Wild animals and plants are described as “resources” or “stocks”, as if they belong to us and their role is to serve us: a notion disastrously extended by the term “ecosystem services”.