On compiling a sustainable ipsum in two languages

9 Feb
Carlowitz_ Sylvicultura

Treatise title page

Language is one of the nicest little women … one of the nicest little women … that’s ever breathed … ever breathed! It reflects the culture and belief system we have – about a concept such as sustainability too. Some things repeatedly come into the German discussion that you hardly ever find in an English one – such as the reference to Hannß Carl von Carlowitz who penned Sylvicultura oeconomica in 1713, a treatise about managing forest resources sustainably. You can read it in google books, if you like Sütterlin script that is. Then there’s also Solidarity which doesn’t seem to feature much in the Anglo-Saxon discussion of sustainable development. This might be construed as being suggestive? At any rate, it makes for an interesting thought impulse.  In contrast, the English discussion frequently refers to Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and there are far more terms for practical solutions already being tried out, such as community supported agriculture, downshifting, collaborative consumption. Again, very interesting. Is there more doing happening there?  Of course, some of these terms enter the German discussion, but of you try to generate an ipsum using only German terms, its interesting what falls away.

It’s also possible to tweak the sustainable ipsum in a number of directions: for example to a more positive or more negative version. We tended to leave most negative stuff out, such as hunger, poverty, corruption and all that end-of-the-world stuff but really, you could write one optimistic, positive, freshgreen lorem and another negative, pessimistic darkgreen one entirely. Our field is the food system so our ipsums are naturally slanted towards agriculture and the food chain. There’s a wee bit of finances and reporting in there, but for your field a green ipsum might end up rather different. Our language also reflects our time: as new people, fresh ideas and seminal texts enter the discursive arena, our sustainable ipsum will change.

If you are into sustainable development and you enjoy language or culture, I recommend that you try to compile a green ipsum in your language or field or country and share it with us. It’s an interesting experience. You’ll definitely learn something.

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