Linguistic shifts to inspire new thought processes and behavioural change

One of the key challenges slowing the shift to a sustainable, carbon-neutral future is society\s increasing disconnect with nature. Many do not understand the value of the complex web of ecological interactions that underpin the production of our food and regulate our air and climate. Those that do understand the theory are often separated from the daily reality of this mass extinction. We hear of the wild fires and the destruction of forests, but feel disconnected from these events, protected by technology and our self-constructed bubble of urban civilisation.

Modern language does nothing but exasperate this disconnect and sense of otherness but it has not always been this way. Early human civilisations tended to view themselves as one with nature and this belief is still reflected in the structure of indigenous languages across the globe. Many acknowledge gender, posession and spirit in both the plant and animal kingdoms, whilst others ascribe life to rocks, mountains and air.

Our own folklaw often talks of trees whispering and forests breathing, but the Western mind is quick to dismiss such phrasing as anthropomorphisation, despite science confirming photosynthesis, climate regulation and undergrtound fungal communication networks.

Words define the way in which we interact and communicate, shaping our patterns of thought and behaviour. It is time to instigate a linguistic shift that breaks down the barriers between us and nature. A language which acknowledges that animals feel, trees do talk and mountains can move.
Shaking-off the structure and syntax of our outdated language will instigate new empathy and understanding with the natural world. More importantly it will allow new ways of thinking, sparking innovation and change. Armed with a new lexicon we may learn to interpret the cries of our struggling planet and help create a resilient, sustainable future for all.
To quote author of \Underland\, Robert MacFarlane: Words are world-makers. Language is one of the great geological forces of the Anthropocene.




Trigger (intervention)




Feedback Dynamics


Timescale and scaleability





Olivia Norfolk

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