THE TRANSLATION OF SUSTAINABILITY

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“Sustainability” from the series Lexicon for an Anthropocene Yet Unseen, brought to my mind a concept I had never before considered: the translation of sustainability. Though I had been introduced to the idea of a completely western-dominated lexicon before, where western words get brought into other languages, I had not considered the areas it did, or did not, cover. Before, I assumed that it was only western brand names that were carried over (ie Nike, Adidas, etc) or western inventions (ie the TV or WiFi). Until the reading mentioned that sustainability had two translations–“sostenible and sustentable”–I had not considered that sustainability was a western idea. The language(s) spoken by an individual influences their ideas by limiting the words available to describe an idea.  The fact that some languages may not have a direct translation for sustainability adds another layer into the complexity of the issues surrounding sustainability.

Not only does the article point out this issue, it also alludes to the idea that rural communities already practice sustainability, even though they do not have the vocabulary to properly define it. In the second half of the article, Marta’s community is described as one which works with the earth to both sustain it and themselves. Already sustainable practices had been put into use, like the storage bins or the use of feces instead of chemicals. Even though Marta’s community does not have a direct translation for sustainability, they are still concerned about it. Concern for the future of the planet transcends language and cultural barriers, affecting all humans. This gives me hope for the future, that we–as a species–can collectively make a change for the better.

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