Sustainable, Sostenible, and Sustentable

Humanity is currently in the midst of an ecological crisis and everyday the consequences become more apparent. The movement toward reforming our exploitation of the natural world has slowly risen but it may not gain the necessary momentum in time. We hear the word sustainability a lot, especially in today’s news. It’s a word that everyone knows and has a general understanding of within the context of human consumption. Rarely would we need to deliberate the meaning of the word but after reading Sustainability, by Maria Garcia Maldonado, Rosario Garcia Meza, and Emily Yates-Doerr, it seems that it might be a topic for discussion. 

The author recalls the Nutricion para el desarollo sostenible conference in 2015. They describe the moment when a speaker asked if the word sustainable should be translated into Spanish as sostenible or sustentable. Both were valid translations but conveyed different meanings. 

Again, the author notices a similar issue when staying at Dona Marta’s house in Guatemala. Though the effects of recent policy change were apparent, action was no different than before. The new implementations were “english” and therefore Marta was uninfluenced by it. I find it hard to believe any real progress can be made if there isn’t a way to translate and define our problem and its solutions.  Despite the lack of understanding though, Marta clearly worried about the future and so did the others around her. In their own way, each person worked to preserve something. Whether it be their farms, wage labor, or their own lives, all of it was a part of their own definition for sustainability. At the end of the article, the author speaks on defining our terms with ideas that may be too specific. Now is a time where the relationship between humans and the natural world is being redefined so maybe we should account for this in our interpretation of possible solutions. While there are certainly right and wrong ways to manage our natural resources, we should refrain from excluding multiple options. Especially if they ignore or alienate other cultural practices that have been held on to for generations.

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