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Cowpooling and Super-Spikes, New Words Help Define Our World
Sarah Kuck, 7 Jul 08

cow%20dictionary.jpg To keep apace with our quickly changing world, we are constantly looking for ways to describe how change is happening and how we feel about it. By creating new words, like tipping points, NIMBYs and McMansions, we can explain new phenomena and relate it to others.

As gas prices climb and climate zones change, we will only continue to see people invent new words to explain their feelings, ideas, tools and solutions to each other. Many of these words have already left the jargon arena of sustainability geeks and bourgeois bohemians and have entered into the daily lexicon of everyday citizens. But here’s a sample of some (possibly) new sustainability-related words, for your repartee:

People choosing to practice sustainability by eating only food from local farms are often called locavores. Some families concerned with food-miles are pooling their money to buy whole cows or sides of beef from local farmers. Cowpooling keeps beef costs low for the families, allows them to know more about where their beef came from and helps provide incentive for local farmers to raise healthy cows.

Coined by environmental philosopher Glenn Albrecht, solastalgia describes the sense of loss and dislocation people feel when they see changes to their local environment as harmful. Albrecht told Worldchanging team member Sanjay Khanna that solastalgia is the “lived experience of gradually losing the solace a once stable home environment provided. It is therefore appropriate to diagnose solastalgia in the face of slow and insidious forces such as climate change or mining.”

The lazy days of summer are now officially upon us, and I’m sure there are few who haven’t yet heard of the word that means a taking a stay-at-home vacation. Soaring gas prices have recently caused many to wince while looking up at the gas station marquee and others to search for car-free alternatives when planning to travel. Some suggest simply staying in-state by heading to the nearest national park or quaint township. But others are refusing to leave the house altogether, instead opting for the $15 kiddie pool, the neighborhood block party or the solace of a few quiet days spent catching up on great summer reads.

The term that ties them all together is super-spike, which describes the ‘extremely rapid or unprecedented rise in the price of a commodity, particularly oil.’ Fossil fuels are interwoven into almost every corner of our infrastructural fabric. Unless we move toward solutions that wean us away from oil, our dependency on fossil fuels will cause super-spikes in everything from the cost of eggs to the price of energy.

Whether they are new portmanteaus, like affluenza, new ways to describe how we interact, like social networking, or just new verbs to describe what we do, like Googling, our words will continue to help us define and shape the way we see our rapidly changing world.

Heard any other new sustainability-related words we should add to our vocabulary?

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How about Eco'pure'neur? An evolution of the old eco-preneur. Ecopureneurs are purists - those engaged in authentic, ethical, healthy enterprises. More info at and

Posted by: Heather Carmona on 7 Jul 08

Cowpooling and Staycation could be common-place words in this part of the world, as people seem to be gradually preparing to hunker down for a rough ride. We're in Canada, but not immune from the financial happenings in the States - and by the way, our gas is about $1.20 a gallon more in BC than in Washington.

Posted by: UrbanWorkbench on 7 Jul 08

I've personally always liked the titles of James Howard Kunstler's books. "Geography of Nowhere" and "The Long Emergency" do a pretty good job of describing the desolate landscape that is suburban America and the period we're entering in which the cost of living slowly rises year after year after as oil prices go up because supply dwindles while demand increases. Not as clever, but the latter of the two seems quite prescient.

Posted by: Brendan on 8 Jul 08

Perhaps we not discussing a real issue, but rather tip-toeing around one.

From a historical perspective, it appears that humankind is the only organism on Earth that produces food, amasses more food than is needed for survival and made food into a commodity. Farmers have not been primarily motivate by an altruistic desire to grow food because they have wanted to feed a growing population, nor have they been selling food to increase human population numbers. The more food farmers grew, the more wealth they accumulated. Our (agri-)culture has evidently devised a spectacularly successful economic system that continuously expands the food supply for human human beings worldwide. What I am trying to suggest is simply this: An economic system that requires ever increasing food production, supposedly to feed a rapidly growing human population, appears to be inadvertently and unexpectedly enlarging the size of the human population on Earth.

That is to say, the predominant culture and its global economy appears to produce many wonders as well as potentially deleterious impacts. Would you agree that if our culture chooses to keep growing the global economy as we are doing now, then we will likely keep getting what we are getting now... for better and worse?

For a long time, the leaders of the predominant culture have chosen to continuously expand production capabilities, ones that give rise to the rampant economic globalization we see today. Unfortunately, an ever expanding, leviathan-like global economy appears to give rise to something recognizably unsatisfactory because it could become unsustainable.

If you will, please consider how the relentless hoarding of wealth and the conspicuous over-consumption of resources by millions of people leave billions of people in the family of humanity hungry.

For fortunate millions of people with riches to recklessly consume limited resources, while billions of less forunate people go without adequate food to eat, seems somehow not quite right.

Inequity is sad enough; grotesque inequity will one day be considered intolerable, I suppose.

If leaders of our predominant culture choose to modify the way the unbridled global economy continuously grows and the way it inequitably distributes resources, then perhaps they and we will find more reasonable, sensible, fair and, equally important, sustainable ways of performing these practices better.

Perhaps it is a mistake for me to do so; but, nevertheless, I am assuming most of us can agree that the unbridled expansion of the global economy, given its huge scale and rapid growth, will result in this manmade economic colossus eventually reaching a point in human history when it becomes patently unsustainable in a finite world with make-up and size of Earth.

Steven Earl Salmony
AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population, est. 2001

Posted by: Steven Earl Salmony on 9 Jul 08

Feastarian - reducing your meat consumption from every meal/ daily to only special occasions - eg. once a week for a traditional Sunday celebration type of thing. Less meat, but better meat, more appreciation.

Posted by: paula on 18 Jul 08



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