The Language out of Washington

The congressmen took a vacation but there has been no shortage of political news. The media is testing new reality dynamics and glitz during political coverage. Presidential contenders are positioning themselves and circling. Wolves snarling. All too soon. My ears have not stopped ringing from the bombast and vitriol spun out during the debt ceiling crisis just weeks ago. Is there any resolution to that shameful circus? The 24 hour news cycle moves on. People forget. The details  become cloudy and obscure but the language remains. Bit by bit words accumulate in the daily discourse and spread in the community. In the coming weeks and months the language coming out of Washington is going to be overflowing with bellicose rhetoric. This will all be echoed at lunch counters and watering holes across the country.

photo Jack Chapman

Language and debate are the tools that politicians and political parties use to influence opinion and sway perception. With repetition and rhetoric the meaning of words can be modified. The meaning of a word can be manipulated so that something positive may take on a negative connotation or become so overused as to become insignificant. A catch phrase or sound bite is absorbed and multiplied by the public. My concern is with the word sustainability.

During the last session of congress the financial woes of the United States were put on display before the world and in the heated debate the word sustainable kept popping up on one side of the aisle or the other and caught my attention. Representatives crying that the budget was unsustainable or the country could not sustain the national debt. It is a very legitimate concern today and should have been obvious  12 or 15 years ago. Websters defines sustain with these words: to support, uphold, to keep up or keep going, to provide for. With the consistent and repetitious use of the word sustainable during the budget discussions the two words, economy and sustainable started to become assimilated. Therein is the rub.

What the politicians are referring to is rightly called fiscal stewardship, the practice of spending programs and policies that are affordable over time. Finances and the economy are only one component of sustainability. Sustainability has three elements each constrained by the other. This illustration shows how the economy and society are constrained by the environment.

The representatives in congress have shown a terrible example of Democratic principles and behavior. A set of ethics is required for the proper stewardship and balance of a sustainable civilization which then insures adequate resources and quality of life for future generations. Sustainability should not be a word to demean or mock the future of our grandchildren. Listen carefully as this word is tossed around this upcoming political barrage.

Congress will be in session the remainder of the year. Presidential candidates will be parading their opinions and personalities with ever increasing frequency. Three political parties will be trying to manipulate the populace.  What ever your political persuasion, be open minded, listen carefully. Examine closely the language coming out of Washington. Don’t let the speech writers and sooth sayers demean or negate sustainability. Practicing sustainability insures that everyone can enjoy the beauty of the Earth.

About earthstonestation

promoting environmental education, protecting all species and preserving the wild places with art, music and storytelling.
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3 Responses to The Language out of Washington

  1. jpgreenword says:

    Our Federal (Conservative) Government in Canada had the audacity to call the Alberta Oil sands a sustainable source of energy… and all the provincial premiers (except for one, I believe) signed on to that statement.
    If you aren’t familiar with the Oil Sands, it is a massive site where bitumen (oil mixed in earth) is extracted and processed in order to make crude oil. Because of the nature of bitumen it is a very inefficient process:
    – It takes two tonne of bitumen to make a barrel of oil.
    – It takes 3 to 5 barrels of fresh water to make a barrel of oil. The water is rendered toxic by the process and held in “tailings ponds” which leak millions of liter a day. The whole Oil Sands project produces hundreds of millions of liters of toxic water per day!
    – It is estimated that the carbon emissions from the process is up to 3 times that of tradition oil exploration.
    – Native Canadians who live downstream from the site are experiencing abnormal levels of cancer.
    – Boreal forest have to be destroyed in order to access the bitumen below.
    How much more NOT sustainable can you get?!?

  2. axis media says:


  3. Candy says:

    You said it all.

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