‘Climate change’ is a euphemism.
And euphemisms can have brutal consequences.
Within a climate context, it generally infantilises, avoids and devalues people and issues.
George Monbiot, in advocating for the term ‘climate breakdown’, argues that calling what’s happening to the planet ‘climate change’ is like calling a ‘foreign invasion’ ‘unexpected guests.’
In front-line communities around the world climate breakdown has morphed into an already unfolding threat, resulting in widespread changes in productivity, species interactions, vulnerability to biological invasions, and other emergent properties.
The problem with ‘change’ is that it frames global heating and its pervasive and increasing global threats to biodiversity and ecosystems as a manageable event.
Breakdown is a very intimate word. And I have come to favour it because as much as I respect the scientific language experts, publications and organisations use to describe the climate emergency, we would do well to also lean on the more impactful social dimensions of language. Intimacy being one of them.
Language can do so. much. more. to help us acknowledge and make sense of what’s happening to our collective and individual worlds.
What we're looking at at the moment, is euphemism on one side and science on the other.
Intimacy is what exists in between and beyond these trajectories of linguistic variation.
And intimacy in this case refers to the language of pain and discomfort. To the language of loss. As climate breakdown intensifies, the loss is accumulating. Personal losses and environmental losses.
We all experience degradation as a part of life and now we’re going to have to have a more elaborate and intimate relationship with it.
Using the right words is also an expression of humility. By swapping ‘change’ for ‘breakdown’ we are being humble in the face of nature. 'Breakdown' incorporates the depth and scale of loss and damage within its alphabetic perimeters.
It also instils a sense of timing.
It fixes you in the present and instinctively makes you sit up straight and take stock of your circumstances and choices - a noble first step.
Curiosity pays unexpected dividends. Stay tuned for more insights, observations, and acronyms for your world within.