Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 3
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

In defense of eco-buzzwords

Here’s the latest dish out of the Campus Climate Challenge’s smoke-filled room: we’re thinking of changing our name, and this blogger is all for it. “Campus Climate Challenge” has a lot of problems. First of all, it’s a mouthful––whenever I tell people who I blog for, I have to say “CCC” (which doesn’t work outside of Whitman) or something truncated like “climate challenge” or “the climate group.”

Second, it’s outdated. CCC was originally founded with the specific goal of annoying George Bridges until he agreed to pledge to try and make Whitman a carbon-neutral campus; it stood in contrast to a broader group called Campus Greens. When Campus Greens faded out of existence, CCC took up its mantle and started working on multiple projects with a wider scope, becoming what it is today.

Finally, it’s insufficient. I’ve said before that the prevailing “if you are an environmentalist, then you work on climate change” attitude bugs the hell out of me––we also conserve wilderness and wildlife, strive for environmental justice (the idea that the degradation and restoration of the planet should affect no one group more than any others), and work towards a host of different goals. I myself am passionate about ocean quality––someday I’m going to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

As you can see, the impending name change has come not a moment too soon. Over two meetings, we’ve thrown out innumerable ideas. Some of us want to keep the word “climate” in the title, because that’s the name of our listserv; others want to emphasize the concept of “action.” Alliteration is of course crucial, but far more so is the exact concept we want to evoke: “justice,” “collaboration,” “diverse,” and “progress” were all suggested in brainstorming.

In general, I think our sessions are heading in the right direction. But there are a few particular words that worry me, given their potential to trigger a listener to shut down. One of them is “sustainable.” Now, this word means something: a sustainable practice is one that can be kept up indefinitely without harming the planet. However, so many have used the word interchangeably with “good” that it is now reviled as a buzzword.

“Renewable” is in the same boat, as is “green” and a slew of prefixes, chiefly “eco.” These words present a major challenge because they are all our goals, all things we find significant; but we can’t say them in our group name because nobody would take us seriously. And forcing us to be creative is only the beginning of the problem. If there’s no way to refer to the concept of sustainability without inciting derision, how can we make a decent case for it?

Readers, spread the word––”sustainable,” “renewable,” and the others need to be given a second chance. Until then, however, CCC must search for the perfect name: one which encapsulates what we’re about while projecting a good image to the public. I threw my own suggestion in the ring: “Whitman Planeteers.” The final decision has yet to be made, so check back soon to get the first word.

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