In the fantastic After the Ice: Life, Death and Politics in the New Arctic, author Alun Anderson talks about the extreme northerly communities of Inuit peoples in Canada. Living on the edge of the ice, their language points to a people who have a profound understanding of their relationship with their natural surroundings. Perhaps 'understanding' is too trifling a word: the connection runs deeper than consciousness. The communities here in places like Grise Fiord depend almost entirely on their surroundings for their survival in a way that is hard to understand for a soft, suburban dweller like myself.
And so in Inuit you find the following words:
piliriqatigiiniq - capacity to work together for a common cause
tuunganarniq - fostering good spirit by being open, welcoming and inclusive
avatittinnik / kamatsiarniq - respect for the land, animals and environment
When we speak about 'sustainability' in English, I think we mean all of these things and more. Maybe it's time to expand our vocabulary a little bit.