Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Word of the day?

Just a quick exercise today, to see what some of our online media providers are writing about in their environment sections at the moment. Click on each of the wordles to see the original in detail.

A selection of today's hot words are:
- Continue
- Just
- UN
- Britain
- Government
- Trillion

Guardian environment:

 Wordle: Guardian Environment, 29/10/2014
Telegraph Earth

Wordle: Telegraph Earth, 29/10/2014

BBC Science/Environment:

 Wordle: BBC Science/Environment 29/10/2014

Independent Environment:

Wordle: Independent Environment 29/10/2014

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Nature as a poet: John Muir

Nature as a poet, an enthusiastic workingman, becomes more and more visible the farther and higher we go; for the mountains are fountains - beginning places, however related to sources beyond mortal ken.

John Muir (1838 - 1914) writes effusively in My first summer in the Sierra of the wonders that he sees. Every tree, flower, mountain, and even house fly he sees there is a miracle, a beauty to be contemplated; to be enjoyed and protected. In 1869, he is the companion to a group taking a herd of sheep ('woolly locusts', he terms them) to find fresh pasture in the mountain meadows of the Yosemite. Taking his leave of the group for sometimes days on end, Muir walks and sketches and makes copious notes of his surroundings.

I think his predecessor and fellow Scotsman, Hugh Miller (1802 - 1856) would have agreed with Muir's 'nature as a poet' approach:  

Nature is a vast tablet, inscribed with signs, each of which has its own significancy, and becomes poetry in the mind when read; and geology is simply the key by which myriads of these signs, hitherto indecipherable, can be unlocked and perused, and thus a new province added to the poetical domain. (Lecture third) 

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Blog action day: inequality

Inequality, to me, is legalese. It's harsh, unfeeling and grey. The word doesn't demand action of us: it's a state of being, a mathematical comment on the way the world is. A brick is heavier than a feather - that's inequality. It doesn't make me want to do anything about it.

So I wondered about the synonyms for inequality, and a quick search on the clever Google Ngram showed me something interesting. We used to talk about injustice much more than we talked about inequality. Something happened between 1973 and 1974, and inequality took over. There's not space (or time) to look at why that happened, but it seems that the sense of justice went out of fashion. We were no longer talking about what was right or wrong.

Does 'injustice' demand more response than 'inequality'? Or which other words could we use?

Here's the graph, and you can have a go yourself, using a good thesaurus (or and Google Ngram.

(For comparison, I've also included 'unfairness', which doesn't seem to have been very popular at all.)

Find out more about Blog Action day