Small Streams


Thank you, Michael Pollan
December 18, 2007, 8:58 am
Filed under: eutechnics, health, language | Tags: , ,

Michael Pollan’s article about the deflation of the word “sustainability” appeared in this past Sunday’s New York Times Magazine.

When pesticide makers and genetic engineers cloak themselves in the term, you have to wonder if we haven’t succeeded in defining sustainability down, to paraphrase the late Senator Moynihan, and if it will soon possess all the conceptual force of a word like “natural” or “green” or “nice.”

Pollan follows this with a paragraph about Confucius and how if we’re to repair the world we need first to repair our words. The passage is pretty much lifted whole from Wendell Berry’s “Standing by Words.” I say this as a tribute to both Pollan and Berry. Berry can sound like an oracle at times, so it’s wonderful that Pollan can translate. Soon you’ll find the sentiments expressed in Parade magazine. If it takes 2,500 years to pay attention to Confucius, so be it.

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