Thoughts on grammar at the World Water Forum

Ken Cline

I have developed an adjective-noun problem.  I wrote in an earlier entry that “words matter.”  I was thinking about that even more today.  It wasn’t even because we have been discussing the wording of proposed statements late into the night or that I have been spending time with Rachel (for whom  English grammar is a contact sport).  No, I was just sitting in a presentation listening to people talking about the “green economy”, “green growth”, ”sustainable development”, and “sustainable hydropower.”   This has been a week chock full of these kind of terms.  And they aren’t so bad; a green economy is better than a black or brown one and I understand why some would see these phrases as a great step forward.

But I can’t help but thinking that with all of these terms, the emphasis (sometimes silent, sometimes not) is always on the noun – economy, growth, development, hydropower.  It explicitly says that these are the things that we want, but we will try to temper their impact, thus the adjective.  To the extent that these phrases contain a vision, the vision seems to be only contained in the noun (with a little qualification added on).  As a result, the much celebrated Rio +20 conference this June is focusing on the (green) economy, not justice, not health, not the environment, not well-being.  The economy is important and green is my favorite color for economies and lots of other things.  But that is not my vision, that is not my emphasis and if we are going to bring together 50,000 people around an important vision – I want a different noun front and center.

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