A quick response to Deni Durham's thoughts on whether there's a
better word than sustainability to describe...um..sustainability. I
hereby doff my Priestess of Mercury robes and Fieldhand for Demeter
farmer cap to offer this etymological perspective.
"Sustain" comes from the Middle English /systeynen/, via Norman and
Old French, from the Latin /sustinere/. That Latin comes from:
/sub-/ (from below)
/tenere/ (to hold)
Therefore to sustain is to hold something up from below. Down to
earth. In the dirt. Significant soil. Malkuth rooted in Kether,
as the old cabbalists would say. Et cetera.
I can't think of a better word in the delightfully mongrel Englitch
langwitch to capture all the connotations, agricultural and poetical,
of the vision. To heck with whether it can be measured or tested or
comprehended. Let's see if it fits under your fingernails and
supports your soles.
In response to DuPont and Monsanto and other corporations, if I
stopped using every word they turned into Newspeak to sell a
product, there wouldn't be much left to wrap our tongues and
Reminds me. On the Madison-San Francisco run last summer, I sat on
the plane next to a young guy with paisley tie and a glossy financial
magazine who eventually asked me, as Americans are wont, what I "do."
Told him. "Oh, agriculture," he said warmly. "SO interesting. I was
at Epcot Center last year. They had tomatoes growing in this
building--without any dirt! It was amazing. The vines wound around
and around the room. I'm not sure what they were connected to, and
the tomatoes were a bit strange, but it was amazing. I forget what
it was called." Hydroponics?, I asked. "Yes! Hydroponics. They said
that someday we could have entire farms inside of buildings, without
dirt!" I looked at his fingernails. How about that, I said,
intending to be humorous; you know, the farmers I work with grow
stuff in dirt. He looked at me with an expression that was somewhat
short of Full-Scale Epiphany but still frighteningly Damascus-bound,
and replied, "Really? That's SO INTERESTING! Such a good idea! But
farmers are like that, aren't they?"
Michele Gale-Sinex, communications manager
Center for Integrated Ag Systems
UW-Madison College of Ag and Life Sciences
Voice: (608) 262-8018 FAX: (608) 265-3020
In the towers of steel, belief goes on
and on, in this heartland, in this heartland