The book An Ecotopian Lexicon (University of Minnesota Press) hit the shelves today, and I contributed an entry on watershed discipleship. It’s exciting to read about these new words or loanwords from other languages that can help us imagine what a sustainable world would look like! I haven’t received the book yet, but reading about it on the website, the description of various contributions in the promotional materials, and an article reviewing this book all give a sense of the excellent ideas in the text.
Check out the book’s website to see who contributed, and also to see some of the beautiful artwork that supplements the words.
A review of the book appeared on the journal Science‘s blog on October 15, and says:
This is a book that wants to stir passions, which in turn become a means of realizing desired futures. … The lexicon’s “borrowing” of words, although mindful of a continued coloniality, nevertheless presents a welter of experiences, felt and articulated.
Perhaps you, like I, have learned a foreign language and your brain has had to shift and expand in order to take in a new way of organizing ideas. Maybe you have even learned words that do not have a corollary in English, and help you understand the world in an insightful new way. Or maybe you have encountered a novel combination of words in English that helps break down your assumptions and rearrange your worldview. That is the purpose of this text, in recognition of the fact that English may not have the imaginative capacity and the conceptual descriptiveness to help us move through the issues of climate change and environmental justice with care and humility.
I first felt this way about English when I read a chapter from Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass: “Learning the Grammar of Animacy.” Her description of the relationality between beings both human and (what English considers) inanimate helped me recognize the limitations of my language, and made me yearn for new ways of seeing the world. An Ecotopian Lexicon aims to provide tools for making visible the gaps and limitations of the English language, building bridges to newly imagined future possibilities.
In my contribution, although my entry is already in English (watershed discipleship), it’s a combination of words that has not previously existed before the last several years. It’s a term coined by Ched Myers, and you can learn more about it here, or join the community of watershed discipleship activists on Facebook here. I’m grateful for the chance to contribute an entry from the Christian perspective, particularly since so many climate change deniers come from Christian communities. In explaining watershed discipleship, I offer a framework for Christianity that absolutely requires awareness of the land, the creation in which we are embedded participants, and the biblical call to justice and reconciliation through love. In this “watershed moment” where we have the opportunity to repent and turn around from anthropogenic climate disruption, the role of people of faith is vitally important.