Saturday, December 19, 2009

Polar cities and acronyms related to climate and global warming...

World Wide Words -- edited by Michael Quinion in the UK notes:

REDD AGAIN : It turned up in reports about the UN climate-change

conference in Copenhagen. It's among the many jargonistic acronyms

created by negotiators; according to my newspaper it stands for

"Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in

Developing Countries". Surely that makes REDFDDC? But a look online

shows that REDD is based on a mercifully shortened form of that

unwieldy phrase - "Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and

Degradation". That ought to save a few trees by itself.

Swarming around the delegates in Copenhagen were large numbers of

observers, mostly members of non-governmental organisations, NGOs.

UN bureaucrats grouped them acronymically. There were BINGOs

(business and industrial NGOs), ENGOs (environmental NGOs), RINGOs

(research-oriented and independent NGOs) and TUNGOs (trade union

NGOs). To be complete, we should add the IPOs (indigenous peoples'

groups) and the LGMAs (local government and municipal authorities).

There were also youth organisations, who came to call themselves

YOUNGOs, presumably in satirical commentary rather than slavish


Color Me Environmental, says Mr Quinion:


It's been gradually creeping up on me for some weeks now, but the

association of colours with environmental matters is reaching

epidemic proportions.

"Green", meaning something that's kind to the environment or a

commitment to protecting it, has been around for decades. We are

unsurprised by figurative terms using the word, even if it isn't

immediately clear what they mean - such as "green accounting", in

which environmental assets and costs are included in national and

corporate accounts, and "green budget", which adds such costs into

estimates of income and expenditure. Any business providing

environmentally acceptable alternatives to traditional products is

part of the "green sector" and contributes "green collar jobs" to

the "green economy" (as opposed to the "black economy", which isn't

about people avoiding paying taxes but the old-fashioned sort that

doesn't consider the environment). The "green premium" is a payment

to cover the extra cost of sustainably grown fruit and vegetables;

we may one day be charged a "green tax" to persuade us to reduce

carbon emissions. "Green chemistry" is the search for alternatives

to industrial solvents to help reduce toxic waste, and "green gas"

is another name for biogas, generated from renewable biological

sources. A doubly colourful term for biofuels in general is "green

gold", which has also been appropriated for tea, forests and as a

general term for growing plants.

With such a powerful link between good environmental practice and

the colour green, it's not surprising that other colours have been

added to the palette for old-style or unpalatable equivalents.

Generally, any fuel created by green methods is "green energy" and

so the traditional sorts are naturally enough "brown energy" (the

alternative to green gas is "brown gas", the fossil fuel that comes

out of the ground). Quite different is "blue energy", also called

"osmotic power" or "salinity gradient power", which is electricity

that's generated in river estuaries through the interaction of salt

and fresh water. Some people have used "yellow energy" for the sort

that's gathered directly from the sun using photovoltaic systems.

"Grey energy" or "embodied energy" is the energy that's hidden in a

product; it might be what was needed to extract it from nature or

cultivate, manufacture, package and transport it.

Scientists have begun to study "brown carbon", tiny particles of

soot given off by burning matter and which both warm the atmosphere

and cool the ground. The "brown agenda" has nothing to do with the

policies of the current British prime minister but refers to the

environmental problems of big cities in developing countries, which

struggle with traditional environmental health issues at the same

time as new ones. The "green agenda", on the other hand, is a set

of proposals for mitigating environmental ills.

Environmentalists refer to "green water", which is the stuff that

falls from the sky or is taken up by plants from the soil; there's

also "blue water", which flows in rivers and streams. Many of us

know of "grey water", the outflow from household sinks and baths

that is increasingly used to irrigate our gardens. Experts in the

sewage business, I have learned, talk of "black water", otherwise

known politely as solid wastes, as opposed to "yellow water", which

is urine. The last of these has also been called "liquid gold", a

term which is confusingly and unfortunately also used for water

(and sometimes even wine).

Almost certainly, we haven't seen the last of these invented colour

terms. Equally certainly, most of them are destined sooner or later

to end up in the recycle bin of language. But while they last, they

do add an extra hue to our speech.

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