I have thought a lot about the vocabulary we use when we speak about issues. Much of the language we use comes to us courtesy of Economists. We speak of consumers or clients rather than citizens. We speak of economic debt and deficit to the exclusion of the discussion of social, cultural, environmental or infrastructure debt and deficits. We speak of healthy economies rather than healthy people, or healthy environments. And we rarely ever focus on important issues like fun or happiness.
This vocabulary poses a number of real problems for us. One very real problem is that if we use economic terms to describe our problems, the solutions we find will be limited to those that offer economic value. This is the old problem where having only a hammer in your tool belt tends to make every problem look like a nail. In the long-term, if we are to really deal with important issues in a constructive way, we have to change the way we speak to reflect our real values. This type of culture change takes time, and, if science is to be believed, we don’t have a lot of time before the chaos starts.
In the meantime, we can at least frame our economic arguments in terms that demonstrate that sustainability is at the heart of long-term economic success, and that is done brilliantly in a TED talk (embedded below) by Chris McKnett from 2013.