We must take advantage of opportunities for change to stop the climate crisis from becoming so serious that it drives us towards collective erasure.
“Climate emergency” is the Oxford English Dictionary’s Word of the Year 2019
The Oxford English Dictionary has chosen “climate emergency” as 2019’s Word of the Year because of its effectiveness in communicating a sense of urgency in the fight against global warming.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, climate emergency is defined as “a situation in which urgent action is required to reduce or halt climate change and avoid potentially irreversible environmental damage resulting from it”. The term has been declared Word of the Year, perfectly reflecting pressing global concerns about our climate.
Why climate emergency is Word of the Year
The announcement on the Oxford Dictionaries website states that this title refers to a “word or expression shown through usage evidence to reflect the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of the passing year, and have lasting potential as a term of cultural significance”.
According to data collected by the Oxford English Corpus, a database containing billions of words in this language, the use of the term climate emergency increased by a factor of one hundred in a single year. It went from almost never being used to being among the most frequent.
Statistically speaking, this analysis demonstrates that the word “emergency” is being used in a new way, because up to 2018 it was barely ever associated with “climate“.
Why the choice of a climate-related word
“When we were looking through the evidence, it was just clear that issues relating to the climate were running through all the different lexical items we were working with,” explains Katherine Connor Martin, editor at the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).
A linguistic change reflected in the media
The fact that the climate emergency has received more attention in 2019 than perhaps ever before is indisputable. Since Swedish activist Greta Thunberg first inspired the student movement for the climate in August 2018, it has rightfully made its way onto the global stage.
The point, however, is also how it has been discussed. The OED’s choice, in fact, is the latest addition to a series of lexical changes that have occurred at different levels. The Collins English Dictionary chose climate strike as its word of 2019 for similar reasons, in particular related to an increase in its use.
It’s no accident that many media outlets have chosen to adopt a new lexicon in an attempt to better-represent the urgent need for concrete action to fight global warming. The Guardian, for example, has chosen to adopt the terms “climate emergency” and “climate crisis” instead of “climate change”.
When discussing communication in relation to the environment, our choice of words is extremely important. This issue is seemingly intangible and certainly complex, and often hard to communicate. For this reason, the language we choose to use reveals its importance.
The United Nations has launched a major international alliance for ocean science, undertaking a mission close to all our hearts.
Greta Thunberg asks leaders to do more for our climate in a podcast written during lockdown: the pandemic has taught us how to face a global emergency, she says.
Homecast is a podcast series recorded in quarantine in which creatives from around the world share their lived experiences of these unique circumstances. Creator Giacomo De Poli tells us why this collective diary was needed now more than ever.
Time magazine’s 100 Women of the Year project sheds light on influential women’s stories, from Amelia Earhart to Greta Thunberg. A selection of some of the greats for International Women’s Day.
The 26th edition of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP26, will be held in Glasgow, Scotland in November 2020. The pre-COP will take place in Milan, Italy.
A look at the 10 most important news stories of 2019 from the point of view of sustainability: to prepare for 2020, the first year of the “climate decade”.
Thanks to activists, the voice of the world’s peoples resounded through the COP25 like an alarm bell. Governments didn’t reach the results they demanded, but their cries and messages were stronger than ever, reaching even those who weren’t in Madrid.
Greta Thunberg and hundreds of thousands of young activists, together with many adults, poured onto the streets of New York City to strike for the climate on 20 September. One of the largest mobilizations for climate action in history was an intergenerational call to fight for the planet.