How does the language we use affect our treatment of the planet?

GLF Live with Arran Stibbe

See the full GLF Live series here.

Words shape how we feel, how we act, how we perceive the world. “Change” and “emergency” resonate in profoundly different ways when attached to the word “climate.” When is alarmist language helpful, and for how long can alarmist language retain its urgency? How do the ways we frame nature affect the degree to which we care for it? We must choose our words and metaphors carefully, because they don’t end in letters and punctuation but in the shaping of thoughts and therefore habits, actions, lifestyles. Words are causes for real effects in how we address climate change.

In this GLF Live celebrated ecolinguist Arran Stibbe explained the importance of this field of his expertise. This GLF Live forms part of the Storytelling Track of the GLF Bonn 2020 digital conference.

How does the language we use affect our treatment of the planet?
Illustration by Jessica Ball

The words you speak become the house you live in.


Raise your words, not voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.


Arran Stibbe is a Professor of Ecological Linguistics at the University of Gloucestershire. He has an academic background in both linguistics and human ecology and combines the two in his research and teaching. He is the founder of the International Ecolinguistics Association, and is author of Animals Erased: discourse, ecology and reconnection with nature and Ecolinguistics: language, ecology and the stories we live by (Routledge). He was awarded a National Teaching Fellowship by the Higher Education Academy for teaching excellence, and has published widely on ecolinguistics.

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