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Language of Agriculture

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            There was a contention that the linguistic debate still has not taken place because of failure to truly connect violation, destruction and estrangement of the environment to activities of linguistics.[1] Wilhelm Trampe associated ecologically conceptualized linguistics with the blind spots that were visible in this perception of linguistics. According to an ecoliguistic approach, language represented entities that had elements that did not have a unidirectional impact. It was perceived to be variable according the construction and interpretation of language. Languages and the environments by which they were created formed open and dynamic systems that were viewed to be capable of self-organization. [2].

            Trampe’s discussion of the language of agriculture needed to be given greater focus because of the insights it provided in environmental discourse. The term agriculture was used because this language was used by non-agriculturalists to discuss about sector of society. This was a language system that needed to be discussed because of the impact that the ecological crisis has on this sector. The destruction of the landscape was perceived to go together with the decline of rural settlements and areas for conventional farming.[3] Trampe presented four language political tendencies to discuss the language of agriculture in terms of reification, the concealment of facts, increasing resentment against traditional farming and slogans and phraseological elements.

            The first tendency was to view how living beings were treated like that of objects. The landscape was linguistically presented as a consumer good that was to be used or planned up. Second, there was a tendency to use euphemisms that emphasized or avoided words based on the intentions of the message sender. Modern agriculture was then differentiated against traditional agriculture, wherein positive words such as industrial, clean and economical were associated to it, while traditional agriculture was described to be uneconomical and unclean. The last phenomenon involved slogans that described the destruction of rural cultural forms to be normal laws of nature that made it seem like going against it would be going against natural laws.

            There were three reactions that could be viewed in sight of these tendencies in light of the inadequacy of ecolinguistics. The first reaction was helplessness and adjustment. The lack of reflection, when it came to the realities of the outcomes of environmental discourse was a major problem for the major tendencies. This reaction was perceived to be experienced by those who had intentions of protecting the environment. Another reaction was more of a formal one through metalinguistic resistance. This was a reaction that intended to counter the any unecological treatment of life forms and landscape. Finally, the third reaction was in terms of lexical creativity. More than rejecting linguistics that used unecological treatment, a linguistic alternative of lexical creativity needed to be presented. However, while this reaction existed and could be observed, there were problems in terms of the dominance of the established linguistic tendencies in terms of economization and industrialization of nature. [4]

Passive Scientific Language

            To depict the connection between language and power, Mary Khan described linguistic behavior as “a powerfully insidious vehicle in creating and maintaining hierarchies of power, perpetuating the devaluation and control of others, including other beings.”[5] Linguistic chauvinism was observed to occur with women, as well as with other species. Literature had extensively covered feminism issues that defended the right of women. However, there was a gap in scientific literature that exposed language habits and linguistic markers that brought about the continuous debasement and devaluation other beings.

            Biological language was perceived to be cold and objective. In the same manner, this served them well in avoiding the appearance of responsibility and their seemingly anti-septic representation of death and indignity.[6] The passive construction of such language was described make the doer/sender of message disappear and disconnected.

            Khan explored this language using articles randomly selected from Wildlife Society Bulletin. She discovered that there was a nearly total lack of active voice for scientific literature of regarding animal experimentation, the equally complete lack of acknowledgement about living things and there was also an intentional obscuring of language and the intentional use of euphemisms.[7] The voice that was observed through this study reflected how scientific literature presented animal research to be passive and soulless because to segregate themselves outside the realm of active responsibility. This was a style that was willingly adapted by the commercial users of the environment for the intentions of the same purpose of relieving themselves of any moral responsibility.

            Scientists were even compared with bureaucrats and politicians in terms of their use of euphemisms in order to protect themselves from being accountable and morally responsible for their actions. Doublespeak was the term modern linguists associated with this act and specifically defined it as “the obfuscation of language in order to deny or shift responsibility.”[8] This was the craft of turning negative things and making them appear as positive, in the same manner, they could make something unethical appear ethical.  Khan described the realm of science to reward efficiency, objectification and disconnection over any other communication values. Furthermore, language structures gave science the powerful influence that it had today.  The public unconsciously accepted the message through linguistic strategies that shielded them from answering ethical questioning and maintaining their agendas in line.

‘Greening’ of the Corporate Image and Products

            The trend in the greening of the corporate image was viewed in corporate social responsibility and public relation strategies in the corporations’ attempts to be protectors of the environment. The environment and these corporations served as beneficiaries to the greening of the corporations through market-based solutions. Green advertisements could increase attention that was given to the problems of the environment and probably provide solutions to the crisis that it was experiencing. Businesses were seen to positively respond to the consumer’s demand for more natural or environmentally friendly products.[9] It was understandable that this was understood as the increase in the adjustments of the corporations to new imperatives regarding the environment. However, Michael Howlett and Rebecca Raglon regarded this assumption to be false because the use of natural imagery was something that was already used to sell products.

A survey reflected that corporations already understood that associating their products to the natural environment benefit their sales because of the positive correlation the consumers had with natural products.[10] However, surveys did show that it was new for companies to desire to be for their corporate image to become environmentally friendly. This image was regarded as a leading edge. This was different from ideal images of past corporations that wanted to be perceived as nature defying, consumptive and modern.

The perception of different groups such as the government, the individuals, and groups determined how they reacted to the environmental crisis. Howlett and Raglon presented that the perception of the natural environment was a social construction that could be influenced by the manipulation of social institutions, known as the consciousness industry.[11]

The outline of this industry was difficult to determine. However, in the context of this discussion, the focus would be in the means of communication, the nature of media and the role of advertising in their roles to create mess consciousness in society. Howlett and Raglon assumed that advertising represented a powerful sector in society, the business sector, and their attempts to manipulate and alter the sentiments and beliefs of the public to their advantage. The success of these corporations in these attempts was relative nevertheless; a significant budget was allocated for advertising this particular image for the public to buy.

Thus, advertisers take on a role in constructing social realities and what Howlett and Raglon call as the “construction of social spectacle.” [12] These realities and spectacles that were constructed were offered in different forms and created through different metaphors and used differing analogies. An important shift in the construction of social realities involved the trend in creating a spectacle that was focused on the preservation of the environment and ecological issues. The so-called “greening of the corporation” and the increase in green advertising of the companies signified this construction.

The process of “greening” the image of the corporations and the products they offered was a product of the combination of corporate and public interest. The point of convergence was observed to have emerge because of the corporations’ response to the tastes of the consumers and the market that revolved around environmentally friendly products. Howlett and Raglon observed that this was a challenge and opportunity for the business. [13] Since there was much accountability being passed off to the corporations regarding their roles in protecting the environment, corporations took the initiative to present themselves as responsible corporate citizens. Consumers tend to support companies that protected the environment. The new trend revolved around the corporate image and not just with product association with the natural environment.

The corporate social responsibility factor in the businesses became significant in their image to the public. Part of helping or giving back to the community they served was their activities to protect the environment. The public has become more vigilant for corporations that neglect environmental preservation and protection. Nowadays, even if the corporations delivered to the public an image that they had a sense of environmental responsibility or not, this was the image that would like to portray. This was true even for companies that commercially use the environment in their standard operations. In fact, even those that were directly involved in anything but environmental preservation sought to be disassociated with an image that was against the environment.  Thus, they worked to mute negative associations with the environment.

In order to gain public approval, corporations presented themselves as “friends” of the environment. Through the proper construction of the image and the statements used, corporations were able to associate themselves with environmental preservation and that they were concerned with it. In reality, the concern that corporations had for the environment found a commonplace in the marketing and public relations strategies of corporations. More than delivering the product and services that their company offered, companies included environmental sensitivity as a part of their operations in order to remain in good standing with the general public. Since the public had grown disenchanted with ideas of modernity and progress, business shifted gears and associated themselves with “post-modern public sensibility. [14]

Businesses has learned the art of hiding their smokestacks behind their utilization of “pastoral imagery” when they portrayed themselves as so-called friends of the environment. Before the 1970s, the public actually related factory scenes and industrial depictions to reflect the company’s ability in production and their level of progress. However, times had changed because the public changed their perception of such scenes. The factory scenes were now perceived to become associated environmental destruction and pollution. A kinder and gentler approach was soon the way to go.

Companies needed to associate themselves to missions of saving the environment to protect their public image. The new trend shifted in such a way that companies did not wish to be completely about modernity and technical developments. Their activities that portrayed this viewed by the public as their way of solving the environmental problem. A far cry from the technological imagery that was portrayed in the past. Businesses exerted significant effort to portray themselves to be as natural as they could be. On the other hand, advertisements from the thirties to the fifties era reflected the ideal corporate image to be associated with “nature-defying technology.”[15]

In terms of the products that were offered, the greening was still similar to how products were commonly marketed. Product advertisements still involved association with positive images of nature. However, there was a greater focus in the environment for cures or alternatives for products with natural hazards. In this light, they would presented other products’ hostility to nature.

However, there was an exception to the lack of novelty of the greening of product advertisements. It was through the marketing of “environmental services.” This was described to be services that would be able to solve the environmental problems through the use of new technologies. The term “problem-solving” was a positive depiction in advertising imagery. These advertisements were perceived from a minority. There were still other ads that send the message that the public needed a modern approach in order to protect the environment.

Elements of nature were perceived to have provided humans for linguistic symbols and metaphors that explained the world. They were also observed to be resilient as they transcend cultural and linguistic borders.[16] They lasted for long periods of time and seldom changed. Natural objects were noted to be understood in the same way regardless of cultural and linguistic diversity. However, this seemed like an ironic point because of the different depictions that could be used in describing the natural environment. Much of the analysis of environmental discourse revolved around the use of euphemisms to describe activities related to the natural environment. Nevertheless, these symbols that the environments represented were still commonly used in advertisements in a frequent and steady manner. For example, water was a constant symbol of freshness and seasons represented the holidays in a year or a person’s age (i.e. winter was equated to old age).

Nature was universally appealing and was used to sell a variety of products. It was also something the customers associated as something positive. This was why advertisers would associated their products with nature whenever they had a chance to do so. There were also numerous advertisements that were released that emphasized on the “naturalness” of a product. [17]

Thus, green advertising should not be perceived as the businesses’ response to the environmental problems. There were different variations as used the context of environmental problems but were nonetheless focused on selling the idea that they were offering a “green” product. This was merely the corporations’ reaction to the public’s growing desire to connect with nature. If it was through eating fresh food or purchasing products that were recycling, the public constantly sought products that were at the minimum, friendly with the environment.

Behind the hype of green advertising, an awareness for the real intentions of the companies needed to be understood. While it was true that protecting the environment was a priority, it was not always the first one even in greening the company’s image and products. It was still the promotion of corporate goodwill and corporate responsibilities that encouraged companies to go in this direction and adapt this green corporate image.  At the end of the day, companies would attempt to associate their products and their images with whatever positive attributes the consumers’ minds produced.

The public was also observed to be aware of the need to protect the environment and they were increasingly holding businesses to be accountable to fulfill this need. More consumers favored companies that sold themselves to be friends of the environment, as well as patronized products that were environmentally friendly. This growing trend revamped the way companies presented themselves. It replaced the old perception that good companies were modern, economical and efficient. The general public now preferred a company that protected and cared about the environment in their operations and in their projects.


            Language was perceived to reflect the reality that was based on a subjective construction of social realities. In other words, language served as a mirror to what society was. Man constructed language. This explained the kind of definitions and characterization that language portrayed in the differences between males and females. Men were seen to be the head of the families and leaders of society. For the longest time, women played roles as housewives and child bearers alone because their contributions were limited to service and care of their families. There was a time wherein they were not allowed to vote or to go to school. Men were the only ones that were viewed to be capable of intellect and strength. Even today, there still existed a prejudice against women despite the significant shifts that were occurring in society.

 Language was constructed by a patriarchal society in an objective manner. Instead, it was biased and created from a “position of dominance” of men over women.[18] Furthermore, it was also observed that women were regarded, as the weaker sex was because of the male-dominated language that existed, especially in the Western society.  Even if women had broke the barriers and began dominating different industries, language still had a tendency to objectify women because of their superior standing in society in comparison to them.  The perfect illustration would be the sensual advertisements that used the “sex sells” approach. Women represented sex. The objectification of women through sexy commercials that sold liquor, cigarettes, cars, perfume and any other thing could still be observed in this society despite the newly established roles women achieved today.

            The idea that women were associated with nature was not new. There were a number of common expressions that reflected the associated of women with the environment. The term “Mother Nature” and “Mother Earth” were sufficient examples as to the feminine association that was given to the Nature. Language had the power to establish social constructs.  Tzeporah Berman offered that women and Nature were oppressed due to how they were perpetuated by language.[19] Women and Nature were linked beyond metaphors and figures of speech. Language played a significant role in the continued tendency to objectify women along with Nature. Patriarchal dualisms and traditional hierarchy was observed in an analysis of the language that was attributed to women and Nature. There was a question that was posed regarding the conflict this language could have in environmental discourse or if protectors or the environment would further replicate the language of male dominance and reinforce their male superiority over women.

            The white male Western was always placed in the position of superiority against other genders, cultures and races. Language constructed this dominance. It continued to establish class oppression. Language was observed to mirror and reinforce the dominance of men and the assumptions that came with it. [20]

            Ecofeminism was the combination of ecological principles with the feminist theory. The emergence of this theory and movement sparked a lot of controversy. However, it offered insights in a wide array of varieties but it all came down to the recognition that the oppression of women and the domination of Nature were interconnected within this patriarchal society. [21] Ecofeminism also acknowledged the fact that human beings belonged to a larger community that included life and living systems that were beyond the human race.

            One of the major insights from ecofeminism involved the closeness that women felt to nature. They were viewed to be closer because of the shared treatment of oppression and domination that they experienced. Women and Nature were equally devalued because they existed in a patriarchal society. [22] Historical associations strengthened the link between women and Nature on the basis of mutual subordination. From this emerged an important question as to the connection of the dominant paradigm to the relationship between humans and Nature.

            Berman focused on the discussion that language served as the tool that established and protected the dominant male paradigm. Language perpetuated the dominant social structures and since not much has changed, it was observed to reinforce the oppression of both women and nature. Environmental theorists presented language to be a representation of the anthropocentric worldview in the Western world.

When it came to the objects of the environment, they dominantly perceive them as object of utility for the humans. Anthropocentrism exhibited the hierarchy of regards for humans over the environment. Instead of given proper acknowledgement to Nature, linguistic terms were used to present them as objects that were created for human use. Berman pointed out examples such as the using the term “timber” instead of trees” to reflect the insignificance of these living things compared to the wood they would be able to produce. Terms like “wildlife management” and “harvesting of natural resources” were created to justify man’s exploitation of the environment.

            Humans could create or construct the realities of society. Berman said language functioned to perpetuate the limits of the world through the creation of categories the served as barriers or boundaries.[23]  Males were primary the ones that developed language because of their dominance in society. This affected how language depicted women over the years. Women were placed at a disadvantage. Language prevented them from truly becoming equal members of society because “male language falsifies women’s experience and perceptions,” furthermore, objectivity was described as “nothing more than male subjectivity.”[24] The logic of domination was further maintained through a patriarchal culture of male hierarchy.

            The concept of dualism was also included in the discussion of ecofeminism. It was defined as the “process by which contrasting concepts are formed by domination and subordination and constructed as oppositional and exclusive.” [25]This was observed in how differently men and women were perceived. Women were associated with nature. Nature was viewed as something that existed for mankind’s utility and to service to what humans needed. On the other hand, men were associated with culture. Culture was something that defined the pulse of society in so many different ways.

Masculinity and femininity were created in such a manner that they opposed each other. Berman pointed out an interesting insight that “cultural polarization leads to a devaluation of one side of the dualism and the distortion of both.”[26] This provided a depiction of how women were devalued and the status of both genders in society was distorted. Furthermore, the “other” was created because of the existing dichotomies. Women and nature were included in the “other” category. Ecofeminism warned that other was limited to the level of benefit they could provide to the patriarchal dominance. Women and Nature in this perspective became mere object for man’s use. Berman expounded this saying, “the objectification stems form the internalization of hierarchy and dualistic assumptions prevalent in Western society.”[27] In reality, there existed a double standard between men and women. At the end of the day, the protection of Nature would come in second to the satisfaction of man’s needs. Ecofeminism existed to point out the harms of these existing categories to the promotion of an egalitarian society and the respect for the non-human world.

There existed a tendency to link gender association with inanimate objects. When they impose objects into categories based on their characteristics, this created the assumption that these categories were natural. However, it only created inequality and restrictive constructs. Society developed concepts of masculinity and femininity were detachable from anything about real sexual difference.  Furthermore, genderization of the objects only made sense if there was a comparison of the genders. Otherwise, gender association did not impact the world when only one gender was discussed and not the other. Genderization could be better observed when two genders were compared. Gender classifications would be observed and associated with patriarchal assumptions and oppositional characterizations were reflected.

            It was important to further analyze the value of the environment and the feminist associations. When the Earth was referred to as the “Mother Earth,” society treated the planet and viewed the it according to how mothers were seen within a patriarchal context. The women’s traditional work was to care for the children and to serve the fathers. The devaluation of mothering was translated with the perception of the environment.

            Analyzing the role of the mother in a patriarchal society would reflect how the term was associated with nurturing, caring and giving. Despite the fact that mothers functioned to give life, their roles were under recognition, unpaid and devalued work in a capitalist society. In the same manner, the environment functioned to give life to human beings in a various array of ways. For example, water served as the source of life in the planet Earth. However, when humans pollute the waters and waste it; they show disregard and disrespect to the role that water played in giving life.

            The fact that society could neglect giving proper recognition and respect to the roles of mothers enabled humans to disregard the importance of the environment. Human beings adopted the relationship they had with their mothers in how they could take and use the environment without having the pay for what they have consumer. Mothers were supposed to love their children in an unconditional manner. Thus, human beings perceived the environment as natural resources that they owned and harnessed for their use, without the consideration for any damage that they could cause.

            In the same manner that humans see the environment as a resource to be utilized, women were also seen as an asset to be owned and used, without having any responsibility for her conservation.[28]

            While man took on the role of the intellect and the protector of his mother and his spouse, this was the role that was seen for human beings and Nature. Man was viewed to make sure the environment survived. While in a lot of ways, this was true; it still perpetuated the lack of equality between men and women. It only served as a reinforcement for the hierarchal dualisms that existed and established oppression and the subordination of women and Nature. [29]

             In another section, the absent referent was also explored in the way it linked women and animals through metaphorical sayings. Women were referred to as bitches, bunnies, cows and even “pieces of meat.” [30]Women were perceived as absentees and crushed by these derogatory terms. Metaphors structured the thoughts, actions and possibilities in society. Activity was structured according to the metaphor that was used. According to Berman, “language is metaphorically structured.”[31] Metaphors that included “the rape of the land”, “virgin forest” and “penetrating the wilderness” set up the exploitation of Nature, in relation to the rape of a woman. Metaphors mirrored the physical, cultural and social realities that dictated the activities of society. The rape metaphor reflected grave implications. The way women were perceived in society widely dictated the way mankind treated Nature.

            There was a need that emerged from this discussion for the creation of new metaphors that represented Nature and the relationship of mankind to it. Furthermore, the perception and depiction of the others in terms of women and the natural systems needed to be provided with a more positive semantic space. Since language was a powerful tool, people needed to recognized and acknowledge how it impacted society in terms of the way it created social structures. Language could be used to provide for different approaches that would encourage the creation of an egalitarian society and a healthy relationship with Nature.


Berman, Tzeporah, ‘The Rape of Mother Nature? Women in the Language of Environmental Discourse in The Environmental Reader, Language, Ecology and Environment, Continuum Publishing Company, USA, 2001.

Khan, Mary, ‘The Passive Voice of Science,’ in The Environmental Reader, Language, Ecology and Environment, Continuum Publishing Company, USA, 2001.

Howlett, Micheal and Rebecca, Raglon, ‘Constructing the Environmental Spectacle,’ in The Environmental Reader, Language, Ecology and Environment, Continuum Publishing Company, USA, 2001.

Wilhelm, Trampe, ‘Language and Ecological Crisis’, in The Environmental Reader, Language, Ecology and Environment, Continuum Publishing Company, USA, 2001.

[1] Wilhelm Trampe, ‘Language and Ecological Crisis’, in The Environmental Reader, Language, Ecology and Environment, Continuum Publishing Company, USA, 2001, p. 233.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Trampe, p. 239.

[5] Mary Khan, The Passive Voice of Science,’ in The Environmental Reader, Language, Ecology and Environment, Continuum Publishing Company, USA, 2001, p. 241.

[6] Khan, p. 242.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Khan, p. 243.

[9] Micheal Howlett and Rebecca Raglon, ‘Constructing the Environmental Spectacle,’ in The Environmental Reader, Language, Ecology and Environment, Continuum Publishing Company, USA, 2001, 245.

[10] Howlett & Raglon, p. 245.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Howlett & Raglon, p. 246.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Howlett & Raglon, 247.

[15] Howlett & Raglon, 247.

[16] Howlett & Raglon, p. 250.

[17] Howlett & Raglon, p. 251.

[18] Tzeporah Berman, ‘The Rape of Mother Nature,’ in The Environmental Reader, Language, Ecology and Environment, Continuum Publishing Company, USA, 2001, p. 258.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Berman, p. 259.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Berman, p. 260.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Berman, p. 261.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Berman, p. 261.

[28] Berman, p. 263.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Berman, p. 264.

[31] Berman, p. 265.

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