Saturating Green

December 2, 2016

Thanks to Alissa Simon, HMU Tutor, for today's post.

Does a single word contain a saturation point? In other words, at some point, does a word begin to lose meaning simply because it has accumulated too many definitions? Translation can be a tricky business when we understand that a simple word can carry the weight of a contemporaneous discussion. For example, today's blog leads us through a few examples of the evolution of the word “green”.

Green is not only a color. In the words of George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, green is now a container that holds a “concept we live by”. In fact, green holds many concepts, which leads to the fact that if someone understands a phrase like “the green movement” to indicate a desire for more of the color green, they would miss ninety percent of the phrase's point. In many instances, green means more than simply color. Green's ability to either explicitly state or implicitly allude to a certain argument can lead to confusion. Moreover, the choice of green for today's blog is ironic since it literally grew too many meanings. Yet, in order to understand the irony, one must know that green originates from the Old English word “growan”, meaning “to grow”. The important point with word saturation is that it changes literacy in a profound way. No longer are we looking to educate reading alone, but we must be able to interpret metaphors on top of that. In other words, reading the word green will not get you closer to understanding the sentence. Word choice is about more than pronunciation and spelling, but about context also.

Here are a few examples with the word “green”, which offer a variety of definitions for such a seemingly simple term.

1] Youth, Child, Sprout:

“In the great green room/ There was a telephone/ And a red balloon/ And a picture of – the cow jumping over the moon.” - Margaret Wise Brown, Goodnight Moon


2] Hopeful or Alluring:

“And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock…Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter - tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther.... And one fine morning -

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. ” - F Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby


3] Lively, full of life. Springtime.

“In time of silver rain/ The earth/ Puts forth new life again,/ Green grasses grow/ And flowers lift their heads / And over all the plain/ The wonder spreads/ Of life,/ Of life,/ Of life!

- Langston Hughes, “In Time of Silver Rain”


4] Novice, beginner, youth

“Green Children's House” is a small preschool, one of many modeled after the ideas of Maria Montessori.


5] Natural, attached to nature

“The sweetness of the air and the greenness of the leaves daunted him. Already, on the walk from the station, the May sunshine made him feel dirty and etiolated, a creature of indoors, with the sooty dust of London in the pores of his skin....Surely somewhere near by, but out of sight, there must be a stream with green pools where dace were swimming.” (This is the point – both place and time - at which Winston falls in love Julia, and first indulges his desire for attachment and love.) George Orwell, 1984


6] Nauseating

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss


7] Slightly wild, untamed

The “greenbroke horses”, Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses


8] Desire, adventure

“The gypsy girl was rocking/ on the rain-well's face./ Green flesh, green hair/ and eyes of cold silver./ An icicle of the moon/ holds her over the water./ The night became as intimate/ as a village square./ Drunken Civil Guards/ were pounding on the door./ Green I want you green./ Green wind. Green boughs./ Ship on the sea/ and horse on the mountain.” - Federico García Lorca, “Sleepwalking Ballad”


9] Greed, jealousy

Iago's speech to Othello: “Oh, beware, my lord, of jealousy!/ It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock/ The meat it feeds on.” - William Shakespeare, Othello


10] Healthy ecology and environment

Green politics is devoted to protecting the environment. Green marketing – which stems from Green politics – puts environmentally friendly products on the shelves of our local stores.

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Nature Resources

September 30, 2016

“We do not organize education the way we sense the world. If we did, we would have departments of Sky, Landscapes, Water, Wind, Sounds, Time, Seashores, Swamps and Rivers.” - David Orr, Author of Ecological Literacy

Thanks to Alissa Simon, HMU Tutor, for today's blog.

Merriam-Webster defines nature as: the physical world and everything that is not made by people. It also says, however, that nature can be: the way that a person or animal behaves. This addition, makes us wonder how much of our behavior is made by us, which would, according to Merriam-Webster, imply that our behavior is both natural and artificial. Understanding nature versus artifice sounds straightforward, that is, until you try. In the Syntopicon, Mortimer Adler writes, “The conception of nature which tries to separate the natural from what man contributes seems to depend upon the conception of man. Controversies concerning man's difference from other animals, especially the dispute about human freedom (considered in such chapters as Man and Will), bear directly on the issue of the naturalness of the things which result from man's doing and making.” Man simultaneously acts upon nature both internal and external to himself.

Vitamin N, a new book by Richard Louv, also tries to understand nature through immersion. He claims that all humans have an inherent connection to nature and the more we step away from this aspect of ourselves, the more barren we will feel. Therefore, instead of separating man and animal (as in the Syntopicon), Louv writes,

“Defining 'nature' isn't easy. To some people, nature is everything. To other's, it's the Grand Canyon or the wren outside the window. Science has tended to leave the definition of nature up to the poets. This lack of a clear designation is one of the prime reasons why scientific research on the impact of nature on human development has been so thin until recently and that such a high proportion of current research is funded by commercial interests.
“Here's one working definition of nature: biodiversity. That definition may not include, say, rocks – at least not directly – but it does describe the process: in order to survive, life needs other life, and it needs variety.”

He continues to claim that the more interaction with nature, the higher the satisfaction and sense of well-being one feels. Nature fills a primal need within us, one that we may not yet be aware of or able to understand. Furthermore, nature filters into nearly every view of ourselves as human beings. It is relevant when discussing our biology, psychology, creativity, imagination and religious structures. Louv continues: “Most religious traditions, especially in indigenous cultures, intimate or actively offer ways to discover the divine in the natural world.” Therefore, humans may be better able to understand their own nature while walking in nature. Added to that, physically moving in nature often improves memory and clarity of thought.

While a discussion of nature can quickly overwhelm, Vitamin N gives simple ways of interacting with nature. His book demonstrates that nature, while daunting, impressive and ubiquitous, is also necessary, energizing, thrilling and restorative. It is filled with ideas for all levels to gain access to nature. In it, he writes of a “hybrid mind” in which one can access nature to their own level, using both technology and the outdoors. Therefore, no one is left out or obstructed. Simply step into nature to the extent that it pleases you.

Therefore, coinciding with the National Parks 100th anniversary, I thought it fitting to place a couple of resources mentioned in Louv's book on today's blog. His book proposes many other ideas, 500 to be exact. There are also excellent suggestions for getting children involved with nature. For more from Richard Louv visit his website.


“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” - Crowfoot, Chief of the Siksika First Nation, 1890


Understanding Land Ethics from the master himself, visit the Aldo Leopold Foundation for more information:

Humans need to interact with nature, but wonder how to do so without changing it. Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics studies the same things:

Humans are always interested in navigation – internal and external – as a way of locating ourselves. Find out more about celestial navigation and navigation in general from AMC, Appalachian Mountain Club:

The National Audubon Society's tips for getting outdoors:

If you have no time or place to garden, create a seed bomb (try sticking to plants that are native to the region):

Create, volunteer or learn about Homegrown National Parks:

Learn about nature firsthand – from your own surroundings. Be aware of the first buds, birds or insects in your area each year. Check out National Phenology Network to understand more:

Help for teachers and parents of K-12 from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

Learn all about hiking from the American Hiking Society. There are also volunteer opportunities:

Become an environmental education advocate through the North American Association for Environmental Education:

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