Update on Sustainability in Spanish

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When I wrote about the two competing words for Sustainability in Spanish, I focused my discussion on using some of Google’s tools to analyze usage in the hopes of providing a new perspective on the issue. I have neither standing nor the ability to comment personally on the linguistic appropriateness of the two sustainabilitys. Fortunately, some native Spanish speakers chimed in with their two centavos and I wanted to sum up some of their insight.

The winner is Sostenibilidad

There is general agreement that Sustenabilidad came into use because it sounded closer to the original English word not because its meaning was the closet. In fact sustentar (the root of Sustentabilidad) means to defend an argument, while sostener (the root of Sostenibilidad) means to maintain or sustain. Clearly this points to Sostenibilidad as the far better choice from a definitional standpoint.

Yet here in Mexico I continue to see new initiatives, articles and government programs utilizing Sustentabilidad which seems to be just further entrenching itself in this country. Everyone agrees that both Sostenibilidad y Sustentabilidad should be viewed as synonyms, but if they are 100% interchangable are they both necessary? And if they have different meanings what are they? Perhaps this is an esoteric discussion but if we hope to establish Sustainability Science as a field in Latin America I think we should agree on a name.

Though to be fair us and the Brits can’t agree on how to spell archeology.1)Apparently in this case the fault lies in a diphthong.

Aaron Redman is the founder of Achieving Sustainability and what passes for an administrator in these parts. Currently he is working on his Sustainability PhD at ASU while raising a baby daughter and taking advantage of nap time to foment discussions on this here blog.

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