Lexicon of Sustainability

Directions to the Hannon Library

DATE & TIME: February 2012

PLACE: Hannon Library Retzlaff Gallery, 3rd Floor

The Lexicon project is based on a simple premise: people can’t be expected to live more sustainable lives if they don’t even know the most basic terms and principles that define sustainability.

For the past three years Douglas Gayeton and Laura Howard-Gayeton have Lexicon of Sustainabilitycrisscrossed the USA to learn this new language of sustainability from its foremost practitioners in food and farming. Alice Waters on edible schoolyards. Wes Jackson on reinventing wheat farming. Joel Salatin on embracing the value of saner farming practices. Vandana Shiva on the global imperative of protecting seeds. Paul Stamets on how mushrooms can save the world. Will Allen on Food Security. Temple Grandin on the humane slaughter of animals. Farmer John on the revolutionary idea of community-supported agriculture.

Lexicon FoodIn all, over one hundred leaders in food and farming from across the country have contributed their valued experiences to this rapidly growing Lexicon of Sustainability. These insights have been translated into large format “information art” photo collages and a series of short films commissioned by ITVS. Study guides, a book, a traveling show, installations, and lastly a website where people can dig deeper into these terms (and even add to our ever-evolving lexicon) are also under development.

By illuminating the vocabulary of sustainable agriculture, and with it, the conversation about America’s rapidly evolving food culture, the Lexicon project will educate, engage, and activate people to pay closer attention to how they eat, what they buy, and their responsibility for creating a healthier, safer food system in America.

And it all begins with learning a few words.

The initial idea was to publish these terms in a book along with selected photographs by Gayeton.

However, the Lexicon quickly grew to over one thousand entries. In many cases these terms were submitted by the individuals or organizations which had coined or best represented what a term meant. Often, competing definitions of the same terms were included.

Given the vast amount of information the team assembled, the decision was made to rethink the project, and expand the INITIAL BOOK IDEA to include:

SHORT FILMS: a series of 24 video shorts to run on-air as an interstitial series, stream online as webisodes, and be combined into a half hour series for television.

A SOCIAL NETWORK OF IDEAS: a dedicated online community where members can add new terms to the lexicon using wiki-like interface, debate existing definitions, or sing up to receive daily blasts of new lexicon entries.