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GretaCoverSwedish teenager Greta Thunberg has inspired an enormous global youth movement pressuring world leaders to respond to the climate crisis in a way that reflects the scientific consensus of the existential threat to their own future, and of future generations.

Major climate action organizations such as 350.org, and authors like Naomi Klein have been doing everything they can to generate the kind of grass roots movement needed to force the transformational action the planet needs to survive. However, it may be that Greta’s role will prove to be the spark that was needed to motivate adults to act in time to reduce the effects of climate change enough to ensure a habitable world for future generations.

Greta Thunberg calls Asperger’s her super power

Greta is also having an important impact on people’s (children and adults) perception of people identified for Asperger’s syndrome. The following is an excerpt from Greta (find context here):

Without [Asperger’s] I wouldn’t have noticed this crisis,” she said. “Because everyone else, they saw the same thing, they saw the same pictures and films as I did, the destruction of nature and what was happening with the climate, but no one else seemed to really understand why their lives weren’t turned upside like mine was.

We [people on the autism spectrum] walk the walk,” she said. “We don’t have the distance from what we know and what we say and how we act. But to normal people, they have cognitive dissonance. I can’t understand how someone can say, ‘Yeah, climate change is very important,’ and not do something about it. If you know it, then you also know you have to do something.

Teachers may also choose to address this theme. Society tends to stigmatize difference. That stigma -- not the difference itself -- is so often the greatest barrier to those that differ from the ‘norm’. Greta’s words offer an opportunity for greater understanding here as well.

SWI in Context

Central to my work with schools is modeling how scientific investigation of the written word can be effectively used as leverage for learning about any content area. (See an archive of such examples drawn from my time at the Nueva School in the “Investigations” section on Real Spellers.)

I was finally motivated to create and share these resources on SWI in the context of the climate crisis as I prepared for flying to Australia for workshops in the midst of the catastrophic 2020 climate-fuelled fires. I shudder at my own climate footprint from all my flying. I’m looking into purchasing climate off sets for my flying, knowing that remains a very weak bandaid. 

I share these resources for SWI investigations as one way to spark further attention to this essential topic.

Working with this document

There is no intention that anyone tries to do all the lesson ideas provided here. Nor should you restrict yourselves to the words observations I share!

I am not giving great detail of ‘how to teach’ these investigations. Instead I hope people pick and choose launching pads that make sense to them. Essentially, I’m just offering some orthographic information about a set of words that teachers can draw from/revise as they wish. I’ve tried to provide some examples that will feel accessible to novices, but some of the content will be more juicy for people with more background.

Some of this information is new, and some is drawn from lessons I’ve done over the years. Please don’t assume that what I present is the “correct” or final analysis. I will be delighted if anyone finds an analysis they think is more coherent. If you find something you are wondering about feel free to email me at <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>. If you provide evidence of a more coherent analysis, I’ll be delighted to update the resource with credit!

Bolded words signal words and word families I have created resources for after the speech. When those words, or related words are used later, I don’t bold them a second time.

With that, have a read of Greta’s speech, and enjoy seeing what else you can learn about her message, words and orthography in the process... 


Greta Thunberg "Our House is on Fire" World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos Feb 21, 2019

Speech copied from The Guardian at THIS LINK
Links to more of her speeches HERE.

Our house is on fire, I am here to say our house is on fire. According to the IPCC we are less than 12 years away from not being able to undo our mistakes.

In that time unprecedented changes in all aspects of society needs to have taken place including a reduction of our CO2 emissions by at least 50% and please note that those numbers do not include the aspect of equity which is absolutely necessary to make the Paris agreement work on a global scale. Nor does it include tipping points or feedback loops like the extreme powerful methane gas being released from the thawing Arctic permafrost.

At places like Davos people like to tell success stories but their financial success has come with an unthinkable price tag. And on climate change we have to acknowledge that we have failed. All political movements in their present form have done so. And the media has failed to create broad public awareness. But Homo sapiens have not yet failed. Yes we are failing but there is still time to turn everything around we can still fix this, we still have everything in our own hands. But unless we recognize the overall failures of our current systems, we most probably don’t stand a chance. 

We are facing a disaster of unspoken sufferings for enormous amounts of people and now is not the time for speaking politely, we're focusing on what we can or cannot say. Now it's the time to speak clearly. Solving the climate crisis is the greatest and most complex challenge that Homo sapiens has have ever faced.

The main solution however is so simple that even a small child can understand it. We have to stop the emissions of greenhouse gases. And either we do that or we don't. You say nothing in life is black or white but that is a lie, a very dangerous lie. Either we prevent a 1.5 degree of warming or we don't. Either we avoid setting off that irreversible chain reaction beyond the human control, or we don't. Either we choose to go on as a civilization or we don't. That is as black or white as it gets.

There are no gray areas when it comes to survival. Now we all have a choice. We can create transformational action that will safeguard the future living conditions for humankind, or we can continue with our business as usual and fail. That is up to you and me.

Some say that we should not engage in activism, instead we should leave everything to our politicians and just vote for change instead. But what do we do when there is no political will? What do we do when the politics needed are nowhere in sight?

Here in Davos, just like everywhere else, everyone is talking about money. It seems that money and growth are our only main concerns. And since the climate crisis is a crisis that has never once been treated as a crisis, people are simply not aware of the full consequences of our everyday life.

People are not aware that there is such a thing as a carbon budget, and just how incredible small that remaining carbon budget is. And that needs to change today. No other current challenge can match the importance of establishing a wide public awareness and understanding of our rapidly disappearing carbon budgets that should and must become a new global currency in the very heart of future and present economics.

We are now at a time in history where everyone with any insight of the climate crisis that threatens our civilization and the entire biosphere must speak out in clear language, no matter how uncomfortable and unprofitable that may be. We must change almost everything in our current societies. The bigger your carbon footprint is, the bigger your moral duty. The bigger your platform the bigger your responsibility.

Adults keep saying we owe it to the young people to give them hope. But I don't want your hope, I don't want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic, I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act, I want you to act as if you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if the house was on fire, because it is. 

Note: The orthographic resources in the pages that follow are in the order of the words as they appear in Greta’s speech - not in order of orthographic complexity. If you find the information for a given word is too advanced for you, skip to the next one.

mis + take mistake

mistake 

Etymology of free base <take>: late Old English tacan ‘get (especially by force), capture’, from Old Norse taka ‘grasp, lay hold of’, of unknown ultimate origin.

Note: This etymological information and throughout the document is drawn with appreciation from Etymonline.

Some semantic interpretations:

To make a “mistake” has the sense of “taking” something in the wrong way. When we mistake something, we do not grasp or capture that understanding.

Some orthographic investigations may include:


re + duct + ion reduction

The word <reduction> is from the Latin root duc(ere), duct(us) for “lead, bring”. Find the words in the following paragraph from this same etymological family - those that share the same historical root.

It seems that the 16-year-old Greta Thunberg may be the person to finally educate us to understand that we must greatly reduce the carbon we put in the atmosphere because that is what is causing our climate crisis. We’ve long had the evidence that we need to make this reduction, but something about having a teenager leader for this movement has made a big difference!

Some semantic interpretations:

Can you discuss how the sense of ‘lead, bring’ relates to words like <educate>, <reduce> and <reduction> in the context of the climate crisis?

Some possible orthographic investigations :

Study the next page for morphological and etymological concepts and terms related to this family of words.

All the words within the perimeter of the oval -- whether in a matrix or not -- are in the same etymological family of the Latin root ducere, ductus.

Notice that any base element that derives from the same root can be referred to as an “associated base”. Twin bases are a special type of associated base.

duct

duce 


equMatrixMatrix from Real Spelling 70 matrices disk

equ + ity ➔ equity

Greta uses this word word in this context:

According to the IPCC we are less than 12 years away from not being able to undo our mistakes.

In that time unprecedented changes in all aspects of society needs to have taken place including a reduction of our CO2 emissions by at least 50% and please note that those numbers do not include the aspect of equity which is absolutely necessary to make the Paris agreement work on a global scale.

Some semantic interpretations:

Discuss why many -- like Greta and supporters of the Green New Deal -- treat issues of equity as essential to a successful global climate crisis movement. Key to that discussion is the issue of which part of the world (developing or developed) have used up the global carbon budget.

Some possible orthographic investigations :

Explore how the orthographic denotation “same, equal, even” carried by the bound base <equ> informs words you can build from the matrix at right. For words with more than one base, explore Etymonline to find the orthographic denotation of the second base.

Potential writing challenge: Write a paragraph on the topic of the climate crisis with reference to Greta’s speech using multiple words represented from the <equ> matrix. 

 


ab + solute/ + ly ➔ absolutelyRootsBasesA matrix is a kind of a portrait of a morphological family (words that share a base element). We can think of the matrix as analogous to the “immediate family” (parents and children). On that analogy, an etymological family (words that share a root) is like an “extended family” - a family that includes the immediate family, but also cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents etc.

Discuss these terms with reference to the the diagram on the next page where every word represented within the oval is in the “extended family” that derives from the same historical root and -- but that extended family can contain multiple immediate families (morphological families).

At right and on the following page are resources I created for a different SWI lesson.

Some semantic interpretations:

See how you can relate the sense and meaning given for the Latin root solv(ere) and the present day English words that derive from that root to the climate crisis.

Some possible orthographic investigations :

Construct a matrix for the base <solve> and another for the base <solute> and place in the appropriate box on the next page.

See if you can find words in this etymological family which do not have a base <solve> or <solute> and write those in the oval on the next page to show they share the root, but not the bases in the rectangles.

Many sources use the terms “root” and “base” interchangeably.

By contrast, in structured word inquiry, “root” is reserved for etymological contexts and “base” is strictly a morphological term.

In other words, in structured word inquiry, the term “base” refers to present day English morphological structures and “root” refers only to the historical source of present day English words. 

WW Newsletter 99 Greta Speech 36

 


climate

Study this entry from Etymonline on the story of the word <climate>:

climate (n.)

late 14c., "horizontal zone of the earth's surface measured by lines parallel to the equator," from Old French climat "region, part of the earth," from Latin clima (genitive climatis) "region; slope of the earth," from Greek klima "region, zone," literally "an inclination, slope," thus "slope of the earth from equator to pole," from a suffixed form of PIE root *klei- "to lean."

Ancient geographers divided the earth into zones based on the angle of sun on the slope of the earth's surface and the length of daylight. Some reckoned 24 or 30 climates between Meroe on the upper Nile in Sudan and the mythical Riphaean Mountains which were supposed to bound the Arctic; a change of climate took place, going north, at a place where the day was a half hour longer or shorter, according to season, than the starting point. Others counted 7 (each dominated by a particular planet) or 12 (dominated by zodiac signs).

Change of temperature gradually came to be considered more important, and by late 14c. the word was being used in the sense "a distinct region of the earth's surface considered with respect to weather." The sense shift to "combined results of weather associated with a region, characteristic condition of a country or region with reference to the variation of heat, cold, rainfall, wind, etc.," is attested by c. 1600. Figuratively, of mental or moral atmosphere, from 1660s.

Some semantic interpretations:

Notice how the word “climate” was originally more connected to the idea of a ‘region’ and over time the connotation shifted to refer to the weather in a given region.

Are there ways this semantic shift in the connotation of this word can be referenced with respect to the current climate crisis?

Some orthographic investigations may include:

The following words come up when you search the Latin clima in Etymonline.

acclimate
climate change
climatic
climatography
climatology
clime
microclimate

Consider how you might address these words with reference to Greta’s speech and climate change in general.

Keep an eye out for these orthographic observations:


pole/+ ite/ + ic + al political

early 15c., "pertaining to public affairs," from Middle French politique "political" (14c.) and directly from Latin politicus "of citizens or the state, civil, civic," from Greek politikos "of citizens, pertaining to the state and its administration; pertaining to public life," from polites "citizen," from polis "city" (see polis). Replaced in most adjectival senses by political. From mid-15c. as "prudent, judicious."

Some semantic interpretations:

Study the context in which Greta uses this word:

“At places like Davos people like to tell success stories but their financial success has come with an unthinkable price tag. And on climate change we have to acknowledge that we have failed. All political movements in their present form have done so. And the media has failed to create broad public awareness.”

How does the historical sense and meaning of this word linking to “citizen” inform Greta’s use of this word in this speech? I wonder if the fact that it also goes back to “city” can inform how we see government action on climate change. What do we see happening in terms of government action on climate change at the city level compared to the nation level?

Possible orthographic investigations include:

police (n.)

1530s, "the regulation and control of a community," at first essentially the same word as policy (n.1); from Middle French police (late 15c.), from Latin politia "civil administration," from Greek polis "city" (see polis).

My current hypothesis of the word <police> is that is has the structure <pole/ + ice>. I had to do some study to find evidence of the suffix <-ice> in other families.

I think I have evidence from word sums in the family of a fascinating bound base <st> for “stand” from the Latin root st(are)

sol + st + ice ➔ solstice
arm + i + st + ice ➔ armistice

You can find more about this base and even a single consonant letter base at this old Real Spellers post.


Homo sapiens

Some semantic interpretations:

Search “Homo sapiens” in Etymonline.

What part of this phrase has to do with wisdom?

Consider how Greta uses this phrase in contrast to “political movements”. In what way might this be an interesting choice of words?

Some orthographic investigations include:


ever + y + thing everything

(Matrix from Real Spelling 70 Matrices Disk)

Some semantic interpretations:

At first glance the word “everything” might not seem to be very exciting in terms of providing semantic insights into Greta’s speech. However, perhaps when we see the base <ever> we can draw a link to what she is arguing.

Some orthographic investigations include:

Notice from this matrix:


dis + aster disaster

Some semantic interpretations:

Greta uses this word in the following context:

We are facing a disaster of unspoken sufferings for enormous amounts of people and now is not the time for speaking politely, we're focusing on what we can or cannot say. Now it's the time to speak clearly. Solving the client crisis is the greatest and most complex challenge that Homo sapiens has have ever faced.

Study the information borrowed from the old Real Spelling Tool Box Theme 3I (no longer available). How does the history of this word inform the use of this word in terms of the climate crisis?

Some orthographic investigations include:

WW Newsletter 99 Greta Speech 40


suf + fer + ing + s sufferings

fer

Some semantic interpretations:

The bound base <fer> brings the orthographic denotation ‘bear, carry’ to any of the words it builds. That sense and meaning comes from the historical root of the word <suffer> and the other words represented by the matrix above. Can you discuss this meaning in relation to the word <suffer> in relation to climate change?

Some orthographic investigations include:

Prefixes

This chart from Real Spelling shows default prefixes in black & bold, and the assimilated prefixes in red.


act + + ive/ + ism Activism

Some orthographic investigations include:
Work with this document, and the following page

The < act > Family

  1. Box the base <act> in all the words below <actor>
  2. Write word sums with help from the matrix
  3. Can you find the one suffixing change?

actSum

 actFamily

Some additional orthographic investigations include:

Consider the sense and meaning we find from the Latin root of this base ag(ere), act(us) which Etymonline offers as including “set in motion, drive forward, to do, perform”.

Some possible semantic interpretations:

act (v.)

mid-15c., "to act upon or adjudicate" a legal case, from Latin actus, past participle of agere "to set in motion, drive, drive forward," hence "to do, perform," also "act on stage, play the part of; plead a cause at law"

Do these connotations relate to Greta’s speech?

Also, search the Latin infinitive ag(ere) in Etymonline. Consider all the interesting present day English words in this etymological family. Can you compose statements about climate change employing some of those words?

Bonus: Can you find words that may use a twin base of <act>? Note: Root ag(ere), act(us)


e + norm + ous enormous

Some semantic interpretations:

Consider the sense and meaning of the free base <norm> and how, combined with the <e-> prefix, this word is so appropriate with regard to the climate crisis

Some orthographic investigations include:

Study the prefix chart on the page 9. The <e-> prefix is the assimilated form of what prefix? How does that inform the semantic interpretation of <enormous>?


re + co + gn + ize recognize

Context from Greta’s speech: “But unless we recognize the overall failures of our current systems we must probably those probably don't stand a chance.”

From Etymonline:

recognize (v.)

early 15c., "resume possession of land," back-formation from recognizance, or else from Old French reconoiss-, stem of reconoistre "to know again, identify, recognize," from Latin recognoscere "acknowledge, recall to mind, know again; examine; certify," from re- "again" (see re-) + cognoscere "to get to know, recognize" (see cognizance).

Some semantic interpretations:

Along the history of this word, we see the senses “acknowledge” “examine” and even “recall or recover the knowledge of”. How can you discuss these ideas in relation to the climate crisis?

Possible orthographic investigations include:

Here we have evidence of another two-letter base with no vowel letter. While every word must have a vowel letter, there is no such need for a morpheme. After all, as Carol Chomsky (1979) told us, a morpheme doesn’t even have a pronunciation until it is in a word.

Click the “cognizance” link in Etymonline to find the deepest written root of this family. When you get to the entry for <cognizance>, you will find the deepest written root for this etymological family is the last word in italics before the PIE root. When you search that root, you will find more present day English words words in this etymological family. Perhaps my favourite is <ignominious>! See what else you can find.


crisis

Some semantic interpretations:

Consider the etymology of the word “crisis” found in Etymonline

crisis (n.)

early 15c., crise, crisis, "decisive point in the progress of a disease," also "vitally important or decisive state of things, point at which change must come, for better or worse," from Latinized form of Greek krisis "turning point in a disease, that change which indicates recovery or death" (used as such by Hippocrates and Galen), literally "judgment, result of a trial, selection," from krinein "to separate, decide, judge," from PIE root *krei- "to sieve," thus "discriminate, distinguish."

Reflect on the aptness of the etymology of this word when discussing the climate crisis.

Some orthographic investigations:

This word has a final, single, final <s> and is not a plural. There is a convention that complete English words that could be a plural avoid looking like a plural if they are not. There are a number of orthographic conventions that have evolved for “plural canceling”. One is doubling a final <s> (e.g. <business>, <glass>). Another is using the orthographic marker <e> as a plural cancelling marker (See Venezky, 1999). That explains the final, non-syllabic <e> in words like <please>, <house> and countless other words.

Any hypotheses why <crisis> does not have a plural canceling marker <e>? (Hint, note the first historical root (in italics in Etymonline) is crisis.


ec + o + nome/ + ic+ s economics

From Etymonline:

economy (n.)

1530s, "household management," from Latin oeconomia (source of French économie, Spanish economia, German Ökonomie, etc.), from Greek oikonomia "household management, thrift," from oikonomos "manager, steward," from oikos "house, abode, dwelling" (cognate with Latin vicus "district," vicinus "near;" Old English wic "dwelling, village,"

Consider how apt the underlying meaning of this word is for Greta’s speech titled “Our House is on Fire”.


con + sequ + ence/ + es consequences

Some semantic interpretations:

Read the etymology of <consequence> from Etymonline and consider with respect to the climate crisis.

consequence (n.)

late 14c., "logical inference, conclusion," from Old French consequence "result" (13c., Modern French conséquence), from Latin consequentia, abstract noun from present-participle stem of consequi "to follow after," from assimilated form of com "with, together" (see con-) + sequi "to follow" (from PIE root *sekw- (1) "to follow").

Some orthographic investigations include:

Have a go with the investigation described at right from a lesson I did with students years ago. (Continues on following page.)

The <consequences> of following the trail left by the spelling of words
Morphological and Etymological Relatives of the bound base <sequ> for “follow”

The words listed below all belong to the etymological family of the Latin root sequi for “follow”. They all belong somewhere in “oval” marking this etymological family.

  1. Analyze these words with word sums to find which of the members of this etymological family share the base element <sequ>. Place those words in the “square” inside the “oval” to show that they are in the same “immediate” morphological family. You can make a matrix with those words!
  2. Words that don’t have a base <sequ> cannot fit in the square, but do belong in the oval. Write those words in the oval outside of the square.
  3. How does the underlying meaning “follow” relate to either or both of the sentences below.
    • Future generations will live with the consequences of how our generation chooses to address the environmental impact of climate change.
    • Is there such a thing as an inconsequential lie?
  4. Challenge questions you may want to discuss...
    • Do you notice something interesting about the pronunciation of the <t> in <subsequent>t> and <sequential>?
    • Which was the most interesting word in this list for you? 

sequence
segue
subsequent
obsequious
second

sequel
ensue
sequential
inconsequential
persecution 

sequ

 


 

re + sponse/ + ibility ➔ responsibility

Explore the activities I created for this word with reference to the same topic for model SWI lessons in school workshops. I used these activities used in relation to the wording of Goal #12 from UN Sustainable Development Goals. I’ve also investigated this word with respect to Selassie’s famous speech on responsibility.

8mil

WW Newsletter 99 Greta Speech 49

Note: “PIE” stands for “proto-European root”. “Proto-” is for “first” (think “prototype”). The initial asterisk in Etymology signals a “reconstructed root”. PIE roots are not spellings. They represent what linguists hypothesize must have been a word in a “proto-language” that gave birth to such diverse languages as Sanskrit, German, French, Latin an English. As you go down entries in Etymonline you are going back in time to earlier and earlier roots. We can think of the word “from” in Etymonline as signalling a generation back in the history of the word. PIE roots can be very interesting to explore, but they are not orthographic roots. We don’t have the same evidence about these historical roots and how they gave rise to present day English words. I like to follow the trail of a words history through roots in Etymonline and other etymological references until I hit a PIE root. The roots just before that are the “oldest written root” of the starter word. A common practice is to find the oldest written root of a word, paste it in Etymonline and search to find etymological relatives.

Box the base & make a word sum!

All the words below are from the Latin root spond(ere), spons(us) for “promise, pledge” (same etymological family). MOST share the bound base <sponse> (same morphological family). Note but the final, non-syllabic <e> of this base is replaced whenever it is followed by a vowel suffix.

  1. Box the full base <sponse> where possible and just the <spons> when the <e> is replaced. (Which doesn’t have this base?)
  2. Show the “replaced <e>” as I have in <sponsor> when it is replaced.
  3. Have a go at making word sums for the target word. Draw a line through any final, potential, non-syllabic <e>’s.

sponseBox

sponseOval

How does the word <responsible> relate to our sustainable development goal #12?

Responsible consumption and Production:
Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.

Why are some of these words not in the matrix, but in the oval?
Why is <promise> not in the oval or the matrix?

 

Etymological and Morphological Families are like “people families”

Etymological families share a common root.
Etymological families are like “extended families”. Cousins, uncles, aunts, grandparents all share common “roots.” Etymological families can include many “immediate families”.

Morphological families share a common base.
Morphological families are like “immediate families”. They only include parents and children (siblings).

Morphological and etymological relatives of <responsibility> with the bound base <sponse>.
The words below are all in the same etymological family. They all derive from the Latin root spond(ere) "give assurance, promise solemnly". Which do you think share the base <sponse>?

respondent      despond      response      sponsor

responsible      respond      spouse      espouse

sponseBase

Responsible consumption and Production:
Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.

 

Which of these words are in the same morphological family as <responsibility>?

 response      ponder      irresponsible      responsive      coupons

sponsor      responsible      responsibilities      ability      sponsorship

responsibility

SelassieStudy the eloquent statement from Haile Selassie on ‘responsibility” at right.

The lessons I created on the previous pages were initially created as a way to study the ideas behind this statement.

However, I would argue that this statement about responsibility and the fortunate few verses the unfortunate many is extremely apt for Greta’s speech on the climate crisis. It links to her statement about “equity” that is addressed on page 7 of this document.

You may want to consider discussing Selassie’s quote with reference to the climate crisis in terms of the fact that the “developed world” has had the advantage of building its infrastructure and economies while eating up the lion’s share of the global climate budget. Now that we near the end of the available carbon consumption, we need the developing world to not have the advantage we had if we want all of us to survive.

This offers an opportunity to discuss why the developed world has a moral obligation to support not only our own reduction in carbon use, but that of poorer countries.

Perhaps Selassie’s speech on responsibility can provide a rich launching pad for that conversation.