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Tree huggers

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Aatish Pattni

Tower of BabelSociety

The times in which eco-warriors and nature lovers raged unrest in the downtown areas whilst kitted out in hand-knitted wool jumpers and Birkenstocks are now over. Now that the trend of being eco-aware has come to the forefront of society, the whole of Europe is witnessing a bloom in eco-green ‘cusswords’

The modern, environmentally-aware citizen wears the latest ranges from American Apparel to Pants to Poverty (a fairtrade trousers initiative supporting Indian farmers, which began in 2005 - ed); they buy organic and get from A to B every morning on a bicycle, of course. The Brits lead the way when it comes to tongue lashing and eco-bashing; those who are more environmentally-savvy are teased for being eco-warriors, mother Earth lovers or bug-eaters. The air of luxury and self-righteousness of organic food stores makes them an irresistible target. After all, it's not only muesli and fish oil on the shelves, but treats Italian delicacies and rich organic chocolate as well. According to one website, the nickname tree hugger originates in the Chipko movement, a group that protested commercial logging in India. Hugging trees prevented them from being chopped down.

The real linguistic shenanigans come from the Germans; being Ökos (ecos) is a fairly neutral term, while other nicknames come from the world of education. Kartoffelstempler, or potato stencillers, for example. Remember cutting shapes out of potatoes and painting them to make colourful print pictures in kindergarten? An early manifestation of eco-warrior tendencies, apparently. Equally, a Waldorfschüler means Waldorf-schooled, recalling a child development program set up in Stuttgart in 1919 that leaned to the creative side.  Other terms are food-based, like Friedensbrezel (Peace Pretzel), Müsliesser (muesli-munchers) or Körnerfresser (grainivores). In the last few years the German-speaking countries have the description Bionadetrinker to their repertoire, a bionade-drinker, after the organically made non-alcoholic drink.

The French join in with the slandering too. The placid Belgian écolo party do not get rattled; the concept of bobo bio is French-language ridicule in its purest form. The citizens known as bobos (bourgeois-bohème) are affluent Parisians (or they'd like you to think so) that parade their bourgeois-bohemian lifestyle like some kind of medal of honour.

What brings up bile of many eco-enemies in Europe is the self-righteousness and hypocrisy displayed by many friends of the environment. In Poland, they talk of people who are ciemnozielony (dark green) 'Ciemny' means dark, but it also refers to ignorance. Adding that reference to the 'colour' of the supposed Ökos points out that their ‘green’ halos do occasionally slip.

Our neighbours on the Mediterranean on the other hand hold themselves back as far as creating cusswords is concerned. Aside from the dreary Italian fanatico dell’ecologia (eco-fanatic), there not much bite to the Spanish bio obsesionado (bio-obsessed). Perhaps all that this lack of verbal ammo to meet the invasion of the greens indicates is that the eco-bandwagon has not yet made it as far as the Mediterranean regions.

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Translated from Du käferfressende Friedensbrezel!