Here’s a word that needs to go away: stewardship. At least when it follows “environmental.” The word “steward” goes back to 13th century Old English, and means someone who tends the hall or the estate for someone else.
So in environmental stewardship, who’s that someone else humans are tending the earth for? We’re certainly not tending it for the other critters and communities who’ve had the misfortune of living anywhere near homo sapiens sapiens. Are we stewarding the Earth for some deity? I’d think handing the Earth over to humans would disqualify any deity in the omniscience round.
The “stew” part of steward is closely related to “sty,” as in pig. I doubt pigs like how humans are managing the place, but at least a sty closely approximates the state of things.
Supposedly, a steward knows what he or she stewards, as a wine steward knows the nuance and tending of wine. In ecological terms, humans have broken into the cellar and are butt-chugging the collection through a funnel.
I don’t know what word ideally describes the human role on this planet. Participant? Student? Homie? Do you have any suggestions? Maybe if we stop stewarding, pay attention, and tread lightly, it’ll come.