Echo, Economy and Ecology

(Eco, economía y ecología) 

A Greek legend tells us that on mount Kithairon lived Echo, (Eco in Spanish), a very well spoken nymph. The most beautiful words came out of her mouth in the most pleasant manner. Zeus, the ruler of the ancient Olympian Greek pantheon, the God of the sky and thunder, used to be very flirtatious with the nymphs. Hera, Zeus’ wife, the Goddess of women, fertility and marriage was jealous of Zeus’ many affairs and was out to catch his infidelities.

Depending on the version of the narrative, either Hera caught Zeus wooing Echo; or Echo prevented Hera from catching Zeus flirting with the other Nymphs by distracting Hera with her famed eloquence. Either way, Hera’s jealousy lead her to curse Echo, taking away her eloquent speech; condemning Echo to repeat only the last word said by other people.

blue nudes 2

For many years, I did not realise that the repetitive echo I had heard in hilly areas or caves was named after such an ingenious narrative. ‘Eco’, the Spanish word and the English Echo are both borrowed from the Hellenistic language, via the Romans. Such was the prestige that the Greek language had amongst Latin speakers.

The linguistic links between the Greek and European languages, particularly those originating from the Latin, as with Spanish, are very narrow. Hellenisms, so frequent in the Spanish language, constitute a significant contribution from the Greek.

Many old and newly created scientific and technical words of the Spanish language come from Greek. For example: geografía, geography; fotografía, photography; and biodiversidad, biodiversity. A further discussion on the contribution the Greek language has made to Spanish will be given in a follow up article. For now lets look at the words: ecología and economía.

‘Ecología’,ecology and ‘economía’, economy are two other words with a Greek linguistic origin and although their root sounds like ‘eco’, they do not share the same etymology.

‘Economía’, – economy, means the administration of a household. It comes from the Greek ‘oikos’ [1], which translates as home or dwelling, and ‘nomos’ [2] meaning law.

Similarly, ‘ecología’ is the discipline that deals with the relation of living beings and their dwelling or habitat. It comes from the Greek ‘oikos’ [1], meaning home or dwelling and ‘logy’ [3] meaning study or treaty.

Bruce Witzel states in his article Practical Change [4]: “Modern civilization has largely fallen into a dualism that seems to put ecology and economy as two opposing forces”, when “in reality, the two, are interrelated”. 

the knife thrower 1947

The reflections of Bruce Witzel about ‘practical change’ have reminded me about the importance to rethink the relationship we humans have with nature. In 2008, a Latin American country, Ecuador codified the Rights of Nature, becoming the first country in the world to do so. This initiative, pushed by the native population of Ecuador, became a milestone, an example to follow.  One of the many steps needed to push forward a change of consciousness about the way we envisage our relationship as part of a natural environment.

Native peoples have an unrivaled knowledge of their local flora and fauna, and they play an essential role in the conservation of biodiversity. According to scientific studies, indigenous lands might be the most important barrier to the continuing Amazon deforestation. The Ecuadorian Constitution has recognised the rights of ecosystems, to exist and flourish.

This sounded very strange to many. How is it that nature can have rights akin to our human rights?

Cover of the book Entre el quiebre y la realidad

Cover of the book Entre el quiebre y la realidad.

It should not be much of a surprise when we consider the fact that private corporations in the United States have human rights. In the book: “Entre el quiebre y la realidad” [5], Eduardo Galeano reminds us that over one hundred years ago, “in 1886, the US Supreme Court … extended human rights to private corporations. The law recognized to them the same rights as to peoples, right to life, freedom of expression, privacy and to everything else, as if companies could breathe.” He remarks “This hasn’t caught the attention of anybody”.[6]

I would like to share with you a YouTube link of a video: La naturaleza no es muda, Nature is not Silent, where Eduardo Galeano presents on television fragments of his book Los Hijos de los días, The Sons of the Days. Only available in Spanish: click here. He concludes his presentation by affirming: “ … if nature were a bank, they would have already bailed it out [7]”.

ln Spanish we have an expression: ‘hacerse eco de’, which is similar as when in English we say ‘somebody echo’s something’ contributing to the spread of ideas, news or knowledge. I want to echo back to the beginning of this article and to refer to the power of the echo. Let us echo the global need for a change of consciousness towards our economy and our relationship with flora, fauna, biodiversity and ecosystems.

Cover of the book Los hijos de los días, The Sons of the Days.

Cover of the book Los hijos de los días, The Sons of the Days.

And the days walked.
And they made us.
And so we were born,
The children of the day,
The inquirers,
Searchers of life.
(Genesis according to the Mayas) [8]

June 2015

— —


[1] οἶκος [oikos]

[2] νόμος [nomos]

[3] λογία, [logy]

[4] Practical change: “Change that is required is a change of consciousness.” by Bruce Witzel.

[5] Entre el quiebre y la relidad, Constitución 2008. Alberto Acosta et al. 1era. edición: Ediciones Abya–Yala – Printed in Quito – Ecuador, 2008 – ISBN: 978-9978-22-765-7

[6] Free translation from Entre el quiebre y la realidad. En 1886, la Suprema Corte de Estados Unidos … extendió los derechos humanos a las corporaciones privadas. La ley les reconoció los mismos derechos que a las personas, derecho a la vida, a la libre expresión, a la privacidad y a todo lo demás, como si las empresas respiraran … a nadie le llama la atención.

[7] Free translation: “… si la naturaleza fuera un banco, ya la hubieran salvado”.

[8]   Free translation from the cover of  Los hijos de los días, The sons of the Days: Y los días se echaron a caminar. / Y nos hicieron a nosotros. / Y así fuimos nacidos nosotros, / Los hijos de los días, /  Los averiguadores, / Los buscadores de la vida. / (El Génesis según los Mayas)

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About hoxton spanish tutor info

Hi, my name is Adrian Sanchez. I am passionate about words and languages, particularly Spanish, the language I learned at my mother’s knee. I am curious about how languages change and evolve. I am a qualified Spanish Teacher (CLTA) and a journalist. I have taught in literacy campaigns in Latin America and given Spanish tuition in Spain and in the UK. I would like to share some of my thoughts on the Spanish language; and particularly on what I have learned from my students, who in many ways have become my teachers throughout the years. Spanish is a vast and beautiful language and I would like you to accompany me on a journey of discoveries. You can visit my blog here: Email: Thank you!

13 responses to “Echo, Economy and Ecology”

  1. Suzanne Askham says :

    I love that ‘economy’ means the administration of a household. And that ‘ecology’ refers to the state of our home or dwelling. There’s a simple wisdom in this etymology that could spill over into whole countries. Your insights are wonderful; thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • hoxton spanish tutor info says :

      Thank you Suzanne. I wanted to write on the importance of being caring about nature for quite sometime. I started drafting this post based on
      a text of Eduardo Galeano’s book Los Hijos de los días, The Sons of the Days, which I use in some of my classes; and on the positive step taken establishing nature as a subject of law by Ecuador. Recently, I came across the article Practical Change by Bruce Witzel, which I recommend you to read. My post is a compilation of these ideas. As you said, there is a simple wisdom in the etymology of these two words, perhaps we can echo this wisdom.

      Kind regards


      Liked by 1 person

  2. julespaige says :

    I enjoyed reading your article.
    And used it as part of my daily inspirational post:


  3. bruce thomas witzel says :

    Thanks Adrian, for the reference to Practical Change, and more importantly for bringing up this movement from Ecuador, to enshrine the rights of nature in our countries laws and constitutions. In Canada a similar movement has begun by the David Suzuki Foundation. Though it’s a long shot, this is how all movements of transformation began. I affirm the quote – if nature were a bank, they would of already bailed her out. May we work towards this goal and begin the echo you refer to.

    Liked by 1 person

    • hoxton spanish tutor info says :

      Hi Bruce, thank you. Eduardo Galeano’s thoughts and concerns regarding how, we, humanity deal with nature, are well worth to acknowledge and share; as also are the concerns you express in your article Practical Change.



  4. bruce thomas witzel says :

    Reblogged this on through the luminary lens and commented:
    “If nature were a bank. they would have already bailed her out.” Thank you to Adrian Sanchez over on Hoxton Spanish Tutor. With his wonderful kin for language, he makes some powerful links. Corporations aren’t the only voice… we have a voice, and so does nature. Let us create an echo. I recommend this inspiring article.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Swav says :

    Very insightful article Adrian! Thank you… as I guess, all of us here on earth, have some valuable idea to spread out, and most of us just need the right echo at the right moment of time 🙂 Good luck with the ‘eco’ then… from the heart of Ireland, Swav.


  6. Paola Ramello says :

    The fact that Ecuador codified the Rights of Nature is a milestone, indeed, and can have an influence on other countries.
    Unfortunately, these principle is not always respected, even in the very Ecuador.
    Have a look at the case of the Sarayaku native community in Ecuador:
    I had the privilege of meeting Eriberto Gualinga, filmmaker and member of the Sarayaku community. He made an interesting documentary “The children of the Jaguar” about their fight against the government of Ecuador, that allowed drilling for oil in their ancestral lands.
    You can watch it here, I think it’s really inspiring:

    Liked by 1 person

    • hoxton spanish tutor info says :

      Thank you Paola.

      As you said, it is paramount that other countries follow Ecuador’s steps on this issue.

      It is also certain that these are very early days and lots of work needs to be done to implement these new laws in Ecuador. To provide support to those who are working there to make it happen is also necessary.

      Let’s continue echoing our concerns to those who can make changes possible.

      Kind regards



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