Langauge Log adds a depressing footnote:
Fiji’s population growth rate is moderate, but the urban and peri-urban growth rate is high, and is clearly outstripping infra-structural planning and development. Thus it is primarily responsible for the important social issues of environmental concern, such as housing, water and sanitation. Direct regulating control of water or air pollution and monitoring are absent. …
If only they had a word for pollutants … they might be able to have some laws to monitor things like this!
For those who don’t wish to read all the Language Log posts on the topic, here is a quote from Geoffrey Pullum that hits the nail on the head:
The late philosopher Jerry Katz maintained that natural languages were inherently without expressive limits: that because of their expressive power and the possibility of paraphrasing when the lexicon provided no short way of making reference to a concept, there were no limits at all on what could be said in a natural language: the set of propositions that could conceivably be expressed in some language or other and the set of English sentence meanings were the same set. It seems very likely to me that Katz was right. But this whole do-they-have-a-word-for-it thing seems to be tacitly predicated on the unargued assumption that he was wrong.
Finally, just in case anyone might be led to blame Whorf for this whole “no word for x” trope. (As Grant Barrett does in his original post.) It really has nothing to do with the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. Barrett links to this page which says that “neither Sapir or Whorf made it very clear whether they were arguing for strong or weak determinism.” I disagree. I think it is fairly clear that they are arguing for a weak or “facilitating” determinism.