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Environment

  • We have forgotten how to be good guests, how to walk lightly on the earth as its other creatures do.

  • Slowly the wasters and despoilers are impoverishing our land, our nature, and our beauty, so that there will not be one beach, one hill, one lane, one meadow, one forest free from the debris of man and the stigma of his improvidence.

  • The earth we abuse and the living things we kill will, in the end, take their revenge; for in exploiting their presence we are diminishing our future.

  • For the first time in the history of the world, every human being is now subjected to contact with dangerous chemicals, from the moment of conception until death.

  • Over increasingly large areas of the United States, spring now comes unheralded by the return of the birds, and the early mornings are strangely silent where once they were filled with the beauty of bird song.

  • No witchcraft, no enemy action had silenced the rebirth of new life in this stricken world. The people had done it themselves.

  • As crude a weapon as the cave man's club, the chemical barrage has been hurled against the fabric of life — a fabric on the one hand delicate and destructible, on the other miraculously tough and resilient, and capable of striking back in unexpected ways.

  • In an age when man has forgotten his origins and is blind even to his most essential needs for survival, water along with other resources has become the victim of his indifference.

  • In spite of our rather boastful talk about progress, and our pride in the gadgets of civilization, there is, I think, a growing suspicion — indeed, perhaps an uneasy certainty — that we have been sometimes a little too ingenious for our own good. In spite of the truly marvelous inventiveness of the human brain, we are beginning to wonder whether our power to change the face of nature should not have been tempered with wisdom for our own good, and with a greater sense of responsibility for the welfare of generations to come.

    • Rachel Carson,
    • 1963, in Linda Lear, ed., Lost Woods: The Discovered Writing of Rachel Carson ()
  • But the Earth was soon going to find out that her children, these transitory creatures, had discovered the means not only of dying more quickly on her flanks, but of causing her to die along with them; the means to blow her up and destroy their foster mother, their only friend.

  • ... creation, like vengeance, is God's. It is dangerous when man tampers with it.

  • Strange to say, conservation of land and conservation of people frequently go hand in hand.

  • In the working of silver or drilling of turquoise the Indians had exhaustless patience, upon their blankets and belts and ceremonial robes they lavished their skill and pains. But their conception of decoration did not extend to the landscape. They seemed to have none of the European's desire to 'master' nature, to arrange and re-create. They spent their ingenuity in the other direction; in accommodating themselves to the scene in which they found themselves. This was not so much from indolence, the Bishop thought, as from an inherited caution and respect. It was as if the great country were asleep, and they wished to carry on their lives without awakening it; or as if the spirits of earth and air and water were things not to antagonize and arouse. When they hunted, it was with the same discretion; an Indian hunt was never a slaughter. They ravaged neither the rivers nor the forest, and if they irrigated, they took as little water as would serve their needs. The land and all that it bore they treated with consideration; not attempting to improve it, they never desecrated it.

  • We are the canaries in the mine. If we go, the last ecosystems go. So does the wisdom of how to sustain resources, live in balance with nature, and create communities based on cooperation, not competition. I think the rest of the world is searching for these values. I know we're here to share them. But we can only share them if we're here.

  • Birds, with short lives, are teaching us what pesticides, herbicides, oil in the ocean, pollutants of many sorts may also be doing to long-lived human bodies. Birds and fish kills wave red flags at us, although we don't often heed them.

  • We are living beyond our means. As a people we have developed a life-style that is draining the earth of its priceless and irreplaceable resources without regard for the future of our children and people all around the world.

    • Margaret Mead,
    • "The Energy Crisis -- Why Our World Will Never Again Be the Same," in Redbook ()
  • For millennia the two-million acre redwood ecosystem thrived and sheltered myriad species of life. In the last 150 years, 97 percent of the original redwood forests have been destroyed by timber corporations. ... Big business cut-and-run logging operations have instilled a false dichotomy: jobs versus the environment.

  • The aboriginal peoples of Australia illustrate the conflict between technology and the natural world succinctly, by asking, 'What will you do when the clever men destroy your water?' That, in truth, is what the world is coming to.

  • Feeling that morality has nothing to do with the way you use the resources of the world is an idea that can't persist much longer. If it does, then we won't.

  • To people who think of themselves as God's houseguests, American enterprise must seem arrogant beyond belief. Or stupid. A nation of amnesiacs, proceeding as if there were no other day but today. Assuming the land could also forget what had been done to it.

  • Scientific illiteracy in our populations is leaving too many of us unprepared to discuss or understand much of the damage we are wreaking on our atmosphere, our habitat, and even the food that enters our mouths.

  • We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost's familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road — the one 'less traveled by' — offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.

  • The healing of our relationship with place begins with the preservation of the natural environment. We cannot go to the wild for renewal if no wilderness is left.

  • [On the rainforest:] ... I went out a tourist and came back an environmentalist. I was silent the first three days and I cried for the last three.

  • Every person who builds a second home on a pristine lake or in a secluded area of woods, or who invests in urban-sprawl development, is part of the same global pattern of encroachment that displaces wildlife and decreases the wild space our own species needs for its survival.

  • I have become an environmentalist, because it is over the environment that the last of the Indian Wars will be fought.

  • I do not know of any environmental group in any country that does not view its government as an adversary.

  • Those hills hold nothing now / Mostly leveled / Without deer, without puma, without pheasant, without blue-bellied lizards, without quail, without ancient oaks / Lawns instead / Deeply disgusted by lawns / Stupid flat green crew cuts / Nothing for anybody to eat.

    • Chrystos,
    • "No Rock Scorns Me as Whore," in Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa, eds., This Bridge Called My Back ()
  • We have become as poisoned as the eagle's eggshell.

    • Chrystos,
    • "No Rock Scorns Me as Whore," in Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa, eds., This Bridge Called My Back ()
  • Man is a great blunderer going about in the woods, and there is no other except the bear makes so much noise. ... The cunningest hunger is hunted in turn, and what he leaves of his kill is meat for some other. That is the economy of nature, but with it all there is not sufficient account taken of the works of man. There is no scavenger that eats tin cans, and no wild thing leaves a like disfigurement on the forest floor.

  • ... man ... thinks of himself as a creator instead of a user, and this delusion is robbing him, not only of his natural heritage, but perhaps of his future.

  • Until every individual feels personally responsible for the careful planning and the preservation of natural resources, the inexorable destruction will go on.

  • ... a man can break God's laws and be forgiven. That's what they teach us. But when he breaks Nature's laws, there's no forgiveness — and there's no escape. Sooner or later he pays the penalty, or his children pay it — or his children's children. It doesn't matter much. It must be paid.

  • Listen — man is a child of Nature. When he turns against his mother — he's done! He may not find out about it right away, but he will.

  • You must bind up any wounds you give the earth and you must feed her to replace what you take from her. Every gift she gives, every tree, every stalk of grain, costs her. Only if you repay your debts will she continue to provide.

  • In this uncertain world, the food is disposable. It is the wrappings that are permanent.

  • ... ignoring our relationship with our environment puts both of us in jeopardy.

  • We have become frighteningly effective at altering nature.

  • The underground world is a unique scientific resource and a place of incredible beauty. It is also a very fragile environment that can be easily damaged. Caves are a nonrenewable natural resource. Unlike a forest that can be replanted with trees, caves can never be replaced once they have been harmed.

    • Nancy Holler Aulenbach,
    • in Nancy Holler Aulenbach and Hazel A. Barton, with Marfél Ferguson Delano, Exploring Caves: Journeys Into the Earth ()
  • I have witnessed the takeover of my world by plastic.

  • ... as a physician I examine the dying planet as I do a dying patient. The earth has a natural system of interacting homeostatic mechanisms similar to the human body's. If one system is diseased, like the ozone layer, then other systems develop abnormalities in function — the crops will die, the plankton will be damaged, and the eyes of all creatures on the planet will become diseased and vision impaired.

  • We are the curators of life on earth; we hold it in the palms of our hands.

  • What have they done to the rain.

  • ... the maltreatment of the natural world and its impoverishment leads to the impoverishment of the human soul. It is related to the outburst of violence in human society. To save the natural world today means to save what is human in humanity.

  • My affliction began / When Columbus first set foot on this earth. / When the trees were seen only as lumber / When the animals were viewed solely as meat / And when vegetation was regarded / Primarily as produce. / My affliction continued / When the prairies were fenced / When the moon was sentimentalized / When the rivers were harnessed / And illumination only happened by the / Turn of a switch.

  • ... something has gone unspeakably wrong ... we human beings have made a terminal mess of this earth ...

    • Lise Weil,
    • in Christina Thurmer-Rohr, Vagabonding ()
  • The creative process ignites our imagination, and I believe that that same imagination is what will propel us forward with issues of social change. I do think we have to acknowledge that we are a very capitalistic and consumptive nation, and that talk about conservation or issues of sustainability is never going to be popular with the dominant culture because it means checks and balances on an economy that is reserved for the dollar, rather than an economy that honors and respects spiritual resources and the right of all life to participate on the planet, not just our species.

  • Any interference with nature is damnable. Not only nature but also the people will suffer.

  • The transformation of forests into deserts, fertile earth into sunbaked concrete, and running rivers into silted floodwaters show that only through care for the environment can the livelihoods of those most dependent on it be sustained. We cannot allow economic and environmental concerns to be played off against each other.

  • Like the mind-set that places men above women, whites above blacks, and rich above poor, the mentality that places humans above nature is a dysfunctional delusion.

  • The main difference between our people and the world around us is our thankfulness and respect for the Earth, our environment, and the natural world. In our way, every day is a good day.

    • Audrey Shenandoah,
    • in Wilma Mankiller, Every Day Is a Good Day: Reflections by Contemporary Indigenous Women ()
  • Of the many species that have existed on earth — estimates run as high as fifty billion — more than ninety-nine per cent have disappeared. In the light of this, it is sometimes joked that all of life today amounts to little more than a rounding error.

  • Nature is a chain of dominoes: if you pull one piece out, the whole thing falls down.

  • It is always easier to deny reality than to allow our worldview to be shattered, a fact that was as true of die-hard Stalinists at the height of the purges as it is of libertarian climate change deniers today.

  • [On climate change:] What if it's all a hoax and we've created a better world for nothing?

  • It is a civilizational wake-up call. A powerful message — spoken in the language of fires, floods, droughts, and extinctions—telling us that we need an entirely new economic model and a new way of sharing this planet.

  • Part of the irony of loving the natural world is understanding that it would be better off without human presence.