Environment Quotes

Today, please enjoy a selection of quotations about the environment:

Thank God men cannot fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth.
—Henry David Thoreau
There is a sufficiency in the world for man’s need but not for man’s greed.
—Mohandas K. Gandhi
Because we don’t think about future generations, they will never forget us.
—Henrik Tikkanen
We never know the worth of water till the well is dry.
—Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia, 1732
There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew.
—Marshall McLuhan
I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority.
—Elwyn Brooks White, Essays of E.B. White, 1977
The insufferable arrogance of human beings to think that Nature was made solely for their benefit, as if it was conceivable that the sun had been set afire merely to ripen men’s apples and head their cabbages.
—Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac, États et empires de la lune, 1656
Such is the audacity of man, that he hath learned to counterfeit Nature, yea, and is so bold as to challenge her in her work.
—Pliny the Elder, The Natural History, translated by Philemon Holland
A living planet is a much more complex metaphor for deity than just a bigger father with a bigger fist. If an omniscient, all-powerful Dad ignores your prayers, it’s taken personally. Hear only silence long enough, and you start wondering about his power. His fairness. His very existence. But if a world mother doesn’t reply, Her excuse is simple. She never claimed conceited omnipotence. She has countless others clinging to her apron strings, including myriad species unable to speak for themselves. To Her elder offspring She says, “Go raid the fridge. Go play outside. Go get a job. Or, better yet, lend me a hand. I have no time for idle whining.”
— David Brin
We’re in a giant car heading towards a brick wall and everyone’s arguing over where they’re going to sit.
—David Suzuki
How long can men thrive between walls of brick, walking on asphalt pavements, breathing the fumes of coal and of oil, growing, working, dying, with hardly a thought of wind, and sky, and fields of grain, seeing only machine-made beauty, the mineral-like quality of life?
—Charles A. Lindbergh, Reader’s Digest, November 1939
Take care of the earth and she will take care of you.
The activist is not the man who says the river is dirty. The activist is the man who cleans up the river.
—Ross Perot
It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment.
—Ansel Adams
Why should man expect his prayer for mercy to be heard by What is above him when he shows no mercy to what is under him?
—Pierre Troubetzoy
Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.
—Chief Seattle, 1855
When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.
—John Muir
You forget that the fruits belong to all and that the land belongs to no one.
—Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discours sur l’origine et les fondements de l’inégalité parmi les hommes, 1755
Understanding the laws of nature does not mean that we are immune to their operations.
—David Gerrold
The universe is not required to be in perfect harmony with human ambition.
—Carl Sagan
Human consciousness arose but a minute before midnight on the geological clock. Yet we mayflies try to bend an ancient world to our purposes, ignorant perhaps of the messages buried in its long history. Let us hope that we are still in the early morning of our April day.
—Stephen Jay Gould, “Our Allotted Lifetimes,” The Panda’s Thumb, 1980
Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realize we cannot eat money.
—Cree Indian proverb
We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive.
—Albert Einstein
Space travel has given us a new appreciation for the Earth. We realize that the Earth is special. We’ve seen it from afar. We realize that the Earth is the only natural home for man we know of, and that we had better protect it.
—James Erwin, U.S. astrounaut
Eventually we’ll realize that if we destroy the ecosystem, we destroy ourselves.
—Jonas Salk
Man is a child of his environment.
—Shinichi Suzuki
We have forgotten how to be good guests, how to walk lightly on the earth as its other creatures do.
—Barbara Ward, Only One Earth, 1972
For many of us, water simply flows from a faucet, and we think little about it beyond this point of contact. We have lost a sense of respect for the wild river, for the complex workings of a wetland, for the intricate web of life that water supports.
—Sandra Postel, Last Oasis: Facing Water Scarcity, 2003
I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree.
—Joyce Kilmer, “Trees” – 1914

(Sources include the Environmental Protection Agency, Quote Garden, and Think Exist.)

Walt Kelly's Earth Day poster, 1970
Copyright 1971, 2005 OGPI. See full-sized image at Wikipedia.

But perhaps cartoonist Walt Kelly said it best in his 1971 Earth Day poster:

We have met the enemy and he is us.

I’ve written this post as part of the first Blog Action Day, in which blogs large and small have teamed up to write about the environment on 15 October, 2007. I’m planning to write another post highlighting some of my favorite entries from today, so feel free to let me know about yours. And keep writing about the environment!

4 thoughts on “Environment Quotes

  1. Dear Darmok,

    This list is the best collection around! (I was looking up quotations on climate change recently, and they aren’t half as inspiring. In fact, I was disappointed.)

    My daughter had to do a poster recently for Environment Week at school, and now I can see that some of these quotations would be great as starters for kids to illustrate.

    Merci beaucoup!

  2. Thanks! I tried to pick a good mix, reflecting some of the complex emotions I feel about Homo sapiens and the environment. Unfortunately, my optimism/idealism for the prospects of future improvement didn’t really make it, though perhaps that’s an issue for another collection!

    You might want to take a look at the sources I used for some more inspiration, though I tried to select the “best” quotations.

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