From Wikiquote
(Redirected from Environments)
Jump to navigation Jump to search
John Ruskin an influential thinker who articulated the Romantic ideal of environmental protection and conservation.

Environmentalism is a concern for the preservation, restoration, or improvement of the natural environment, such as the conservation of natural resources, prevention of pollution, and certain land use actions.


  • In the Machine Age nations and corporations were thought to have little or no responsibility either to their environments or to other organizations and individuals within them. Nations and corporations were considered to be virtually self-contained and autonomous. The natural environment was believed to be capable of absorbing any amount of use by man and of recovering fully. It was considered to be an unlimited source of every kind of resource. Ownership of property was equated to a license to do with it whatever one wanted. Developed nations and corporations colonialized and exploited underdeveloped societies and their physical environments. They were considered to be entitled to whatever they could get away with in the outside world. Laissez-faire was the dominant philosophy in both national and corporate affairs. That some should suffer the consequences was considered to be "natural" because struggle and conflict were assumed to be necessary for survival. Only the fit survived. Fitness was conceived both in terms of ability to adapt to changing natural conditions and ability to compete in society (a euphemism for "fight"). Progress was believed to be the product of the struggle for survival. Its cost had to be paid by the weak. In short, nations, corporations, and individuals gave little thought to their natural or social environments and those who occupied them. As the Machine Age began to end so did these attitudes for a number of reasons. Men began to suspect that the supply of natural resources was not unlimited and even began to fear that some might run out in their lifetimes. The quality of the environment, man-made and natural, began to deteriorate visibly, and the rate of deterioration seemed to exceed the recuperative capabilities of either society or Nature. Those in the environment who were exploited and left in a disadvantaged state began to organize themselves into effective protest groups and brought moral and physical pressure to bear on those responsible for their state. The health and welfare of environment and environmental systems were forced into the consciousness of nations and corporations by pressure groups formed around a variety of issues including ecology, racial equality, consumerism, and underdevelopment. Disadvantaged countries and the disadvantaged within both developed and underdeveloped countries began to press for a more equitable distribution of wealth.
  • Sometimes the roots of a tree may be firmer than the foundations of a house. When the floor starts shaking, wouldn’t it be safer to catch hold of the branch of a tree? The times are so difficult that you may find a branch more secure than the slabs that make up the floor. Even a small window may prove more useful than a door. In the midst of earth tremors, the supple, living branch will not break; that is why you should focus on studying the nature of things. It is silly not to make use of what is growing right by the window. Only a madman needlessly uproots a plant that he himself is unable to cultivate. Likewise, it is only creatures of falsehood that try to encircle the path and force the traveler to deviate. But on the branches of life one can leave the signs of the true path. So let us protect every branch that grows by the window. When necessary, let the leaves of the garden preserve our work and protect us from the whirlwind—this means that the whirlwind is raging. I am explaining that you should not fear the whirlwind, for it is bringing flowers from every corner of the world. The roots that make up remedies often come from widely scattered places. 231.
  • All our efforts to defeat poverty and pursue sustainable development will be in vain if environmental degradation and natural resource depletion continue unabated.
    • Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General, "In larger freedom: towards development, security and human rights for all", 2005 report for the United Nations sixtieth anniversary summit
  • Babies are the enemies of the human race. . . . Let's consider it this way: by the time the world doubles its population, the amount of energy we will be using will be increased sevenfold which means probably the amount of pollution that we are producing will also be increased sevenfold. If we are now threatened by pollution at the present rate, how will we be threatened with sevenfold pollution by, say, 2010 A.D., distributed among twice the population? We'll be having to grow twice the food out of soil that is being poisoned at seven times the rate.
  • Environmental and biodiversity crises are at root social crises. They are caused by profound problems in the social world, by elites and the hierarchical control of decision-making and allocation of resources in profit-driven, expansionistic, ecocidal capitalist societies. As social problems, environmental crises require social solutions, namely radical political change seeking to create just, democratic, and sustainable societies. What we today call “natural disasters,” are at root social disasters that must be addressed if we are to solve the global climate emergency. We must not only transform our anthropocentric and speciesist identities, our arrogant and vainglorious forms of human supremacism and pathological alienation, we must also transform our growth-oriented, profit-driven, meat-based, fossil fuel addicted societies. For millennia, the western world above all has lived by the philosophy of humans first, even humans only. It is now time for a new philosophy of earth first whereby humanity begins the arduous process of de-growth -- radically reducing their population numbers and consumption levels, rewilding natural environments and reserving vast habitats for wildlife alone, and shifting from a growth-oriented to a steady-state sustainable economy.
  • In America today you can murder land for private profit. You can leave the corpse for all to see, and nobody calls the cops.
    • Paul Brooks, The Pursuit of Wilderness, 1971
  • Every American expects and deserves clean air, and then we act on that belief, then we will set an example for the rest of the world to follow.
  • We're so self-important. Everybody's going to save something now. "Save the trees, save the bees, save the whales, save those snails." And the greatest arrogance of all: save the planet. Save the planet, we don't even know how to take care of ourselves yet. I'm tired of this shit. I'm tired of fucking Earth Day. I'm tired of these self-righteous environmentalists, these white, bourgeois liberals who think the only thing wrong with this country is that there aren't enough bicycle paths. People trying to make the world safe for Volvos. Besides, environmentalists don't give a shit about the planet. Not in the abstract they don't. You know what they're interested in? A clean place to live. Their own habitat. They're worried that some day in the future they might be personally inconvenienced. Narrow, unenlightened self-interest doesn't impress me.
    The planet has been through a lot worse than us. Been through earthquakes, volcanoes, plate tectonics, continental drift, solar flares, sun spots, magnetic storms, the magnetic reversal of the poles … hundreds of thousands of years of bombardment by comets and asteroids and meteors, worldwide floods, tidal waves, worldwide fires, erosion, cosmic rays, recurring ice ages … And we think some plastic bags and some aluminum cans are going to make a difference? The planet isn't going anywhere. We are!
    We're going away. Pack your shit, folks. We're going away. And we won't leave much of a trace, either. Maybe a little Styrofoam … The planet'll be here and we'll be long gone. Just another failed mutation. Just another closed-end biological mistake. An evolutionary cul-de-sac. The planet'll shake us off like a bad case of fleas.
    The planet will be here for a long, long, LONG time after we're gone, and it will heal itself, it will cleanse itself, 'cause that's what it does. It's a self-correcting system. The air and the water will recover, the earth will be renewed. And if it's true that plastic is not degradable, well, the planet will simply incorporate plastic into a new paradigm: the earth plus plastic. The earth doesn't share our prejudice toward plastic. Plastic came out of the earth. The earth probably sees plastic as just another one of its children. Could be the only reason the Earth allowed us to be spawned from it in the first place. It wanted plastic for itself. Didn't know how to make it. Needed us. Could be the answer to our age-old egocentric philosophical question, "Why are we here?"
    "Plastic... asshole."
  • As a theology, environmentalism speaks deeply to America’s elites. Its moral absolutes affirm them, adding meaning to their otherwise secular world. The collapse of mainline Protestantism left a void in the hearts of America’s ruling class. The environmental movement fills it. Seen this way, the movement’s new priorities make sense. Environmentalism as a religion is more compelling than environmentalism as a means to save birds or clean up some river in Maine. After a while, details about the natural world begin to seem irrelevant. Compared to questions of virtue and salvation, they’re not that interesting.
    • Tucker Carlson, Ship of Fools: How a Selfish Ruling Class Is Bringing America to the Brink of Revolution (2018)
  • It is a curious situation that the sea, from which life first arose should now be threatened by the activities of one form of that life. But the sea, though changed in a sinister way, will continue to exist; the threat is rather to life itself.
  • "The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe around us, the less taste we shall have for destruction."
  • I want to make it clear, if there is ever a conflict (between environmental quality and economic growth), I will go for beauty, clean air, water, and landscape.
  • The growth and progress upon which we looked back with such pride had committed mankind to living on a scale that exceeds the sustainable carrying capacity of this finite planet, and the leaders of nations continued to devote far more effort toward attempting to prolong overshoot than toward undoing it. Reluctance to face facts was driving us to make bad matters worse. The faster the present generation draws down the fossil energy legacy upon which persistently exuberant lifestyles now depend, the less opportunity posterity will have to live in anything like the same way or the same numbers. Yet most contemporary political proposals for solving problems of economic stagnation or inequity amount to plans for speeding up the rate of drawdown of non-renewable resources.
  • We will look upon the earth and her sister planets as being with us, not for us.
  • I've often thought that if our zoning boards could be put in charge of botanists, of zoologists and geologists, and people who know about the earth, we would have much more wisdom in such planning than we have when we leave it to the engineers.
    • William O. Douglas, remarks at conference sponsored by the American Histadrut Cultural Exchange Institute, Harriman, New York (February 17–19, 1967); reported in Judd L. Teller, ed., Government and the Democratic Process; A Symposium by American and Israeli Experts (1969), p. 16.
  • The weight of our civilization has become so great, it now ranks as a global force and a significant wild card in the human future along with the Ice Ages and other vicissitudes of a volatile and changeable planetary system
    • Dianne Dumanoski, Rethinking Environmentalism, December 13, 1998
  • Humanity is on the march, earth itself is left behind.
    • David Ehrenfeld, The Arrogance of Humanism, 1978
  • Sanctimonious slogans have a way of lulling well-meaning people, and at the same time providing self-seekers with means to frustrate the very controls that are most needed. Take, for example, a report entitled, “The Engineer’s Responsibility in Environmental Pollution Control,” submitted in 1971 to the government’s Council of Environmental Quality by the National Industrial Pollution Control Council. The report is an amorphous collection of noble generalities. It conjures up a vision of a crusading army of engineers, thousands abreast, marching in unison. The banner of this army is “cooperation.” Its mission is to “coordinate,” “unify,” “interact,” “centralize efforts,” and “pool resources.” Its weapons are “shared objectives,” “common goals,” “interdisciplinary concepts and techniques.” The cloud of pieties serves, not to enlighten, but to obscure the real truth, which is that environmental pollution control can never be achieved by the worthy sentiments of industrial spokesmen, but only by government regulation.
    • Samuel Florman, The Existential Pleasures of Engineering (1976), p. 27
  • For a long time, environmental justice was kept separate from the environment at large. It's become "mainstream" only recently, so it just wasn't something the general public–including reporters—really knew about. We see that slowly changing, and we're seeing more environmental reporters become more sophisticated in their understanding of environmental issues and how they impact communities of color. I pursued this because I was, first, interested in racial justice. I knew I wanted to be a reporter that uncovered societal harms right away, but it was only when I realized the severity of the climate crisis that I bridged those two interests together.
  • Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed.
  • Until recently, economists have not been particularly carried away with concern over environmental problems caused by industrial development. Just as in the other sciences, the few economists ...who have always sounded the alarm ...are somewhat out of the mainstream. These humanist concerns seem to have gone out of style after the age of classical economics. Even the conventional analytical models of contemporary economics seem to prefer to exclude these concepts by ignoring them entirely or by shunting them off into their own branch, called "economic externalities." These externalities include any “given” or windfall factor, such as the availability of transportation, technological know-how, a labor force, or resources, factors that are not themselves directly involved in the economic analysis of markets and businesses. For example, the regularly bright and sunny weather of Hollywood was considered an external economy of the movie industry there. The movie moguls, no matter how tyrannical, could neither turn on nor turn off the sun. But as the surrounding community grew and the smog thickened, the weather became an external economy.
    In very recent years concern over these economic externalities has grown. The environmentalists are beginning to be included in the mainstream. The literature is growing, and professional meetings include sessions on environmental economics. Attempts are even being made to extend the theoretical framework to include the changes in the environment caused by economic activity. [...] The Materials Flow of the Economy... sees the human race living on a 'space ship earth' in which all the inputs and outputs, all the original resources and all the final wastes, must be accounted for. Furthermore, when the materials are returned in the form of smoke, sewage, garbage, junk, heat, noise, and a wide variety of noxious gases, the world becomes a very changed place — and the change is seldom for the better. Implicit in this materials flow concept of the economy is that the less production that is needed to maintain an adequate level of affluence, the better. An efficient economy is one that gets big results with little effort. More industries, more mines, more businesses, more employment, and more consumer goods do not always mean more well-being... because all these also mean more destruction of our natural resources and despoilation of our surroundings.
    • Martin Gerhard Giesbrecht, The Evolution of Economic Society: An Introduction to Economics (1972) Ch. 10, The New Dimensions of Mature Economies, pp. 321-322.
  • All life is impermanent. We are all children of the Earth, and, at some time, she will take us back to herself again. We are continually arising from Mother Earth, being nurtured by her, and then returning to her. Like us, plants are born, live for a period of time, and then return to the Earth. When they decompose, they fertilize our gardens. Living vegetables and decomposing vegetables are part of the same reality. Without one, the other cannot be. After six months, compost becomes fresh vegetables again. Plants and the Earth rely on each other. Whether the Earth is fresh, beautiful, and green, or arid and parched depends on the plants. It also depends on us.
    • Thích Nhất Hạnh in The World We Have: A Buddhist Approach to Peace and Ecology (2008), Ch. 1: The Bells of Mindfulness, p. 3
  • Our way of walking on the Earth has a great influence on animals and plants. We have killed so many animals and plants and destroyed their environments. Many are now extinct. In turn, our environment is now harming us. We are like sleepwalkers, not knowing what we are doing or where we are heading. Whether we can wake up or not depends on whether we can walk mindfully on our Mother Earth. The future of all life, including our own, depends on our mindful steps.
    • Thích Nhất Hạnh in The World We Have: A Buddhist Approach to Peace and Ecology (2008), Ch. 1: The Bells of Mindfulness, p. 3
  • While the farmer holds the title to the land, actually, it belongs to all the people because civilization itself rests upon the soil.
  • And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
    • Genesis 1:28 KJV
  • We are already experiencing huge cost externalities from population hypergrowth and profligate fossil fuel use in the form of environmental devastation. Of the earth’s estimated 10 million species, 300,000 have vanished in the past fifty years. Each year, 3,000 to 30,000 species become extinct, an all-time high for the last 65 million years. Within one hundred years, between one-third and two-thirds of all birds, animals, plants, and other species will be lost. Nearly 25 percent of the 4,630 known mammal species are now threatened with extinction, along with 34 percent of fish, 25 percent of amphibians, 20 percent of reptiles, and 11 percent of birds. Even more, species are having population declines. Environmental scientists speak of an “omega point” at which the vast interconnected networks of Earth’s ecologies are so weakened that human existence is no longer possible.
  • The creator is angry. Everyone is going to be sorry for what they have done. A day of reckoning is coming. And it's going to be for everyone on the planet. It will make no distinction for religion or creed. Something is going to happen.
    • Chief Al Lameman, Alberta Cree. He is commenting here on the effects of oil extraction from the opencast tar-sand mines of the forests of Alberta, Canada. From, 'Armageddon', an article in the Mail on Sunday magazine, June 10, 2012. Report by Jonathan Green.
  • This is the fundamental idea underlying an ecological civilization: using nature’s own design principles to reimagine the basis of our civilization... An ecological civilization is both a new and ancient idea. While the notion of structuring human society on an ecological basis might seem radical, Indigenous peoples around the world have organized themselves from time immemorial on life-affirming principles....Every year that we head closer to catastrophe—as greater climate-related disasters rear up, as the outrages of racial and economic injustice become even more egregious, and as life for most people becomes increasingly intolerable—the old narrative loses its hold on the collective consciousness. Waves of young people are looking for a new worldview—one that makes sense of the current unraveling, one that offers them a future they can believe in. It’s a bold idea to transform the very basis of our civilization to one that’s life-affirming. But when the alternative is unthinkable, a vision of a flourishing future shines a light of hope that can become a self-fulfilling reality. Dare to imagine it. Dare to make it possible by the actions you take, both individually and collectively—and it might just happen sooner than you expect.
  • We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.
  • As Earth's most messy, destructive and defective animal, man's record gives him little cause for pride. Our present intellectual superiority is no guarantee of great wisdom or survival power in our genes.
  • The Environmental movement is, you might say, a movement of repressed Romantics.
    • Charles E. Little, A Town Is Saved, 1973
  • Technology, of course, is a simple term that covers a phenomenal diversity of different kinds of things. A hammer is a piece of technology, as is my laptop, as is the blockchain. So, probably, there's no simple answer to your question, but there are some principles that I think are relevant. Take my hammer example. If someone were coming at you with a hammer, intent on doing you damage, my guess is you wouldn't focus on how to give them a different kind of hammer. You would understand that the damage is a result not of the technology but of the goals or the ethics of the person who's wielding it. And as long as our society doesn't place much emphasis on external environmental costs, remains preoccupied with the near term, considers it acceptable to have wide gap between the rich and the poor, and so forth and so on, so long as that's true, there's no technology which is going to give us a fundamental solution. At best, different technologies will buy us time to make the changes that we need to make socially and institutionally, and culturally.
  • Environmentalists have long been fond of saying that the sun is the only safe nuclear reactor, situated as it is some ninety-three million miles away.
    • Stephanie Mills ed., In Praise of Nature, 1990
  • Even when the pioneer didn't rape Nature, he divorced her a little too easily: he missed the great lesson that both ecology and medicine teach - that Man's great mission is not to conquer nature by main force but to cooperate with her intelligently but lovingly for his own purposes.
    • Lewis Mumford, "California and the Human Prospect", Sierra Club Bulletin, vol. 47, no. 9, 1962, pp. 45-6.
  • At present population levels, we are putting unprecedented pressure on finite resources. We are conducting a grand-scale, unauthorized experiment on the 4.5 billion-year-old planet. The fact that we have not hit the bounds in a few generations of outrageous growth should not be taken as evidence for our long-haul prospects. We live like kings today, on the backs of [at least] roughly 100 energy slaves each (human metabolism is 100 Watts, but Americans enjoy 10 KW of continuous power). Our richness is very much tied to surplus energy availability, and that so far has been a story of finite [hydrocarbon-based] fossil fuels. But even under solar power, we can’t continue our track record of 3% energy growth per year for even several hundred years! Global physical limits—thermodynamic, energy return on energy invested, finite arable land, water, fisheries, climate change, etc.—are all asserting themselves to remind us that nature doesn’t care about our dreams.
  • Over timescales relevant to civilization (which began 10,000 years ago with agriculture and cities), plots of almost anything relating to human activity look like hockey sticks: population, agricultural output, industrial output, mined materials, deforestation, species extinctions, and so on. Many of these certainly correlate to population growth, but the per capita impacts also have shot up, compounding the human footprint to a frightening degree. At this point, humans and their livestock account for 96% of mammal mass on the planet, leaving a mere 4% for all wild animals (half of this from massive whales and other marine mammals). It’s not just a footprint any more: it’s a boot on the throat of the planet, leaving non-human life gasping and silently begging for even a little mercy.
  • Our fossil fuel bonanza has left our ecosystem in a perilous state. We have destroyed vast forests and habitat, polluted water and soil, kicked off a rapid climate trend that natural systems may not adapt to quickly enough, and basically overrun the planet. […] 96% of mammal mass on the planet is now in the form of humans and our livestock, leaving a paltry 4% of wild mammals—land and sea. Roughly 70% of vertebrate numbers have vanished since 1970 (undoubtedly a higher fraction if the survey had started in 1700). Forests are also way down.
  • A human supremacist—not driven by hate, let’s be clear—thinks nothing of clearing a forest for crops; exterminating pests; enslaving animals for work or food; damming a river for energy; killing a bear who has attacked a human; animal research for the remote possibility of someday treating a human disease; scraping the ocean floor for minerals; destroying desert communities of life with solar installations; killing countless birds with domestic cats, speeding hulks (planes, cars, windmills), and even house windows. Why ever wouldn’t we do these things? One human life (especially a child) is worth any number of frogs, eels, meerkats, chickadees, or deer, in the human supremacist mind.
  • The tree of life contains numerous branches and we’re at one momentary twig end. Evolution has no goal, and is never done. We are in no way “above” the rest of the tree, or at the tip of the most important branch. It is not a pyramid with a top, and we are easily outdone on any number of metrics by the plants and animals of this planet. We also absolutely cannot exist without a web of life supporting everything we do.
  • We do not have to adapt to the environment. We will change the environment to suit us.
  • We still have too much air and water pollution and we still need to work to reduce it. But we also need to put the problem of pollution into a historical as well as scientific perspective...
    • Ronald Reagan, quoted in Charles D. Hobbs' Ronald Reagan's Call to Action
  • We have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we may have. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.
  • The Truly Healthy environment is not merely safe but stimulating.
  • Modern materialist thinking which is linear and which holds that everything is for man's use and manipulation is losing credit. Man is being forced to define his attitude towards elements like the earth, the waters, the air, the sky, the rivers. Are they dead? Or, living? Are they strangers? Or, close relatives - father, mother, brothers, sisters, and friends? Are the oceans, the atmosphere merely great sinks, huge waste-dumps? Are the minerals, the plants, the great animal sister-creation there just for human exploitation? Have they no life and rights of their own. Sanatana dharma takes the view that they have their own rights and we have duties towards them. It says that we should cherish them and live in togetherness. If we violate this law and continue to injure them, we create karmas that will strike back in ways we can hardly imagine.
    • Ram Swarup (2000). On Hinduism: Reviews and reflections. Ch. 1.
  • It seems to me that we all look at Nature too much, and live with her too little.

Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989)[edit]

  • You could cover the whole world with asphalt, but sooner or later green grass would break through.
    • Attributed to Ilya Ehrenburg; reported in The New York Times Book Review (October 22, 1967), p. 1. Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989). Patricia Blake, author of the book review, obtained this quotation from the late Max Hayward, who may have gotten it directly from Ehrenburg.
  • We have come tardily to the tremendous task of cleaning up our environment. We should have moved with similar zeal at least a decade ago. But no purpose is served by post-mortems. With visionary zeal but the greatest realism, we must now address ourselves to the vast problems that confront us.
    • Gerald R. Ford, Earth Day address, Grand Rapids, Michigan (April 22, 1970); in Michael V. Doyle, ed., Gerald R. Ford, Selected Speeches (1973), p. 84.
  • In the last few decades entire new categories of waste have come to plague and menace the American scene…. Pollution is growing at a rapid rate…. Pollution destroys beauty and menaces health. It cuts down on efficiency, reduces property values and raises taxes…. Almost all these wastes and pollutions are the result of activities carried on for the benefit of man. A prime national goal must be an environment that is pleasing to the senses and healthy to live in. Our Government is already doing much in this field. We have made significant progress. But more must be done.
    • Lyndon B. Johnson, special message to the Congress on conservation and restoration of natural beauty, February 8, 1965. The Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1965, book 1, p. 161–62.
  • Never before has man had such capacity to control his own environment, to end thirst and hunger, to conquer poverty and disease, to banish illiteracy and massive human misery. We have the power to make this the best generation of mankind in the history of the world—or to make it the last.
    • John F. Kennedy, address before the General Assembly of the United Nations, New York City, September 20, 1963. The Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1963, p. 696.
  • The ultimate test of man's conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Wikipedia has an article about:
Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
At Wikiversity, you can learn about:
Social and political philosophy
Ideologies AnarchismAuthoritarianismCapitalismCollectivismColonialismCommunismConfucianismConservatismElitismEnvironmentalismFascismImperialismIndividualismLiberalismLibertarianismMarxismNationalismRepublicanismSocial constructionismSocial democracySocialismTotalitarianismUtilitarianism
Concepts AuthorityDuty • EliteEmancipationFreedomGovernmentHegemonyHierarchyJusticeLawMonopolyNatural law • NormsObediencePeacePluralism • PowerPropagandaPropertyRevolutionRightsRuling classSocial contractSocietyStateUtopiaWar
Government AristocracyAutocracyBureaucracyDictatorshipDemocracyMeritocracyMonarchyOligarchyPlutocracyTechnocracyTheocracy