The Quote Garden ™
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Quotations about the Environment
Welcome to my page of quotations about environmental issues, ecology, conservation, pollution, climate change, global warming, humans ruining our planet, humans saving our planet, being green, etc. —ღ Terri
If wilderness is outlawed, only outlaws can save wilderness. ~Edward Abbey
I pledge allegiance to the Earth, and to the flora, fauna and human life that it supports, one planet, indivisible, with safe air, water and soil, economic justice, equal rights and peace for all. ~Women's Foreign Policy Council, "Pledge of Allegiance to the Family of Earth," 1989
You think you can fix everything, change everything. But there will come a day when things cannot be fixed. And, you know what, it will be a day just like today. ~American Indian elder, quoted by Kent Nerburn, "Thoughts on the Dakota Access Pipeline," 2016
The highest treason, the meanest treason, is to deny the holiness of this little blue planet on which we journey through the cold void of space. ~Edward Abbey
Man's notion of barrenness is commercial. I often thank God that there are wildernesses left, wild spots where profit has no dominion. ~Henry James Slack (1818–1896), The Ministry of the Beautiful, "Conversation III: The Oak-wood," 1850
God bless America. Let's save some of it. ~Edward Abbey
Recycling is sexy. ~Keith Wynn, @ravens_rhapsody
Roses are infrared
Ultraviolets are blue
Why is climate changing?
Because of CO2.
~Gavin Schmidt, @climateofgavin, tweet, 2017
The natural world is in deep decline due to the grossly unsustainable habits of humankind. This is no secret. You can find evidence everywhere, from global warming to rain forest destruction to mass extinctions, all of it done in the name of free enterprise and short term profit. Fortunately more and more people are waking up to these facts and working to find solutions on all scales. Let’s just hope it is not too late. ~Heather Jo Flores, "Free Your Lawn (and the rest will follow)," Food Not Lawns: How to Turn Your Yard into a Garden and Your Neighborhood into a Community, 2006, foodnotlawns.com
The industrial corporation is the natural enemy of nature. ~Edward Abbey
...the earth air was so heavy with the poison smoke of cities... ~George M. P. Baird, "The Theft of Thistledown: A Faery Interlude," 1915
The basic science is not physics or mathematics but biology — the study of life. We must learn to think both logically and bio-logically. ~Edward Abbey
...there is no such thing as infinity in any of the natural resources of the earth. ~Frank O. Lowden, 1925
The UN report was severe:
Mass species extinction is near.
“Ice is vanishing, yes,”
Remarked the US,
“But think of the profits we’ll clear.”
~@Limericking, tweet, 2019
Half the animal kingdom would be gone in a few decades. There was no question about these facts, no debate in the scientific community. The pattern was clear. The usual extinction rate for a stable ecosystem was one to five species each year. Animals were now dying out at a thousand times the rate they should be. Dozens of species went extinct every single day...
Most people... were not capable of understanding the plight of the animals. They were too sheltered to comprehend it. Too safe. Even if they knew the facts and figures, they could not imagine the full measure of that kind of devastation... That's how I used to be too, Tucker said. The tornado changed me. It had stripped away the facade of human civilization. It reminded him that he was an animal too. The scientific terms — loss of habitat, dead zone, on the brink — were not just words anymore. He knew what it felt like from the inside now. ~Abby Geni, The Wildlands, 2018
This much scientists agree on: Five times in the history of the earth, most life has winked out. Five times, one species after the next disappeared, the chain collapsed, grazers died as the plants they depended on were lost, and predators disappeared shortly after, life on earth reaching as close to zero as you'd ever care to get... These are the really big ones... endings you would be glad not to witness. But you may not have a choice, because we appear to be in one now. ~Craig Childs, Apocalyptic Planet: Field Guide to the Future of the Earth, 2012
We are living too fast—yea, we are consuming the blessings given us, at a rate that may leave future generations to sit out in the cold and freeze to death. ~W.A. Pryal, "Lumber for Hives: Some Interesting Data on the Way Lumber is being Cut and Exported from this Country; the Giant Trees; California Redwood," Gleanings in Bee Culture, 1904 August 1st
Such a beautiful world God gave to us,
With its sunshine, its trees and flowers;
And fleecy white clouds and the skies of blue,
Its rainbows and April showers!
Such a beautiful world, a gift so rare,
That was given to us at birth;
But man has abused this great gift from God,
This wondrous, colorful earth!
He is so filled with his craving for power,
And earthly possessions, while here...
But some day he'll waken to what he's lost,
In his scramble for gold to keep;
His eyes will be opened and he'll be sad,
For as he has sowed he will reap!
~Gertrude Tooley Buckingham (1880–1971), "Such a Beautiful World"
It is horrifying that we have to fight our own Government to save our environment. ~Ansel Adams, interview with David Sheff, published March 1983
It is essential that we should form a clear idea of the dominating characteristics of the African system of land tenure... [N]ot only is there a real system of African tenure, but it is an infinitely better, sounder and healthier system than that which the British people tolerate and suffer from in their own country. To most Englishmen this statement will appear absurd. It is, however, strictly accurate, and it is not too much to say that if the African system of land tenure existed in England, the English people would be a happier people and... a more prosperous people... "I conceive that land belongs to a vast family, of which many are dead, few are living, and countless numbers are yet unborn." That picturesque phrase, which fell from the lips of a dignified African ruler, examined by the West African Lands Committee, symbolises the entire philosophy of African social life, political, economic and spiritual. The fundamental conception underlying native tenure all over Africa (with a few reputed exceptions) where the white man has not undermined or destroyed it, is that land, like air and water, is God-given; that every individual within the community has a right to share in its bounties provided he carries out his social and political obligations to the community of which he forms part; that in the community as a whole is vested the ownership of the land, and that consequently the individual member of the community cannot permanently alienate the land he occupies and uses... ~E. D. Morel, "Administrative Problems and the Land," The Black Man's Burden, 1920
the wilderness died
of a broken heart—
from bad decisions and
evil battles of grown men
~Terri Guillemets, "Killing nature," 2019, blackout poetry created from Rafe Martin, Birdwing, 2005, pages 47–49
Humanity is on the march, earth itself is left behind. Great changes will occur. Although we cannot yet forecast them all, we know at least that Lady Luck and Mother Nature, the twin governesses of humanity's infancy, no longer will call the tune... Our destiny is in our own hands. ~David Ehrenfeld, "Myth," The Arrogance of Humanism, 1978
When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe. One fancies a heart like our own must be beating in every crystal and cell, and we feel like stopping to speak to the plants and animals as friendly fellow-mountaineers. Nature as a poet, an enthusiastic workingman, becomes more and more visible the farther and higher we go... ~John Muir, 1869, My First Summer in the Sierra
Take Nothing But Pictures
Leave Nothing But Footprints
Kill Nothing But Time
~National Speleological Society, caves.org
When the soil disappears, the soul disappears. ~Terri Guillemets
If then the air can so easily become vitiated, what must its condition be in such places, especially in towns, where so many causes combine to corrupt it! That is why town's people like so much to go into the country, there to breathe a purer and healthier air whereby better blood and in general better humours are formed. ~Sebastian Kneipp, Thus Shalt Thou Live: Hints and Advice for the Healthy and the Sick on a Simple and Rational Mode of Life and a Natural Method of Cure, 1889, translated from the 19th German edition
Air.— In the country an emanation from the pure sky, perfumed by the flowery earth; in London a noxious compound of fog, smoke, putridity, and villainous exhalations. ~"Specimens of a Patent Pocket Dictionary, For the use of those who wish to understand the meaning of things as well as words," The New Monthly Magazine and Literary Journal, 1824
wild is free —
wilderness is not
an empty canvas
for Man to do
what he will —
an already full canvas
painted by God
~Terri Guillemets, "WILD’ness," 2019
I don't agree with you in saying that in all human minds there is poetry. Man as he came from the hand of his Maker was poetic in both mind and body, but the gross heathenism of civilization has generally destroyed nature, and poetry, and all that is spiritual. ~John Muir, letter to John B. McChesney, 1871 September 19th, from Yosemite (University of the Pacific Library Holt-Atherton Special Collections, © 1984 Muir-Hanna Trust)
The Three Great Sins to which our Woes are traced
Are Cruelty and Laziness and Waste.
~Arthur Guiterman, "Of Reproof," A Poet's Proverbs, 1924
like wild animals, I am happy hiding
the artificial frightens my being —
but it is time to fight for the earth
~Terri Guillemets, "Fight for our lives," 2019, scrambled blackout poetry created from Rafe Martin, Birdwing, 2005, pages 150–151
The indictment is long, too long. You could spend a lifetime discovering and enumerating man's ecological mistakes and still have only scratched the surface of the problem. There are detrimental practices going on now whose effects won't be known for generations. By the same token, the results of some reforms instituted now will not be known for generations.
It is human nature to get tired of working for something when you don't see any results. So along with learning to conserve we will have to learn patience. It won't be easy... But there is one reason to believe concerted efforts to save the earth will succeed. Man's consumptive genius is matched only by his instinct for self-preservation. ~Ken Sekaquaptewa and Candy St. Jacques, “22 april 1970 — earth day,” Sahuaro, 1970, yearbook of the Associated Students of Arizona State University
Where man has conquered nature dies;
We shift some slender-growing pine
From out her own familiar skies
Where-under forests fall and rise,
To pots and gardens, then repine
That where man conquers nature dies.
The atmosphere that round her lies
Bears not the light that used to shine
From out her own familiar skies,
She is a stranger. So our eyes
Run o'er the world and seek a sign!
If where man conquers nature dies
What is our earthly paradise?
Will nature there withhold the wine
That from her own familiar skies
She used to pour? Do we devise
A garden earth and say, in fine,
Where man has conquered nature dies
From out her own familiar skies?
~Philip Henry Savage (1868–1899)
The end of days is an event I believe we're actually going to create for ourselves... The earth itself won't be destroyed. There's not a meteor shower out there with our name on it... From ancient civilizations to today's experts, we've been warned over and over and over again: if we don't take care of this sacred home we've been given, it won't be able to provide us with shelter, food, and comfort any longer, just as surely as a house we abuse and neglect will be condemned as unfit for human habitation sooner or later... Sometimes you'd think that we're all a bunch of teenagers, left unsupervised in the house while our parents are away. ~Sylvia Browne, End of Days: Predictions and Prophecies about the End of the World, 2008
In those days the water was clear and clean, and I could drink it without fear of being poisoned by industrial fallout and agricultural spray. ~R. D. Lawrence, "Matilda," A Shriek in the Forest Night: Wilderness Encounters, 1996
One day you will read
in the National Geographic
of a faraway land
with no smelly bad traffic.
In those green-pastured mountains
everybody feels fine
at a hundred and three
’cause the air that they breathe
and because they chew nuts
from the Tutt-a-Tutt Tree.
This gives strength to their teeth,
it gives length to their hair,
and they live without doctors,
with nary a care...
~Dr. Seuss, You're Only Old Once!, 1986
Mother Earth is very near to man. From her we get food; upon her we lie down. We live and walk on her. We could not exist without Mother Earth. ~"Pawnee Beliefs," Myths and Legends of the Great Plains, selected and edited by Katharine Berry Judson," 1913
It is Progress, so they say, with ax in hand
Who wanders up and down the city streets;
He holds with nothing sacred in the land,
All things created are his drink and meat;
A tree that God took years to grow; that sings
Creation's majesty, in one short hour
Is felled. No more shall dryads in the spring
Be cradled in its wind-tossed, graceful bower.
Yet Progress and his brother, Speed, still roam
The earth. Like monstrous dinosaurs they crawl
And where they go we hear dear Beauty's moans;
With head bowed low in stricken grief she falls.
Stop now, ye vandals: Beauty is at your feet;
Shall all who love her stand silently and weep?
~Carolyn Wheeler Avery, "To a Felled Tree," in Arizona Highways, July 1954
The environment will take its toll on our immune systems, there’s no doubt about it. It's karmic, really, the earth’s way of paying us back for all the abuse and neglect — still another reason we’ve got to start treasuring and nurturing this planet if we ever expect it to do the same for us again. There will be dramatic increases in fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, sterility and infertility, and countless, virtually untraceable allergies. It’s probably also a form of payback that we’ll be more vulnerable than ever to diseases carried by unhealthy animals... These illnesses and plagues will hit hard and very suddenly, much more quickly than scientists and researchers can keep up with them, let alone conquer them. ~Sylvia Browne, “The End of Days Through My Eyes,” End of Days: Predictions and Prophecies about the End of the World, 2008
If the climate can change, then so can you. ~@thedeadauthor, tweet, 2015
On some issues, I'm a staunch Conservative — like curtailing greenhouse gas emissions so that we can Conserve the environment. ~Neil deGrasse Tyson, @neiltyson, tweet, 2014
"The Cheyenne revere the land and all that grows upon it," he told her seriously. "We are of the land and must do nothing to harm it. We take only what we need to survive, and waste nothing. Unlike the white man, we do not carve open the breast of Mother Earth with iron plows or cut down her trees to make fields and forts. We take what she offers, and it is sufficient for our needs.
Never would we scar the land with roads as your people do, yet now they wish to deface our land with tracks for their iron horses. They bring soldiers and build more forts and drive the buffalo from the best grazing grounds. They seek the yellow rocks in our hills, and defile our burial grounds in their lust for these stones.
...This we cannot allow. They tell us they will pay us for the land, and it will then be theirs, but how can a man sell his heart?" ~Catherine Hart, Night Flame, 1989
...your gas-guzzling, exhaust-belching car... ~Bob Holmes, "Life Is...?," 1998
We do not inherit the Earth from our fathers, we are borrowing it from our children. ~David R. Brower (1912–2000), browercenter.org, foe.org [Per Brower, this is from an interview he did in a noisy North Carolina bar, while on his third martini. In his 1995 book Let the Mountains Talk, Let the Rivers Run: A Call to Those Who Would Save the Earth he wrote that the words were too conservative for him. "We're not borrowing from our children, we're stealing from them — and it's not even considered to be a crime. Let that be my epitaph, when I need it." Garson O'Toole, The Quote Investigator, has done great research on this quotation to find similar previous statements by Oscar Wilde, 1882, and Wendell Berry, 1971. See: quoteinvestigator.com/2013/01/22/borrow-earth —tg]
In the years since the Industrial Revolution, we humans have been partying pretty hard. We've ransacked most of the Earth for resources... We are living off the natural capital of the planet, the principal, and not the interest. The soil, the seas, the forests, the river, and the protective atmospheric cover — all are being depleted. It was a grand binge, but the hangover is now upon us, and it will soon be throbbing.
To our unborn children, it will seem that we did, indeed, burn books to get light, burn furniture to run air-conditioning, and burn arbors to warm ourselves... The solution is simple: We must go back to the world's ravaged places and bind up the wounds we've inflicted. We must do our best to restore the natural world to something like it was 200 years ago, before we monkeywrenched nature. We must redesign our cities at the same time. Otherwise, we are out of here.
I believe this to be the most important challenge we face on Earth. Old, tired, me-first thinking won't do it. There is still time for the contrivers in America to come up with a better answer before the harm becomes irreparable. ~David R. Brower (1912–2000), "CPR for the Earth: An Invitation," Let the Mountains Talk, Let the Rivers Run: A Call to Those Who Would Save the Earth, 1995, browercenter.org, foe.org [This book was printed on kenaf, an acid-free paper made entirely from the hibiscus plant. It was written with Steve Chapple. —tg]
Somebody told me how frightening it was how much topsoil we are losing each year, but I told that story around the campfire and nobody got scared. ~Jack Handey, Deepest Thoughts: So Deep They Squeak, 1994, deepthoughtsbyjackhandey.com
We are trapped by our conditioning in a world of steel and plastic, asphalt and concrete. We are removed from the earth and getting farther and farther from it daily. ~Tom Brown, Jr.
Scientists have come together to name the next geologic epoch, a change we are very much part of... Many say the Holocene has ended and we are entering a new age. It is a time of widespread extinctions and unraveling climates, superstorms, and inundated cities... We call it Anthropocene. It means New Man, the time of humans. I prefer Hubriscene.
I'm a fan of the Holocene, the time we're in, or at least have been since the close of the Ice Age... Am I sentimental to hold on to our familiar age? Who is not in love with these blue skies pillared with clouds, and the many species around us, the way more oxygen comes out of the ocean than methane, the deep breathing of the forests and grasslands? I do not want this party to end, yet another one seems to be starting, pushed onstage with zeal. ~Craig Childs, Atlas of a Lost World: Travels in Ice Age America, 2018
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. ~E. B. White, 1956
Perhaps the secret of the wilderness lies in that man has ever been a part of it. This is our birthright, the vast womb of eternity out of which all things and all men have come. Once, miraculously, there emerged a spark of consciously-motivated vitality from out of the darkness of a primeval swamp. It grew, this writhing, sluggish thing, and changed, and sought, never pursuing the middle course of safety, but reaching farther and farther, guided by Creation, rising from plane to plane until at last it walked upright and it was called man.
Then this ape-like creature with the often-changing body reached fullness of physical development and only one avenue of growth was left to it: the mind-road. And man turned to it and perfected his brain and his great powers of thought and he became the master of all things. And somewhere along this last, tortuous journey, he began to lose his early ties with Creation. They receded into lost places in the mind, these mysterious senses, and while the brain continued to develop conscious thought, they sank deeper and deeper into the abyss that opened when culture advanced and became almost a fine science. And so man paid his price for civilization...
Is there a message, a warning, in the bosom of nature telling man to have a care, else his great achievement, his fine powers of thought, will turn upon him and destroy him? ~R. D. Lawrence, The Place in the Forest, 1967
Till now, Man has been up against Nature; from now on he will be up against his own nature. ~Dennis Gabor, Inventing the Future, 1963
The land is everyone's and no one's. ~Tom Brown, Jr.
For thousands of years, human beings had screwed up and trashed and crapped on this planet, and now history expected me to clean up after everyone. I have to wash out and flatten my soup cans. And account for every drop of used motor oil. And I have to foot the bill for nuclear waste and buried gasoline tanks and landfilled toxic sludge dumped a generation before I was born. ~Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club, 1996
Why are we destroying the land instead of taking care of it? It takes care of us. ~Terri Guillemets
In the sixties, you could always insult a guy by calling him "plastic." It meant he was phony or superficial. The opposite of plastic was "real." ~Elizabeth Royte, Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash, 2005
Vinyl is Satan's resin. ~Mark Gorrell
Three Æons spent themselves to store with Power
The Coal that keeps you warm a Single Hour.
~Arthur Guiterman, "Of Thrift," A Poet's Proverbs, 1924
When you use a push reel mower, you're "cutting" down on pollution and the only thing in danger of running out of gas is you! ~Terri Guillemets, "Today's labor," 2005 [Better yet, plant a vegetable garden instead of a lawn! —tεᖇᖇ¡·g, 2014]
Primeval forests! virgin sod!
That Saxon has not ravish'd yet,
Lo! peak on peak in stairways set—
In stepping stairs that reach to God!
Here we are free as sea or wind,
For here are set Time's snowy tents
In everlasting battlements
Against the march of Saxon mind.
~Joaquin Miller, "Isles of the Amazons," 1872
Did you ever stop to think that maybe the weed killers and the pest killers and the germ killers are trying to kill you? ~Terri Guillemets, "Omnicide," 2005
Loyd: "It has to do with keeping things in balance. It's like the spirits have made a deal with us. We're on our own. The spirits have been good enough to let us live here and use the utilities, and we're saying: We know how nice you're being. We appreciate the rain, we appreciate the sun, we appreciate the deer we took. Sorry if we messed up anything. You've gone to a lot of trouble, and we'll try to be good guests."
Codi: "Like a note you'd send somebody after you'd stayed in their house?"
Loyd: "Exactly like that. 'Thanks for letting me sleep on your couch. I took some beer out of the refrigerator, and I broke a coffee cup. Sorry, I hope it wasn't your favorite one.'"
~Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams
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. ~Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams
Energy crisis? America could power itself entirely if it could harness the energy of all those dead presidents spinning in their graves. ~A joke of unknown origin that's been around for years, even before Dresden Codak (authors spinning converting "posthumous indignity into clean energy," 2010) and Zach Weinersmith (founding fathers spinning and powering the country "every time a right is violated or an illegal war is started or an unfair tax is levied," 2011); this particular wording is a 2016 November 13th tweet by Colm Tobin
Man, with his metal beaver-teeth
chops down the world's trees
saws, whines, grinds — loudly
without a care but human “needs”
The term "end of the world" is thrown around as if we know what it means. Apocalypse? What sort of apocalypse — one that destroys civilization, life, the entire planet? How does it work? Is there a way to stop it, or is it just going to steamroll us? And are we even asking the right questions?... Informed mainly by blockbuster films, the popular vision is that the end will be rather sudden and accompanied by a thrilling soundtrack as cities slide into the ocean and global climates swing overnight. ~Craig Childs, Apocalyptic Planet: Field Guide to the Future of the Earth, 2012
published 1998 Mar 18
revised 2020 Dec 28
last saved 2022 Nov 8