20 Environmental Quotes That Inspire Action
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We only get one Earth. Some of the most poignant environmental quotes come from naturalists, scientists, and concerned citizens who care deeply about our planet and its plight. Here are 20 memorable environmental quotes that will make you think about our impact on the world — and what we can do to help.
1. Carl Sagan:
“Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.”
As an astronomer, Carl Sagan had a unique perspective about our place in the universe. His famous quote about Earth wasn’t meant to be bleak, but rather to inspire us to protect our only home.
2. John Muir:
“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”
Naturalist John Muir is remembered for co-founding the Sierra Club, writing about conservation, and working to establish four national parks. One of his most prominent environmental quotes summarized the complex interconnectedness of ecosystems and the people who inhabit them.
3. Lady Bird Johnson:
“The environment is where we all meet, where we all have a mutual interest. It is the one thing all of us share.”
The First Lady of the United States from 1963 to 1969, Lady Bird Johnson strongly advocated for protecting wildflowers and planting millions of them along highways. Her quote about the environment highlights how the outdoors connects everyone.
4. David Brower:
“We don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”
Environmentalist and mountaineer David Brower urged people to consider how their impact on the planet would affect future generations.
5. Marjory Stoneman Douglas:
“You can’t conserve what you haven’t got.”
This quote cuts straight to the point. Author, journalist, and conservationist Marjory Stoneman Douglas was a prominent defender of the Florida Everglades.
6. Gaylord Nelson:
“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.”
The Founder of Earth Day, Gaylord Nelson wanted people to think of environmentalism from a broader perspective.
7. Sylvia Earle:
“No water, no life. No blue, no green.”
Marine biologist Sylvia Earle’s quote summarizes our dependence on the world’s oceans, advocating strongly for their protection.
8. Henry David Thoreau:
“What is the use of a house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?”
As philosopher and naturalist Henry David Thoreau succinctly put it in his 1865 book Cape Cod, environmentalism is fundamental to our success and well-being.
9. Rachel Carson:
“Man’s attitude toward nature is today critically important simply because we have now acquired a fateful power to alter and destroy nature. But man is a part of nature, and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself.”
Rachel Carson is best remembered for penning Silent Spring, the book that exposed the horrors of indiscriminate pesticide use. Environmental quotes like the one above swayed the American public to ban DDT for agricultural use and establish the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
10. Wangari Maathai:
“I predict that within a few decades, when researchers have developed more comprehensive analyses of many of the world’s conflicts, the relation between the environment, resources and conflict may seem almost as obvious as the connection we see today between human rights, democracy and peace.”
Environmentalist and political activist Wangari Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement, an organization dedicated to conservation, women’s rights, and planting trees.
11. Franklin Delano Roosevelt:
“A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.”
Former U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was active in expanding the National Park and National Forest systems. He also established the Civilian Conservation Corps.
12. Majora Carter:
“From a planning perspective, economic degradation begets environmental degradation, which begets social degradation.”
This quote from the leader of Sustainable South Bronx — a nonprofit dedicated to environmental justice — highlights the connection between environmental harm and poor living conditions for people.
13. Chico Mendes:
“At first, I thought I was fighting to save rubber trees. Then, I thought I was fighting to save the Amazon rainforest. Now, I realize I am fighting for humanity.”
Environmentalist Chico Mendes worked hard to preserve the Amazon Rainforest and human rights in Brazil. His quote is a reminder that the Amazon contains more than just trees — it is also home to nearly 30 million people.
14. Gifford Pinchot:
“The purpose of conservation: The greatest good to the greatest number of people for the longest time.”
Gifford Pinchot’s most famous environmental quote embodies the mission of the U.S. Forest Service, which he helped establish with President Roosevelt in 1905.
15. Theodore Roosevelt:
“There can be nothing in the world more beautiful than the Yosemite, the groves of the giant sequoias and redwoods, the Canyon of the Colorado, the Canyon of the Yellowstone, the Three Tetons; and our people should see to it that they are preserved for their children and their children’s children forever, with their majestic beauty all unmarred.”
Former U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt established the U.S. Forest Service, created five national parks, and protected countless wilderness preserves and national forests during his time in office.
16. Vandana Shiva:
“You are not Atlas carrying the world on your shoulder. It is good to remember that the planet is carrying you.”
Environmental activist Vandana Shiva’s quote is a beautiful reminder that we’re all responsible for protecting the Earth.
17. Aldo Leopold:
“We abuse land because we see 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.”
Conservationist Aldo Leopold challenged the prevailing American view of nature in the 1940s, which was that people should conquer the untamed and savage wilderness.
18. Edward Abbey:
“Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit.”
Best remembered for his environmentalist book Desert Solitaire, Edward Abbey was an outspoken advocate for protecting the outdoors.
19. Margaret Mead:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Anthropologist Margaret Mead’s quote inspires action — even small groups of people can make big changes.
20. Jane Goodall:
“I do have reasons for hope: Our clever brains, the resilience of nature, the indomitable human spirit, and above all, the commitment of young people when they’re empowered to take action.”
Biologist and conservationist Jane Goodall believes strongly in the power of people who commit themselves to helping the environment. She has numerous empowering environmental quotes to her name.
Lighting a Fire
Hopefully, these quotes will inspire you to care more about the world around you. You can become a better environmental steward by taking small steps that make a big difference over time.
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About the author
Starting from an early age, Jane Marsh loved all animals and became a budding environmentalist. Now, Jane works as the Editor-in-Chief of Environment.co where she covers topics related to climate policy, renewable energy, the food industry, and more.