Environmental awareness is nothing new, as it stretches back to the philosophers of the ancient world. Yet humanity’s longtime appreciation of nature has not prevented our current situation: one in which climate change has become an existential threat to society.
Despite the rapid growth of environmental movements across the globe from the 1970s onward, we have still largely failed to act. Saving the environment — and in turn, every species on our planet, including ourselves — remains a pressing concern.
Today’s adults may only see the initial effects of climate change — floods, forest fires, rising sea levels — but our children, and their children, may have to face the sharp end of the environmental crisis. So, we have to act now. As Gaylord Nelson, the founder of Earth Day, once said, “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.”
Here are some more wise words about saving the environment, inspiring the hope that we’ll act soon enough to save our beautiful planet.
The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for the destruction of our race.Rachel Carson, marine biologist and conservationist
You cannot protect the environment unless you empower people, you inform them, and you help them understand that these resources are their own, that they must protect them.Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize-winning environmentalist
To make the changes we need to make and to reach a safer future, we will need the resources of everybody here — the scientists, the policy makers, and the industrialists — all working together towards a common goal. And that goal is a planet that can continue to support life.Piers Sellers, astronaut
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, Buddhist monk and peace activist
We need a national political leader to step forward, an environmental Churchill, to rally the world around this mobilization.Lester R. Brown, environmental analyst
Instead of controlling the environment for the benefit of the population, perhaps it’s time we control the population to allow the survival of the environment.David Attenborough
I see reasons to be optimistic. Nature is resilient. If we work to restore those places that we have destroyed, if we give them time, they will recover.Jane Goodall
Ours is a world of looming challenges and increasingly limited resources. Sustainable development offers the best chance to adjust our course.Ban Ki-moon, U.N. secretary-general
You have got to take responsibility for your life and the world. You have got to do something to pay your rent for the privilege of inhabiting this beautiful, blue-green, living Earth.David Foreman, activist and conservationist
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.Steven Best, philosopher and activist
The greatest danger to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.Robert Swan, explorer and environmental activist
We only get one planet. Humankind must become accountable on a massive scale for the wanton destruction of our collective home. Protecting our future on this planet depends on the conscious evolution of our species.Leonardo DiCaprio
The most environmentally friendly product is the one you didn’t buy.Joshua Becker, author and proponent of minimalism
We can’t save the world by playing by the rules, because the rules have to be changed. Everything needs to change and it has to start today.Greta Thunberg
A vibrant, fair, and regenerative future is possible — not when thousands of people do climate justice activism perfectly but when millions of people do the best they can.Xiye Bastida, climate activist
Featured image credit: Apic/ Hulton Archive via Getty Images