Pithy Sayings


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But I have not met anyone who seriously argues that the world could support 12 times the current [human] impact, although an increase of that factor would result from all [current] Third World inhabitants adopting First World living standards.
[From Collapse by Jared Diamond, 2005]

When he [the mayor of Una, Brazil] gets to the office every morning he has two hundred people waiting for him, asking for jobs, housing and food .... If he can't provide them with jobs, housing and food, they will eat the rain forest—whether that's sustainable or not.
[From The Lexus and the Olive Tree by Thomas L. Friedman, 2000]

The promotion of growth is simply a sophisticated way to steal from our children.
[David Bower, economist]

Economics is human ecology except that, at present, it assumes that natural resources and waste absorption are unlimited. ... If Mother Nature were to present invoices for resources extracted and waste absorbed, conventional economic accounting would help keep human activity in balance with the rest of the natural world. Unfortunately, the only notice nature gives on outstanding accounts, is foreclosure. Species that consistently overstep ecological bounds simply disappear.
[From Life, Money & Illusion by Mike Nickerson, 2006]

Have you looked into the eyes of a climate scientist recently? They look really scared.
[From "Why Bother?" by Michael Pollan in The New York Times Magazine, April 20, 2008]

The certain result if we do not act is that we will be leaving our grandchildren to die.
[From Shores of Tomorrow by Roger MacBride Allen, 2003]

What can be done about global warming? Teach your children to cook and eat pork. Pork tastes like human flesh and, sadly, that is what they will be reduced to.
[Martin Leese, 1954 to ?]

All of us have some dinosaur inertia within us, but I honestly don't know what the activist "dinosaurs" – the hard men and women of Big Oil and the far right – think they are doing. They have children and grandchildren who will need safe food and clean air and water, and who may wish to see living oceans and forests.
[From An Illustrated Short History of Progress by Ronald Wright, 2006]

What if it's a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing?
[From a cartoon by Joel Pett, published in USA Today on December 7, 2009]

In the long run, rich people do not secure their own interests and those of their children if they rule over a collapsing society and merely buy themselves the privilege of being the last to starve or die.
[From Collapse by Jared Diamond, 2005]

We must admit that we do not own the earth. Ownership is a human convention that allocates present control, sufficient for human purpose, among existing people. It is neither permanent nor total.
[From A Theory of Good City Form by Kevin Lynch, 1981]

In brief, [in a future utopia] human beings are no longer an uncontrolled disease of nature, but have come to accept some responsibility for being a dominant species – stewards and not masters.
[From A Theory of Good City Form by Kevin Lynch, 1981]

The Arctic is often cited as the canary in the coal mine for climate warming. Now, as a sign of climate warming, the canary has died. It is time to start getting out of the coal mines.
[Jay Zwally, quoted in the New York Sun, 2007]

[O]nce the dramatic implications of the climate crisis are recognised by the powerful as a threat to themselves and their children they will, unless resisted, impose their own solutions on the rest of us, ones that will protect their interests and exacerbate unequal access to the means of survival, leaving the weak to fend for themselves. This is how it has always been.
[From Requiem for a Species by Clive Hamilton, 2010]

The most rational way of considering the whole human race today is to see it as the ship's crew of a single spaceship on which all of us, with a remarkable combination of security and vulnerability, are making our pilgrimage through infinity. ... We depend on a little envelope of soil and a rather larger envelope of atmosphere for life itself. And both can be contaminated and destroyed. ... Rational behavior is the condition for survival.
[From Spaceship Earth by Barbara Ward, 1966]

It's not the oil and the filth and the poisonous chemicals that are the real cause of pollution, Brigadier. It's simply greed.
[Doctor Who, in the TV serial Invasion of the Dinosaurs, transmitted in 1974]

Placing a box or a can or a bottle in a recycling bin doesn't mean you've recycled anything, and it doesn't make you a better, greener person: it just means you've outsourced your problem. ... Fortunately, if that realization leaves you feeling bad, there's always the alternative: stop buying so much crap in the first place.
[From Junkyard Planet by Adam Minter, 2013]

Just because some of us can read and write and do a little math, that doesn't mean we deserve to conquer the Universe.
[From Hocus Pocus by Kurt Vonnegut, 1990]

How unfortunate that the Earth's first intelligent social animal is a tribal carnivore.
[From The Vanishing Face of Gaia by James Lovelock, 2009]

Did you ever wonder how a doctor feels, faced with a disease he can't cure, which he knows is so contagious he's liable to catch it off the patients he can't help?
[From Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner, 1968]

By mid-century, if we continue on our current trajectory, we face a world with no fisheries, no coral reefs, no rainforests, declining oxygen concentrations, and nine billion hungrey, thirsty people fighting over what remains.... In the lifespan of one [baobab] tree, we've consumed most of our life support system.
[Rob Stewart, 1979 to 2017, quoted in The Reality Bubble by Ziya Tong, 2019]

There is nowhere to run. We, as a species, have to face this. Our primary survival strategy has been migration into new territories, but that is over. Wherever we go, we meet ourselves and the damage we have wreaked. There is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. It is our turn: we either evolve or go extinct. We are the perpetrators and the victims.
[From Not on My Watch by Alexandra Morton, 2021]

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