EPA History

Quotations about the Environment

Note - this list isn't comprehensive; however we believe it reflects how humans have long and deeply considered the environment: its relation to human health and well-being, and its protection. Other topics of historical interest.

Rachel CarsonIn nature, nothing exists alone.

Rachel Carson (1907-1964), Silent Spring, 1962. 

Gaylord NelsonThe 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.

Gaylord Nelson (1916-2005), former governor of Wisconsin, founder of Earth Day

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one destiny, affects all indirectly.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968), Christmas Eve sermon, 1967

President Richard NixonThe Congress, the Administration and the public all share a profound commitment to the rescue of our natural environment, and the preservation of the Earth as a place both habitable by and hospitable to man.

President Richard Nixon (1913-1994), "Reorganization Plan No. 3," message to Congress about establishing EPA, July 1970. More about the origins of EPA.

tiny earth sitting on a grassy field Think globally, act locally.

Disputed attribution (1925-2015), including:

  • Jacques Ellul (1912-1994), French philosopher and sociologist
  • René Dubos (1901-1982), environmentalist and author
  • David Brower (1912-2000), first Executive Director of the Sierra Club

Margaret MeadNever doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

Margaret Mead (1901-1978) quoted in John M. Richardson, ed. Making it Happen, 1982

President Theodore RooseveltIt is time for us now as a nation to exercise the same reasonable foresight in dealing with our great natural resources that would be shown by any prudent man in conserving and widely using the property which contains the assurance of well-being for himself and his children.

President Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), remarks at the Conference on Conservation of Natural Resources, 1908.

Mario MolinaScientists may depict the problems that will affect the environment based on available evidence, but their solution is not the responsibility of scientists but of society as a whole.

Los científicos pueden describir los problemas que afectarán el medio ambiente basándose en la evidencia disponible, sin embargo, su solución no es la responsabilidad de los científicos sino de la sociedad en su totalidad.
Mario Molina (1943- ).

James Fennimore CooperThe air, the water and the ground are free gifts to man and no one has the power to portion them out in parcels. Man must drink and breathe and walk and therefore each man has a right to his share of each.

James Fennimore Cooper (1789-1851), The Prairie , 1827

Mother TheresaThere must be a reason why some people can afford to live well. They must have worked for it. I only feel angry when I see waste. When I see people throwing away things we could use.

Mother Teresa (1910-1997), A Gift for God, 1975.

Claudine SchneiderA healthy ecology is the basis for a healthy economy.

Claudine Schneider, U.S. Representative, The Green Lifestyle Handbook, 1990.

L. Hunter and Amory LovinsIf we use resources productively and take to heart the lessons learned from coping with the energy crisis, we face a future confronted only, as Pogo once said, by insurmountable opportunities. The many crises facing us should be seen, then, not as threats but as chances to remake the future so it serves all beings.

L. Hunter Lovins (1950- ) and Amory B. Lovins (1948- ), Utne Reader, November-December, 1989.

Wendell BerryYou cannot affirm the power plant and condemn the smokestack, or affirm the smoke and condemn the cough.

Wendell Berry, The Gift of the Good Land, 1981.

Fujio ChoEnvironmentally friendly cars will soon cease to be an option ...
they will become a necessity.

Fujio Cho (1937- ), honorary Chairman of Toyota Motors; North American International Auto Show, 2004.

Maurice StrongSustainable development - development that does not destroy or undermine the ecological, economic, or social basis on which continued development depends - is the only viable pathway to a more secure and hopeful future for rich and poor alike.

Maurice Strong (1925-2015), Opening Statement to the Rio Summit, 1992

Terry Tempest WilliamsTo be whole. To be complete. Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separate from.

Terry Tempest Williams (1955- ), before the Senate Subcommittee on Forest & Public Lands Management regarding the Utah Public Lands Management Act of 1995. Washington, D.C. July 13, 1995.

William H. StewartThe Truly Healthy environment is not merely safe but stimulating.

William H. Stewart (1913-1993), Environmental Science and Technology, February 1968.

Percy Bysshe ShelleyAway, away, from men and towns,
To the wild wood and the downs, --
To the silent wilderness,
Where the soul need not repress
Its music.

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822), "To Jane, The Invitation," c.1820

Elizabeth BowenThe Silence of a shut park does not sound like the country silence: it is tense and confirmed.

Elizabeth Bowen (1899-1973), The Death of the Heart, 1938.

Ralph Waldo EmersonHe who knows what sweets and virtues are in the ground, the waters, the plants, the heavens, and how to come at these enchantments, is the rich and royal man.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), Essays, Second Series, 1844

Robinson JeffersIntegrity is wholeness...
The wholeness of life and things,
The divine beauty of the universe.
Love that, not man apart from that.

Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962), "The Answer," 1936

WIlliam Shakespeare drawingOne touch of nature makes the whole world kin.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616), Troilus and Cressida.

Jean-Jacques RousseauIt is in man's heart that the life of nature's spectacle exists; to see it, one must feel it.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), Emile, 1762

Lillian RussellLet the clean air blow the cobwebs from your body. Air is medicine.

Lillian Russell (1862-1922), quoted in Reader's Digest, March 1922

Langston HughesI've known rivers:
I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

Langston Hughes (1902-1967), "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," 1926

René DubosThe belief that we can manage the Earth and improve Nature is probably the biggest expression of human pride, but it has deep roots in the past and is almost universal.

René Dubos (1901-1982), The Wooing of the Earth, 1980

Henry FieldingAll nature wears one universal grin.

Henry Fielding (1707-1754), Tom Thumb the Great, 1730.

Joseph Wood KrutchThe famous balance of nature is the most extraordinary of all cybernetic systems. Left to itself, it is always self-regulated.

Joseph Wood Krutch (1893-1970), Saturday Review, June 8, 1963.

Barbara WardWe have forgotten how to be good guests, how to walk lightly on the earth as its other creatures do.

Barbara Ward (1914-1981), Only One Earth, 1972.

John MuirI know that our bodies were made to thrive only in pure air, and the scenes in which pure air is found.

John Muir (1838-1914), journal.

Aldo LeopoldLike winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them.

Aldo Leopold (1887-1948), Sand Country Alamanac, 1949.

Margaret FullerNature provides exceptions to every rule.

Margaret Fuller (1810-1850), The Dial, July 1843.

Thomas EdisonUntil man duplicates a blade of grass, nature can laugh at his so-called scientific knowledge.

Thomas Edison (1847-1931)

John RuskinNature is painting for us, day after day, pictures of infinite beauty.

John Ruskin (1819-1900).

George Washington CarverNothing is more beautiful than the loveliness of the woods before sunrise.

George Washington Carver (1860-1934).

José Antonio Dávila¡Verde de Puerto Rico, hablador y salvaje!
Que parece que piensas tal si fueras humano;
que hablas, como si fueras la lengua del paisaje,
de los estados de alma del escarpe y del llano.

Green Puerto Rico, talkative and wild!
That you seem to think as if you were human;
You talk as if you were the expression of the landscape,
Of the moods of the rolling hills and of the plains.

José Antonio Dávila (1898-1941), Apóstrofe al Verde, 1940.

Marie CurieAll my life through, the new sights of Nature made me rejoice like a child.

Marie Curie (1867-1934), Pierre Curie, 1923.

Albert EinsteinOur task must be to free ourselves ... by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955).

Rachel CarsonIt 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.

Rachel Carson (1907-1964), The Sea Around Us, 1951

Elizabeth I of EnglandThe use of sea and air is common to all; neither can a title to the ocean belong to any people or private persons, forasmuch as neither nature nor public use and custom permit any possession therof.

Elizabeth I of England (1533-1603).

Sandra PostelFor many of us, water simply flows from a faucet, and we think little about it beyond this point of contact. We have lost a sense of respect for the wild river, for the complex workings of a wetland, for the intricate web of life that water supports.

Sandra Postel, Last Oasis: Facing Water Scarcity, 2003.

Benjamin FranklinWhen the well's dry, we know the worth of water.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), Poor Richard's Almanac.

PindarWater is the best of all things.

Pindar (c. 522 BC - c. 438 BC), Olympian Odes

D.H. LawrenceWater is H2O, hydrogen two parts, oxygen one, but there is also a third thing, that makes it water and nobody knows what that is.

D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930), Pansies, 1929.

Loren EiseleyIf there is magic on the planet, it is contained in Water.

Loren Eiseley, The Immense Journey, 1957.

Mohandas K. GandhiEarth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed.

Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948), quoted in EF Schumacher, Small is Beautiful.

Douglas P. WheelerTo halt the decline of an ecosystem, it is necessary to think like an ecosystem.

Douglas P. Wheeler, EPA Journal, September-October 1990

Dianne DumanoskiThe 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 (1932- ), Rethinking Environmentalism, December 13, 1998.

Lewis ThomasWe owe our lives to the sun... How is it, then, that we feel no gratitude?

Lewis Thomas Earth Ethics, Summer 1990.

Mary DalyWe will look upon the earth and her sister planets as being with us, not for us.

Mary Daly, "Beyond God the Father," 1973

Carl SaganWho are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people.

Carl Sagan (1934-1996).

R. Buckminster FullerI am a passenger on the spaceship Earth.

R. Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983).

Marshall McLuhanThere are no passengers on spaceship earth. We are all crew.

Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980).

Top of Page