Quotations

All of these quotations have some relevance to environmental issues and the pursuit of sustainability. Some offer words of wisdom or inspiration, and a few are humorous. Enjoy them, pass them along, and feel free to add your favorite quotation(s) in the Comments.

“The best way to predict the future is to design it.”
- Buckminster Fuller

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
- Buckminster Fuller

“The Things to do are: the things that need doing, that you see need to be done, and that no one else seems to see need to be done.”
- Buckminster Fuller

“The Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.”
- Mahatma Gandhi

“We never know the worth of water ’til the well is dry.”
- Thomas Fuller

“A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself.”
- Theodore Roosevelt

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is today.
- Chinese proverb

“Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”
- Mark Twain

“We should all be concerned about the future because we have to spend the rest of our lives there.”
- Francis Kettering

“Don’t find fault; find a remedy.”
- Henry Ford

“It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”
- Chinese proverb

“I always wondered why somebody doesn’t do something about that. Then I realized I was somebody.”
- Lily Tomlin

“Discontent is the first necessity of progress.”
- Thomas Edison

“If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito.”
- Bette Reese

“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”
- Jane Goodall

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
- Maya Angelou

“The best things in life aren’t things.”
- Art Buchwald

“Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least.”
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?”
- Henry David Thoreau

“Covetousness is the greatest misfortune. One who does not know what is enough will never have enough.”
- Lao Tzu

“Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.”
- Edward Abbey

The trouble with the rat race is that, even if you win, you’re still a rat.
- Lily Tomlin

“We spend more time developing means of escaping our troubles than we do solving the troubles we’re trying to escape from.”
- David Lloyd

“We are like tenant farmers chopping down the fence around our house for fuel when we should be using Nature’s inexhaustible sources of energy—sun, wind, and tide. I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.”
- Thomas Alva Edison (1931)

“The water and air on Earth are being adversely affected by our bad habits. We are fucking up our home…damn, are we dumb.”
- Willie Nelson

“In the end, we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.”
- Baba Dioum

“Destroying rain forest for economic gain is like burning a Renaissance painting to cook a meal.”
- Edward O. Wilson

“The packaging for a microwaveable dinner is programmed for a shelf life of maybe six months, a cook time of two minutes and a landfill dead-time of centuries.”
- David Wann

“If environmentalism is a fad, it will be the last one.”
- Barry Commoner

“The major problems in the world are the result of the differences between the way nature works and the way people think.”
- Gregory Bateson

“The creature that wins against its environment destroys itself.”
- Gregory Bateson

“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”
- Albert Einstein

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”
- Henry David Thoreau

“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”
– Andy Warhol

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
- Nelson Mandela

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
- Mahatma Gandhi

“My life is my message.”
- Mahatma Gandhi

“It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
- Jiddu Krishnamurti

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Nobody made a bigger mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.”
– Edmund Burke

“The perfect is the enemy of the good.”
- Voltaire

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”
- Lao Tzu

“If you try, you risk failure. If you don’t, you ensure it.”
- source unknown

“The person who makes no mistakes does not usually make anything.”
– Edward John Phelps

“Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul.”
- Edward Abbey

“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And a will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”
- Edward Everett Hale

Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant.
- Robert Louis Stevenson

“Never separate the life you live from the words you speak.”
– Paul Wellstone

“I feel that working environmentalists are, in the main, happier than armchair environmentalists.”
– Jonathan Franzen

“We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee.”
– Marian Wright Edelman

“We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… We must do that which we think we cannot.”
- Eleanor Roosevelt

“Slight not what’s near, when aiming at what’s far.”
- Euripides

“What after all has maintained the human race on this old globe, despite all the calamities of nature and all the tragic failings of mankind, if not the faith in new possibilities and the courage to advocate them.”
– Jane Addams

“The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were.”
– John F. Kennedy

“Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not.”
- attributed to Pablo Picasso and to Robert F. Kennedy

“The individual is capable of both great compassion and great indifference. He has it within his means to nourish the former and outgrow the latter.”
– Norman Cousins

“Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.”
- Albert Einstein

“Perfection of means and confusion of goals seem, in my opinion, to characterize our age.”
– Albert Einstein

“For those who think that business exists to make a profit, I suggest they think again. Business makes a profit to exist. And surely it must exist for some higher, nobler purpose than that.”
- Ray Anderson

“The care of the Earth is our most ancient and most worthy, and after all our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it and to foster its renewal is our only legitimate hope for survival.”
- Wendell Berry

Wendell Berry quotation, full-size graphic“The earth is what we all have in common.
- Wendell Berry

“We have lived our lives by the assumption that what was good for us would be good for the world. We have been wrong. We must change our lives so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption, that what is good for the world will be good for us. And that requires that we make the effort to know the world and learn what is good for it.”
- Wendell Berry

“Here we are, the most clever species ever to have lived. So how is it we can destroy the only planet we have?”
- Jane Goodall

“What is the use of a house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?”
- Henry David Thoreau

“Happiness is good health and a bad memory.”
- Ingrid Berman

“For every problem there is a solution that is simple, clean, and wrong.”
- Henry Louis Mencken

“Things should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.”
- (attributed to/paraphrased from) Albert Einstein

“The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits.”
- Albert Einstein

“Pick battles big enough to matter, small enough to win.”
- Jonathan Kozol

“If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them something more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it.”
– Lyndon B. Johnson

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as life lasts.”
- Rachel Carson

“Where flowers bloom, so does hope.”
- Lady Bird Johnson

“Earth laughs in flowers.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

“… Urban friends ask me how I can stand living here, ‘so far from everything?’ When I hear this question over the phone, I’m usually looking out the window at a forest, a running creek, and a vegetable garden, thinking: Define everything.”
- Barbara Kingsolver (from her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life)

“The purpose of life is a life of purpose.”
- Robert Byrne (Also attributed to Ludwig Wittgenstein)

“What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
- from Mary Oliver’s poem “The Summer Day”

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
- Annie Dillard

“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.”
- William James

“Common sense is seeing things as they are, and doing things as they ought to be.”
- Harriet Beecher Stowe

“The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Give the world your best and it may not be enough. Give your best anyway.”
- Mother Teresa

“We are visitors on this planet. We are here for ninety, a hundred years at the very most. During that period we must try to do something good, something useful with our lives.”
- The Dalai Lama

“The world changes according to the way people see it, and if you can alter, even by a millimeter, the way people look at reality, then you can change the world.”
- James Baldwin

“Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted, the indifference of those who should have known better, the silence of the voice of justice when it matters most, that has made it possible for evil to triumph.”
– Haile Selassie

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
– Margaret Mead

“Eighty percent of success is showing up.”
- Woody Allen

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
- Leonardo da Vinci

“Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.”
– Henry David Thoreau

“One is rich in proportion to the number of things one can afford to let alone.”
– Henry David Thoreau

“In Wildness is the preservation of the world.”
- Henry David Thoreau

“What it lies in our power to do, it lies in our power not to do.”
- Aristotle

“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.”
- Edward Abbey

“You know you have perfection of design not when you have nothing more to add, but when you have nothing more to take away.”
– Antoine de Saint Exupery

“The scale of our homes should be derived from the real needs of our daily lives, not from vanity, insecurity, or a need for public display. Home should be the setting for life, not the measure of it.”
- James Gauer

“Small is beautiful.”
- E.F. Schumacher

“One of the first conditions of happiness is that the link between Man and Nature shall not be broken.”
- Leo Tolstoy

“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

“I think the human race has squandered its gift, and I think this country has squandered its promise, for the sake of cell phones and Jet Skis.”
- George Carlin

“Time destroys the speculation of men, but it confirms the judgment of nature.”
- Marcus Tullius Cicero

“Every day, I am torn between the desire to save the world and the desire to savour the world. This makes it very hard to plan the day.”
- E.B. White

“The earth has music for those who listen.”
- William Shakespeare

“What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, men would die from the great loneliness of spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are connected.”
- Chief Seattle

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”
(This is the commonly paraphrased/misquoted version of a John Muir quote; his actual/original quote was:
“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”)

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. …I hold that the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man.”
- Mahatma Gandhi

“We are forever responsible for that which we have tamed.”
- Antoine de Saint Exupery

“There is no shame in not knowing; the shame lies in not finding out.”
– Russian proverb

“We have become great because of the lavish use of our resources … But the time has come to inquire seriously what will happen when our forests are gone, when the coal, the iron, the oil and the gas are exhausted.”
- Theodore Roosevelt

“As we exhaust [the ores and oil on this Earth], we must be prepared to fall back on our farms, which are God’s true storehouse. We can learn to synthesize materials for every human need from things that grow.”
- George Washington Carver

Share

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

anjali gandhi July 29, 2014 at 1:45 am

beautiful, inspiring and truly useful quotes for me and everyone

Bettina August 29, 2013 at 1:19 pm

Brilliant

Gerard July 30, 2012 at 2:36 pm

“There are many things to do – we must do some of them” – Knut Gjertsen

Michael Stephens December 15, 2011 at 5:25 am

“When you are peace with yourself, anyplace is home.” I found this on a poster of a kitten sleeping in a small potted flower.

Leave a Comment