When we are looking for words to inspire people, we often look to scholars, writers, politicians, and religious leaders for guidance. With the ever-present threat of climate change looming over our heads, we all need to find ways to galvanize ourselves and others towards making meaningful changes. These 20 environmental quotes from some of the world’s most influential voices are enough to make you think and perhaps even enough to encourage action.
"I believe our biggest issue is the same biggest issue the whole world is facing, and that's habitat destruction."
-Steve Irwin, animal activist, interview with Scientific American, 2001
“I’ve starred in a lot of science fiction movies and, let me tell you something, climate change is not science fiction. This is a battle in the real world, it is impacting us right now.”
-Arnold Schwarzenegger, actor and former governor of California, speaking at the world’s first summit of conscience for the climate, 2015
“By polluting the oceans, not mitigating CO2 emissions and destroying our biodiversity, we are killing our planet. Let us face it, there is no planet B.”
-Emmanuel Macron, president of France, speaking directly to Republican and Democratic lawmakers, 2018
“Fortunately, nature is amazingly resilient: places we have destroyed, given time and help, can once again support life, and endangered species can be given a second chance. And there is a growing number of people, especially young people, who are aware of these problems and are fighting for the survival of our only home, Planet Earth. We must all join that fight before it is too late.”
-Dr. Jane Goodall, primatologist, speaking about the threats to biodiversity following a U.N. Report, 2019
“We are the first generation to feel the sting of climate change, and we are the last generation that can do something about it.”
-Jay Inslee, governor of Washington, speaking at the Democratic National Convention, 2020
“Adults keep saying we owe it to the young people, to give them hope, but I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if the house is on fire, because it is.”
-Greta Thunberg, environmental activist, speaking at the World Economic Forum, 2019
“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.”
-Albert Einstein, scientist, paraphrased, mid-20th century
"Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed."
-Mahatma Gandhi, political activist
"We learned that economic growth and environmental protection can and should go hand in hand."
-Christopher Dodd, former U.S. senator from Connecticut
“The Earth will not continue to offer its harvest, except with faithful stewardship. We cannot say we love the land and then take steps to destroy it for use by future generations.”
-Pope John Paul II, homily, 1987
“I’m often asked whether I believe in global warming. I now just reply with the question: Do you believe in gravity?”
-Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist, Twitter post, 2012
“Saving our planet, lifting people out of poverty, advancing economic growth… these are one and the same fight. We must connect the dots between climate change, water scarcity, energy shortages, global health, food security and women’s empowerment. Solutions to one problem must be solutions for all.”
-Ban Ki-moon, South Korean president, address to the 66th General Assembly, 2011
“When the last tree is cut and the last fish killed, the last river poisoned, then you will see that you can’t eat money."
-John May, writer, excerpt from The Greenpeace Story, 1989
“I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.”
-Dr. Seuss, writer, excerpt from The Lorax, 1971
“What’s the use of a fine house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on.”
-Henry David Thoreau, writer
“Optimism is a good characteristic, but if carried to an excess, it becomes foolishness. We are prone to speak of the resources of this country as inexhaustible; this is not so.”
-Theodore Roosevelt, former U.S. president, seventh annual message to Congress, 1907
"In our hands now lies not only our own future but that of all other living creatures with whom we share the earth."
-Sir David Attenborough, naturalist and documentarian
"We’re in a giant car heading towards a brick wall and everyone is arguing over where they’re going to sit."
-David Suzuki, environmental activist
"The earth does not belong to us: We belong to the earth."
-Chief Seattle, Suquamish and Duwamish tribal leader
"Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world."
-Archbishop Desmond Tutu, South African human rights activist and religious leader