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Treat the earth well. It was not given to you by your parents. It was loaned to you by your children.Kenyan Proverb.
The scale of our technology and industry has given us the power to affect the basic functioning of the Earth in profound and perhaps irreversible ways. There is growing evidence that we may have already wrought such changes.
It has become obvious that we must give up the mistaken view of the Earth as an inexhaustible font of resources -- and an unlimited receptacle for the wastes we produce.
There are many different viewpoints about the causes, the scale, and the solutions to the environmental crisis. There seems to be, however, agreement that the crisis of the environment is a global one and can only be solved from a global perspective, recognizing first that the Earth is a single, interconnected, and finite system.
What is called for is a shift in consciousness -- the creation of new ways of viewing our relationship with the natural world. We must find ways of meeting the needs of the present without compromising the right of future generations to a healthy, inhabitable planet.
There are no easy solutions.
Soka Gakkai International
The frog does not drink up the pond in which he lives.Native American proverb
If not checked many of our current practices put at serious risk the future that we wish for human society and the plant and animal kingdoms, and may so alter the living world that it will be unable to sustain life in the manner that we know.Union of Concerned Scientists statement endorsed by 1,575 scientists from 69 different countries, 1992
Of course, in evolutionary terms, the human enterprise might well fail. If the past is anything to go on, this seems quite likely.Timothy C. Weiskel, "While Angels Weep... Doing Theology on a Small Planet", Harvard Divinity Bulletin, Fall. 1989, Vol. XIX, No. 3
Like a parasite that fails to realize its welfare would be enhanced by cooperating with rather than killing its host, humanity is overwhelming earth's life support systems.Karl May
By an increase in anger, warfare arises. By an increase of greed, famine arises. By an increase of stupidity, pestilence arises. Because these three calamities occur, the people's earthly desires grow all the more intense, and their false views thrive and multiply.Nichiren Daishonin
Many present efforts to guard and maintain progress, to meet human needs, and to realize human ambitions are simply unsustainable -- in both the rich and poor nations. They draw too heavily, too quickly, on already overdrawn environmental resource accounts to be affordable far into the future without bankrupting those accounts. They may show profits on the balance sheets of our generation, but our children will inherit the losses. We borrow environmental capital from future generations with no intention or prospect of repaying. They may damn us for our debt to them. We act as we do because we can get away with it: future generations do not vote; they have no political or financial power; they cannot challenge our decisions. But the results of the present profligacy are rapidly closing the options for future generations...The UN World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987 Stephen H. Schneider, Global Warming, p. 163.
These dangerous situations offer the opportunity for great changes -- changes, first of all, in perception -- a shift in consciousness.
What is your relationship to nature? How do you view your place in the cosmos?
We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive.Albert Einstein
Descartes' famous motto. Cogito, ergo sum, "I think, therefore I am," encourages Westerners to separate mind from body, nature, and other living beings. Western religious beliefs have incorporated the separateness of people and nature and the dominion of mankind over all other creatures. The Industrial Revolution furthered these mechanical views of the world and the egocentric views or humankind.
The theory of relativity, discoveries leading to quantum mechanics and the later discoveries of new physics are leading to a more holistic view of the universe. Beginning in the 1960s and 1970s, new information technology has helped to expand human consciousness. Images of the planet taken from outer space have now been seen by vast numbers of people. Some scientists even see earth as one living system -- Gaia -- an entity involving the biosphere, atmosphere, oceans and soil.
Many Western religions also teach that human beings and their environment are interdependent. Religious and spiritual leaders everywhere are calling for a new global consciousness and concern.
The challenge may be to create new global values.
Soka Gakkai International
It is through our technology that we have been able to fly far away from earth to learn, in truth, how precious it is. It is no coincidence that our awakening to the special nature of our world and to its uniquely balanced environment and its limitations coincided with our first glimpse of earth from outer space, through the eyes of astronauts, television cameras and photographic equipment.Dixy Lee Ray, Trashing the Planet, Harper, New York, 1940, p. 161.
Each age searches for its own model of nature. For classical science it was the clock; for nineteenth century science, the period of the Industrial Revolution, it was an engine running down. What will the symbol be for us?Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers, Order Out of Chaos: Man's New Dialogue with Nature, Bantam Books, New York, 1984, p. 22.
I maintain that cosmic religious feeling is the strongest and noblest incitement to scientific research.Albert Einstein
The development of physics in the twentieth century already has transformed the consciousness of those involved with it. The study (of modern physics) produces insights into the nature of reality very similar to those produced by the study of eastern philosophy.Gary Zukav, The Dancing Wu Li Masters, Bantam, New York, 1979, p. 313.
Quantum field theory creates an image of a universe criss-crossed by a network of interactions that weave the cosmos into a unity.Paul Davies and John Gribbin, The Matter Myth, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1992, p. 235.
Modern physics has... revealed that every sub-atomic particle not only performs an energy dance, but also is an energy dance; a pulsating process of creation and destruction.Fritoj Capra, The Tao of Physics, Shambhala, Boston, 1991, p. 244.
The more deeply I search for the roots of the global environmental crisis, the more I am convinced that it is an outer manifestation of an inner crisis that is, for lack of a better word, spiritual... what other word describes the collection of values and assumptions that determine our basic understanding of how we fit into the universe?Al Gore, Earth in the Balance, Plume, New York, 1993, p. 12.
It is called the Mystic Law because it explains the mutually inclusive relationship of life and all phenomena.... Life at each moment encompasses both body and spirit and both self and environment of all sentient beings in every condition of life, as well as insentient beings -- plants, sky and earth, on down to the most minute particles of dust. Life at each moment permeates the universe and is revealed in all phenomena.Nichiren Daishonin, "On Attaining Buddhahood", The Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Vol. 1, NSIC, Tokyo, 1979, p. 3.
As is the microcosm, so is the macrocosm,Ancient Indian Sages
As is the atom, so is the universe,
As is the human mind, so is the cosmic mind.
I do not see a delegationChief Oren Lyons
For the four-footed.
I see no seat for the eagles.
We forget and we consider
But we are after all
A mere part of Creation.
And we must consider
To understand where we are.
And we stand somewhere between
The mountain and the Ant
Somewhere and only there
As part and parcel
Of the Creation.
The earth I tread on is not a dead, inert mass. It is a body, has a spirit, is organic, and fluid to the influence of its spirit, and to whatever particle of that spirit is in me. She is not dead, but sleepeth.Henry David Thoreau
The profound unity of subjective existence and objective environment leads naturally to the idea that the life-force of one human being can affect other living beings and even the fundamental being of humankind as a whole. Furthermore, the minds of humankind fuse into one and exert a continuous influence, both physical and spiritual, on other living beings and on the whole of nature.Daisaku Ikeda, Life: An Enigma, a Precious Jewel, Kodansha, Tokyo, 1982, p. 44.
I believe that a religious conversion is the only way to stimulate the peoples of the industrialized nations to be willing to make sacrifices for the sake of esho funi (the oneness of self and environment). ... I wish the entire world would accept as an item of religious faith the concept of esho funi and its moral obligations.Arnold J. Toynbee
We can no longer rely on 19th-century models of analysis for 21st-century problems.... Humans are an integral part of the ecology of the planet. The only lasting environmental solutions are those that take into account the dynamics of human society as well as those of natural systems.Dan Botkin
All things in this creation exist within you and all things in you exist in creation; there is no border between you and the closest things, and there is no distance between you and the farthest things, and all things, from the lowest to the loftiest, from the smallest to the greatest, are within you as equal things.Kahlil Gibran
We, all of us, are being called to do something unprecedented. We are being called to think about "everything that is," for we now know that everything is interrelated and that the well-being of each is connected to the well-being of the whole. This suggests a "planetary agenda" for all the religions, all the various fields of expertise.Sallie McFague
The role of humankind is to use the cultural and social environment it has created to devise new global values.... Human relations with nature are intimately bound up in interpersonal relations and with the relation of the self and its inner life.Daisaku Ikeda, "A New Strategy for Environmental Protection", p. 2.
Ethics are complete, profound and alive only when addressed to all living beings. Only then are we in spiritual connection with the world. Any philosophy not respecting this, not based on the indefinite totality of life, is bound to disappear.Albert Schweitzer
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality -- tied to a single garment of destiny -- whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.Martin Luther King, Jr., "Letter From The Birmingham Jail", Atlantic Monthly, August 1963.
Take care of the land,Aboriginal law
And it will take care of you.
Take what you need from the land,
But need what you take.
Our world has enough for each person's need, but not for his greed.Mahatma Gandhi
The human race is challenged more than ever before to demonstrate our mastery -- not over nature but of ourselves.Rachel Carson
When we see land as a community to which we belong,Aldo Leopold A Sand County Almanac
we may see it with love and respect.
Perhaps such a shift of values can be achieved
by reappraising things unnatural, tame, and confined
in terms of things natural, wild, and free.
Mounting evidence concerning the role of humans in natural ecosystems indicates that the world ecosystem cannot long endure a wide-scale replication of the resource-depleting patterns of recent Western growth. Indeed, the science of ecology is suggesting that many of our religiously held beliefs -- like the belief in perpetual economic growth -- are in fact colossal illusions.Timothy C. Weiskel, "While Angels Weep... Doing Theology on a Small Planet", Harvard Divinity Bulletin, Fall. 1989, Vol. XIX, No. 3.
Humankind has no option but to protect and live in harmony with its natural environment. However, it would be regrettable if in putting an end to revolutionary extremism, we should then come to environmental extremism. We should not forget that all extremes are the same.Mikhail Gorbachev, "The Future of Humanity and the Philosophy of New Thinking", World Tribune, July 12, 1993, p. 5.
Think not forever of yourselves, O Chiefs, nor of your own generation. Think of continuing generations of our families, think of your grandchildren and those yet unborn, whose faces are coming from beneath the ground.Founders of the Iroquois Confederacy, c.1000 AD
Fundamentally, "sustainable development" is a notion of discipline. It means humanity must ensure that meeting present needs does not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their needs.Gro Harlem Brundtland, Prime Minister of Norway, "The Test of Our Civilization", New Perspectives Quarterly, 6, No. I (Spring 1989), p. 5 - 7.
And that means disciplining our current consumption.... A new cultural ethos is the main thing. That ethos, I believe, is intergenerational responsibility. If that ethos is not accepted almost as a religious belief, we cannot convince anyone that we must change the way we live.
If we cannot make people realize that living as we do will make it impossible for their grandchildren to live at all, they won't change. If people believe this is true, it is a premise that can reach both minds and hearts.
When considering a problem as large as the degradation of the global environment, it is easy to feel overwhelmed, utterly helpless.... But we must resist that response, because this crisis will be resolved only if individuals take some responsibility for it. By educating ourselves and others, by doing our part to minimize our use and waste of resources, by becoming more active politically and demanding change -- in these ways and many others, each one of us can make a difference.Al Gore, Earth in the Balance, Plume, New York, 1993, p. 366.
Perhaps most important, we each need to assess our own relationship to the natural world and renew, at the deepest level of personal integrity, a connection to it. And that can only happen if we renew what is authentic and true in every aspect of our lives.
We must be the change we wish to see in the world.Mahatma Gandhi
It has to begin with every individual.... We are responsible for our own space, however big our own space is. We have to keep peace within that area that we are responsible for.Audrey Shenandoah
I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.Edward Everett Hale
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
The ecological crisis is doing what no other crisis in history has ever done -- challenging us to a realization of a new humanity and a new way of dealing and working with our world.Jean Houston, Lifeforce, Delacorte Press. New York, 1980.
I just have something inside me that tells me there is a problem and I must do something about it, so I am doing something about it.Wangari Maathai
I'm starting with the man in the mirror."Man in the Mirror", Sieday Garrett and Glen Ballard
I'm asking him to change his ways.
And no message could have been any clearer.
If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, then make the change.
The great challenge of the '90s... is to salvage and improve the UN and to develop it into an agency capable of meeting the wide range of serious problems that are inherent in a world that has become a single geographic unit.Norman Cousins
People can only live fullyDaisaku Ikeda, "The Sun of Jiyu Over a New Land", SGI World Tribune, Feb. 1, 1993.
by helping others to live.
When you give life to friends
you truly live.
Cultures can only realize their further richness
by honoring other traditions.
And only by respecting natural life
can humanity continue to exist.
...there is no more honorable thing any of us can do with our lives than to work to put part of the world off-limits to the activities of human beings.Dave Foreman, in an interview with Derrick Jensen.
...in wildness is the preservation of the world.Henry David Thoreau, the essay "Walking"
Wayne L. Pendley
transcribed the SGI-USA exhibit's quotes and adapted the material to web hypertext navigation on 12 March 95. Over time, he added a few quotes and biographical tidbits that did not appear in the SGI-USA exhibit. Wayne also adapted the images on this page from originals provided by
Corel Professional Photos on CD-ROM.