Developing an Environmental Consciousness --Together

“Much more is the form of international initiatives to forge an environmental consciousness and responsibility the world over...But together we can speak the same truth: after a process of economic development heedless of natural systems, ...there will be a small reward from an industrialization which makes the air itself an agent of death; no one will gain in the long run by subverting the natural systems which sustain the existence of us all.”
Sargent Shriver | Novosibirsk, USSR| April 4, 1975

Our Quote of the Week reminds us that our industries have developed in ways that undermine nature and that threaten our lives and our environment. It also highlights the fact that to change our reality, we must undertake a large-scale, collaborative international effort.

In 1975, Sargent Shriver delivered this speech to an audience of scientists and politicians in Novosibirsk, Russia. He stressed a need for international collaboration and spoke about science and the environment in ways that seem remarkably prescient today, particularly in his inclusion of what he referred to as “inadvertent weather modification from all sources,” or what we would refer to today as climate change. Among other things, these words from long ago underline the fact that we have known about the risks of human-induced climate change for a very long time.

The speech is one we return to often, and we invite you to (re)-read it today. It spells out in clear and eloquent ways what our challenges are and what’s at stake. For example:

“We must move in a common effort of many nations to reclaim the seas, to monitor regional and global pollution and inadvertent weather modification from all sources, to share information on the testing and dissemination of potentially dangerous new synthetics, to provide advance notice and discussion of experiments and activities which could have irreversible adverse effects, to develop our understanding of the ethical foundation of environmental choices, and to take other measures that fully recognize the extent of our dependence upon a bounded and wounded earth.”

“Together we will protect our planet – or separately, at first a relative few of us, then more, then millions, and finally generations will perish amid its pollution.”

The healing of our environment encompasses several issues that were central for Sargent Shriver, among them poverty, human rights, and international collaboration. As the planet continues to warm, we will face increasing food shortages, more severe weather events, dirtier air, higher mortality and extinction rates, rising sea levels, and increasing acid levels in our oceans. Climate change and pollution increasingly exacerbate other crises we’re dealing with, among them poverty, conflict, and disease outbreaks. Therefore, the health, safety, and well-being of communities around the world, particularly of those who are most vulnerable, rely on the collaboration and collective action on the part of those of us with more power and privilege.

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Peace requires the simple but powerful recognition that what we have in common as human beings is more important and crucial than what divides us.
Sargent Shriver
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