Apr 19

In Honor of Earth Day ...

04/19/2021 11:53AM


Our Quote of the Week reminds us that we are bound together on this planet of ours, and that protecting our fragile and finite resources has large-scale implications for all of us. As we mark Earth Day this week, let us remember that taking action to create a cleaner, healthier environment is important for all of us. And, as we continue to explore the ways in which our systems have exploited and harmed the poorest and most vulnerable populations on earth, let us remember that protecting the environment is also a question of climate justice.

During a lecture tour in the former Soviet Union in 1975, Sargent Shriver gave this speech about the ethics of science and technology. Using his typical combination of warmth and strength, Shriver asserted that to truly resolve the complex problems of the modern world, we have to move beyond the notion of "détente" (or easing of tensions between countries) to fully embrace a notion of common existence. He stressed:

"Common existence recognizes that even coexistence by itself is not enough – that even though there are proper areas of competition, there are inescapable and increasing imperatives of cooperation."

In this context, Sargent Shriver introduced the poetic metaphor of the earth as a spaceship, a self-contained environment that is hurtling through space, and in which we cannot ultimately be shielded from large-scale disasters, even if they may seem remote to us in the moment.

Shriver's urgent call for international collaboration, and his remarks about science and the environment, seem remarkably prescient today, particularly in his inclusion of what he referred to as “inadvertent weather modification from all sources,” or what we might refer to today as climate change.  Without a doubt, pollution, climate change, and other factors that destroy our environment are damaging for all of us. But we must also understand that the destruction of our environment disproportionately affects our low income communities and communities of color. For this reason, embracing the cause of environmentalism is a matter of self-preservation, but also of climate justice.

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