Sargent Shriver on the Environment: “The most visible transnational issue”

"[T]he most visible transnational issue is probably environmental pollution. No nation can save itself from the effects of environmental damage, only a concerted effort by all can secure clean air and water for each.”
Sargent Shriver | South Bend, IN | March 21, 1974

Our Quote of the Week reminds us of the importance of environmental protections. We remember Sargent Shriver’s stance on this issue as we witness contemporary challenges to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) so-called “good neighbor” rule, which is meant to protect states from environmental damage caused by neighboring states.

In 1974, Sargent Shriver gave a keynote address about civil and human rights at the University of Notre Dame. Long-time subscribers to the Quote of the Week will remember that this is a speech we cite often. It is the first of two powerful lectures Shriver gave at the University Notre Dame at the time; you can see videos of both, here and here.

In this speech, Shriver weaves together human rights and civil rights, and stresses the importance of exercising justice and spirituality when tackling social issues. He emphasizes the fact that respect for human rights must be universal and must be preserved both within our public institutions and in our private lives. It is in this context that he raises environmental pollution as “the most visible transnational issue.”

Today, it seems poignant to remember Sargent Shriver’s framing of the environment in this way, as three US states, Ohio, Indiana, and West Virginia, have joined some energy companies in an attempt to block an EPA regulation whose goal is to reduce ozone emissions and air pollution across state lines. Such actions place short-term economic gain over the rights of human beings. They ignore the threats to human health and safety that Sargent Shriver speaks of, and directly contradict the spirit of interjurisdictional cooperation that he urges.

As we remember Sargent Shriver’s words, let us pledge to work towards a society in which the right of all people to live in a clean and healthy environment governs above all else.

Like this quote? Read the speech and subscribe to receive our Quote of the Week by email.

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
Get the Quote of the Week in Your Inbox