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Sustainability Quotes - Inspirational Environmental Quotes for Creating a Sustainable World

Ingredients for Success

The question is...whether we shall, by whatever means, succeed in reconstituting the natural world as the true terrain of politics, rehabilitating the personal experience of human beings as the initial measure of things, placing morality above politics and responsibility above our desires, in making human community meaningful, in returning content to human speech, in reconstituting, as the focus of all social action, the autonomous, integral, and dignified human "I,"...  Vaclav Havel, Open Letters

First: Self-Transformation

There's only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that's your own self.  So you have to begin there, not outside, not on other people.  That comes afterward, when you've worked on your own corner.  Aldous Huxley, Time Must Have a Stop

You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself.  Nelson Mandela

I change myself, I change the world.  Gloria Anzuldua, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza

If we take a survey of the greatest actions…in the world…we shall find the authors of them all to have been persons whose Brains had been shaken out of their natural position. John Adams

Perfecting Our Hearts

If you have love you will do all things well.  Thomas Merton

When the heart is flooded with love there is no room in it for fear, for doubt, for hesitation.  Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea

With a stout heart, a mouse can lift an elephant.  Tibetan proverb, A World Treasury of Folk Wisdom

Centering Ourselves

Someone who does not draw strength from himself and who is incapable of finding the meaning of his life within himself the map to his own orientation somewhere outside himself--in some ideology, organization, or society, and then, however active he may appear to be, he is merely waiting, depending.  He waits to see what others will do, or what roles they will assign to him, and he depends on them--and if they don't do anything or if they botch things, he succumbs to disillusion, despair, and ultimately, resignation.  Vaclav Havel, Open Letters

We must always base our commitment in the center of our own being, or else no commitment will be ultimately authentic.  Rollo May, The Courage to Create

Finding the center of strength within ourselves is in the long run the best contribution we can make to our fellow men.  Rollo May, Man's Search for Himself

Finding Our Own Truth

Let us settle ourselves, and work and wedge our feet downward through the mud and slush of opinion, and prejudice, and tradition, and delusion, and appearance, that alluvion which covers the globe…till we come to a hard bottom and rocks in place, which we can call reality, and say, This is...  Henry David Thoreau, Walden

If we live truly, we shall see truly.  Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Self-Reliance", Essays: First Series

It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.  Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Relying on Ourselves

Past the seeker as he prayed came the crippled and the beggar and the beaten. And seeing them...he cried, "Great God, how is it that a loving creator can see such things and yet do nothing about them?"...God said, "I did do something. I made you."  Sufi Teaching

[We] are the makers of our own state and…individuals who realize the fact need not, ought not, to wait for collective action.  Mahatma Gandhi, The Essential Gandhi

Don't wait for anyone to deputize you or authorize you or empower you.  You have to just start out with yourself...and put one foot in front of the other.  Hazel Henderson, Visionaries by Utne Reader

Believing in Ourselves

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us.  Ralph Waldo Emerson

It's not too late at all.  You just don't yet know what you are capable of.  Mahatma Gandhi

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.  Marianne Williamson

Finding the Right State of Mind

Many of us worry about the situation of the world . . . We need to remain calm, to see clearly.  Meditation is a means to be aware, and to try to help.  Thich Nhat Hanh, Visionaries by Utne Reader

That fire of clear mind is in everyone, and to remove any obscuration of its clarity is the duty of all people in this time, that each one may remember and find our way again to the source of our being.  Dhyani Ywahoo

He who cannot change the very fabric of his thought will never be able to change reality.  Anwar Sadat

Finding the Right Speech

Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing in the tempting place.  Benjamin Franklin 

Before the tongue can speak, it must have lost the power to wound.  Peace Pilgrim, Peace Pilgrim

Whoever wants his judgment to be believed, should express it coolly and dispassionately; for all vehemence springs from the will.  And so the judgment might be attributed to the will and not to knowledge, which by its nature is cold.  Arthur Schopenhauer

When I'm getting ready to reason with a man, I spend one-third of my time thinking about myself and what I am going to say--and two-thirds thinking about him and what he is going to say.  Abraham Lincoln

Finding the Right Action

There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root…  Henry David Thoreau, Walden

I am in favor of [actions] that have authenticity, roots, originality, verve, balance, taste, communicativeness, challenge, relevance to their time--in short, things that make sense.  Vaclav Havel, Open Letters

Through our reactions we create delusions.  Without reactions the world becomes clear.  Buddha

Do you have the patience to wait    
till your mud settles and the water is clear?    
Can you remain unmoving    
till the right action arises by itself?  Lao-Tzu

Making "Little" Efforts

It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped.  Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope; and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.  Robert F. Kennedy, Make Gentle the Life of This World, The Vision of Robert F. Kennedy

I avoid grandiose plans.  I start with a small piece that I can do.  I go to the root of the problem and then work around it.  It's building brick by brick.  Muhammad Yunus, Visionaries by Utne Reader

All big things are made up of trifles.  My entire life has been built on trifles.  Mahatma Gandhi, The Essential Gandhi

Sometimes when I consider what tremendous consequences come from little things…I am tempted to think…there are no little things.  Bruce Barton

Committing Fully

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, the providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.  W. H. Murray, The Scottish Himalayan Expedition

Concentration is inspiration.  You must be completely overtaken by your work and your subject.  Only then do all your influences and experience come up to the surface.  Cesar Chavez

We are not lacking in the dynamic forces needed to create the future.  We live immersed in a sea of energy beyond all comprehension.  Thomas Berry, The Great Work

Staying Detached

We must be fully committed, but we must also be aware at the same time that we might possibly be wrong.  People who claim to be absolutely convinced that their stand is the only right a dead giveaway of unconscious doubt.  Commitment is healthiest when it is not without doubt, but in spite of doubt.  Rollo May, The Courage to Create

You must stick to your conviction, but be ready to abandon your assumptions.  Denis Waitley

Not only has one to do one's best, one must, while doing one's best, remain detached from whatever one is trying to achieve.  Janwillem Van De Wetering

Keep your hands open, and all the sands of the desert can pass through them.  Close them, and all you can feel is a bit of grit.  Taisen Deshimaru


None of us can predict when the causes we support will capture the public imagination, and our once-lonely quests become popular crusades.  Paul Rogat Loeb, Soul of a Citizen

Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.  Calvin Coolidge

Every good movement passes through five stages, indifference, ridicule, abuse, repression, and respect.  Mahatma Gandhi, All Men are Brothers, Autobiographical Reflections

[When you get into a] tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.  Harriet Beecher Stowe

If the single man plant himself indomitably on his instincts, and there abide, the huge world will come round to him.  Ralph Waldo Emerson

Building Courage

Courage and perseverance have a magical talisman, before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish into air.  John Quincy Adams

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.  Eleanor Roosevelt

Because of deep love, one is courageous.  Lao-tzu

I want us all to face our fears and stop behaving like our goal in life is to merely survive.  "Surviving" is for wimps and game show contestants stranded in the jungle or on a desert island.  You are not stranded.  You own the store....You deserve better.  Michael Moore, Stupid White Men

As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.  Nelson Mandela

Holding on to Hope

Oh! Much may be done by defying   
The ghosts of Despair and Dismay;  
And much more may be gained by relying   
On "Where there's a will there's a way."  Eliza Cook

Honest hope has an edge.  It's messy.  It requires that we let go of all pat answers, all preconceived formulas, all confidence that our sailing will be smooth.  It's not a resting point.  Honest hope is movement.  Frances Moore Lappe and Anna Lappe, Hope's Edge

But we have only begun to love the earth.
We have only begun to imagine the fullness of life.
How could we tire of hope?--so much is in bud.  Denise Levertov, "Candles in Babylon"

Those who are animated by hope can perform what would seem impossibilities to those who are under the depressing influence of fear.  Maria Edgeworth

Believing in a Brighter Future

What the caterpillar calls the end of the world the master calls a butterfly.  Richard Bach

I find a powerful spur to faith in considering man's existence as an evolutional day of twelve hours.  It startles me--the vivid realization that Babylon and Egypt began to do mighty works but half an hour ago and that the world, for the most part, has been somewhat civilized for only a few minutes.  Modern science entered during the last minute ticked off by the cosmic timepiece.  Such a fancy makes possible a truer picture of man, still pathetically young, simple, stammering, bewildered by the swift accumulation of spiritual and mechanical forces he has not yet learned to control.  Helen Keller, Let Us Have Faith

Right now over 70 percent of the world population is convinced that something serious has to be done about the dangers facing the planet. ...Most of humanity wants to know how to make the change.  It's one of those tipping-point times where things can change unbelievably fast... Paul H. Ray and Sherry Ruth Anderson, The Cultural Creatives


Instruments for Change

The breakage and agony rending us today will be our salvation if they drive us by new routes to meet it. . . . As of old we must be our own seers, musicians and explorers, and to an extent vaster than ever before.  This is the purpose to which we are being summoned to harness our world-body!...Heroic responses in ideals and in conduct are a choice of regal dignity in the presence of a new earth and Heaven.  Helen Keller, Let Us Have Faith

Providing a Strong Vision

If we cannot envision the world we would like to live in, we cannot work towards its creation.  If we cannot place ourselves in it in our imagination, we will not believe it is possible.  Chellis Glendinning, author of My Name is Chellis and I'm in Recovery from Western Civilization

When people can see a vision and simultaneously recognize what can be done step by step in a concrete way to achieve it, they will begin to feel encouragement and enthusiasm instead of fright.  Erich Fromm, To Have or To Be?

The arrival of the new millennium provides an ideal opportunity to implement a positive vision for the future - one which draws together the peoples and nations of the world behind a common goal.  Restoring the Earth Project

Working Through Love

Where there is great love there are always miracles.  Willa Cather

There is no difficulty that enough love will not conquer…It makes no difference how deeply seated may be the trouble; how hopeless the outlook; how muddled the tangle; how great the mistake.  A sufficient realization of love will dissolve it all.  Emmet Fox, The Sermon on the Mount

The conclusion is always the same: Love is the most powerful and still the most unknown energy of the world.  Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Speaking Only Truth

[All] truthful movements spontaneously attract to themselves all manner of pure and disinterested help.  Mahatma Gandhi, >The Essential Gandhi

Reformers who are always compromising, have not yet grasped the idea that truth is the only safe ground to stand upon.  Elizabeth Cady Stanton

No face which we can give to a matter will stead us so well at last as the truth. …Say what you have to say, not what you ought.  Any truth is better than make-believe.  Henry David Thoreau, Walden

On the other end of the spectrum there is waiting of another kind: that is, patience.  For us this waiting was based on the knowledge that it made sense on principle to resist by speaking the truth simply because it was the right thing to do...that repeating this defiant truth made sense in itself, regardless of whether it was ever appreciated, or victorious, or repressed for the hundredth time.  At the very least, it meant that someone was not supporting the government of lies.  It also, of course, grew out of faith--but this is of secondary importance--that a seed once sown would one day take root and send forth a shoot.  Vaclav Havel, >The Art of the Impossible

Lighting the Darkness

We are not here to curse the darkness, but to light the candle that can guide us through that darkness to a safe and sane future.  John F. Kennedy

You have much more power when you are working for the right thing than when you are working against the wrong thing.  And, of course, if the right thing is established wrong things will fade away of their own accord.  Peace Pilgrim, Peace Pilgrim

There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.  Edith Wharton

Salvation lies in an energetic march onward towards a brighter and clearer future.  Emma Goldman

Looking to Nature for Guidance

We can learn whatever we need in nature because we are part of nature.  Human beings are part of Creation.  We live by the same laws as all of nature.  Anne Wilson Schaef

Learn from the birds what food the thickets yield;
Learn from the beasts the physic of the field;
The arts of building from the bee receive;
Learn of the mole to plow, the worm to weave.  Alexander Pope

Whenever I have found myself stuck in the ways I relate to things, I return to nature. It is my principal teacher, and I try to open my whole being to what it has to say.  Wynn Bullock 

Trust one who has tried it, you will find more in woods than in books; trees and stones will teach you what you can never learn from masters.  Saint Bernard de Clairvaux

One should pay attention to even the smallest crawling creature for these too may have a valuable lesson to teach us.  Black Elk

Look!  Look!  Look deep into nature and you will understand everything.  Albert Einstein

Offering Attractive Virtues

Unless the reformer can invent something which substitutes attractive virtues for attractive vices, he will fail.  Walter Lippmann, A Preface to Politics

[Pleasure is what suggested] which behaviors, emotions, social patterns and patterns of taste served us well during our evolutionary history.  They were experienced as pleasures and encoded into our formative genetic codes . . . deep in the past, from about 100,000 years ago and beyond.  Lionel Tiger

Lasting change happens when people see for themselves that a different way of life is more fulfilling than their present one.  Eknath Easwaran, >The Compassionate Universe

The prophets preach . . . that pleasure, not will-power and coercion, is how you most deeply transform people.  Matthew Fox

Molding Public Opinion

Opinion is the great, indeed the only coordinating force in our system.  Woodrow Wilson

Opinions are formed in a process of open discussion and public debate, and where no opportunity for the forming of opinions exists, there may be moods…but no opinion.   Hannah Arendt

Those who wish to change the world for the better should not begin by vilifying the public they seek to persuade, or by confronting it with a task that appears impossible.  Theodore Roszak, >Ecopsychology: Restoring the Earth, Healing the Mind

You can't move so fast that you try to change the mores faster than people can accept it.  That doesn't mean you do nothing, but it means that you do the things that need to be done according to priority.  Eleanor Roosevelt, On My Own

Educating the Public

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.  Nelson Mandela

Give me knowledge, so I may have kindness for all.  Native American (Plains) Proverb

In the end, we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.  Baba Dioum

Do not try to...[teach] a great many things.  Awaken people's curiosity.  It is enough to open minds; do not overload them.  Put there just a spark.  If there is some good inflammable stuff, it will surely set fire.  Anatole France

Educating Through Experience

The only source of knowledge is experience.  Albert Einstein

Experience isn't the best teacher, it's the only teacher.  Jeremy Wolff

Tell me, I'll forget.  Show me, I may remember.  But involve me and I'll understand.  Chinese Proverb

Helping people to experience themselves as living bodies on a living earth . . . is necessary in achieving any solution to the problems we all face . . . Only with the bodily experience of power and compassion will people have the courage and the desire and the ability to undertake what must be done to heal the planet.  Paul Linden

Waking the Public to Our State of Crisis

Man is not imprisoned by habit. Great changes in him can be wrought by crisis -- once that crisis can be recognized and understood.  Norman Cousins

In times of danger large groups rise to the highest pitch of enthusiasm, courage and sacrifice . . . Mankind will be refashioned and history rewritten when this law is understood and obeyed.  Helen Keller, Let Us Have Faith

The power of an aroused public is unbeatable.  Dr. Helen Caldicott

When written in Chinese the word crisis is composed of two characters.  One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.  John F. Kennedy, 1959 Speech

Teaching by Doing

Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others; it is the only means.  Albert Einstein 

What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.  Ralph Waldo Emerson

A woman once came to Mahatma Gandhi with her little boy.  She asked, "Mahatma-ji, tell my little boy to stop eating sugar."       
"Come back in three days," said Gandhi.    
In three days the woman and the little boy returned and Mahatma Gandhi said to the little boy, "Stop eating sugar."    
The woman asked, "Why was it necessary for us to return only after three days for you to tell my little boy that?"    
The Mahatma replied: "Three days ago I had not stopped eating sugar."

A message prepared in the mind reaches a mind; a message prepared in a life reaches a life.  Bill Gothard

Sharing Our Ideas

Let me exhort everyone to do their utmost to think outside and beyond our present circle of ideas.  For every idea gained is a hundred years of slavery remitted.  Richard Jefferies

Talk and write in a way that encourages the mutual exchange of ideas and acts like a midwife to people birthing their own ideas.  Grace Lee Boggs

Man's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.  Oliver Wendell Holmes

Creativity can solve almost any problem. The creative act, the defeat of habit by originality, overcomes everything.  George Lois

Expression Through Words

It is sufficient that people should understand that what is enunciated to them as public opinion, and maintained by such complex, energetic, and artificial means, is not public opinion, but only the lifeless outcome of what was once public opinion; and, what is more important, it is sufficient that they should have faith in themselves, that they should believe that what they are conscious of in the depths of their souls, what in every one is pressing for expression, and is only not expressed because it contradicts the public opinion supposed to exist, is the power which transforms the world, and to express which is the mission of mankind...  Leo Tolstoy

Accept your genius and say what you think.  Ralph Waldo Emerson

The effect of any writing on the public mind is mathematically measurable by its depth of thought…If it awaken you to think, if it lift you from your feet with a great voice of eloquence, then the effect is to be wide, slow, permanent, over the minds of men; if the pages instruct you not, they will die like flies in the hour.  The way to speak and write what shall not go out of fashion is, to speak and write sincerely.  The argument which has not power to reach my own practice, I may well doubt, will fail to reach yours.  But take Sidney's maxim:--"Look in thy heart, and write."  He that writes to himself writes to an eternal public.  Ralph Waldo Emerson

Expression Through Art

Artistic originality is a culture's vital wellspring of renewal.  Lit from within by a unique and transforming vision, deeply original new music, poetry, theater, film and visual art reimagine life from the inside out.  New forms and new expression offer new ways of understanding our world and ourselves, of envisioning a future.  Steven Winn

All art speaks in signs and symbols.  No one can explain how it happens that the artist can waken to life in us the existence that he has seen and lives through.  No artistic speech is the adequate expression of what it represents; its vital force comes from what is unspoken in it.  Albert Schweitzer, Reverence for Life

Where words fail, music speaks.  Hans Andersen

[The artist] is like a pump; he has inside him a great pipe that reaches down into the entrails of things, the deepest layers.  He sucks up what was lying there below, dim and unnoticed, and brings it in great jets to the sunlight.  Gustave Flaubert

The artist…is the voice of the people.  Alice Walker, Voices of the Dream

Dance is the hidden language of the soul, of the body.  Martha Graham

Nearly everybody is looking for something brave to do.  I don't know why people shouldn't write poetry.  That's brave.  Robert Frost

I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn't photograph them.  Diane Arbus

Telling Stories

As Joanna Macy reminds us, "Information by itself can increase resistance [to engagement], deepening the sense of apathy and powerlessness."  Stories about particular individuals and specific situations usually have the opposite effect.  By giving unwieldy problems a human face, they also bring them down to a human--and thus manageable--scale.  Paul Rogat Loeb, Soul of a Citizen

Toward the end of Crow and Weasel, Barry Lopez's luminous fable of a quest to an unknown land, a wise old female Badger explains that telling true stories of where you've been and what you've seen is how people care for each other.  "Sometimes," Badger says, "a person needs a story more than food to stay alive."  We think we are in a time like that now, as we face the tipping point where one civilization is ending and the new one is not yet in sight.  Paul H. Ray and Sherry Ruth Anderson, The Cultural Creatives

The one who tells the stories rules the world.  Native American (Hopi) Proverb

Using Butterfly Power

Chaos Theory's "butterfly effect" states that a butterfly flapping it's wings in Asia may cause a hurricane halfway around the world.

[Chaos theory] says that complex and chaotic systems -- which means most of the systems we encounter in nature and in society -- cannot accurately be predicted or exclusively controlled.  Neither can rigid systems be easily budged.  However, there's a loophole.  What if we acted through the myriad tiny feedback loops that hold a society together?  Chaos tells us that each one of us has an unrecognized but enormous influence on these loops.  Chaos suggests that although we may not have power of the controller in the traditional sense, we all possess the "butterfly power" of subtle influence.  John Briggs and F. David Peat, Seven Life Lessons of Chaos

For it matters not how small the beginning may seem to be: what is once well done is done forever.  Henry David Thoreau

Individuals [find] ways to engage in authentic individual creativity - "living in truth" - opening ourselves up to uncertainty, discovering the edge between our individuality and the universal, and acting from that discovery.  In our authentic realization of the truth of the moment lies our ability to deeply, if humbly, influence even the rigid systems built on automatism and empty phrases.  John Briggs and F. David Peat, Seven Life Lessons of Chaos

None of us knows what he accomplishes and what he gives to humanity.  That is hidden from us, and should remain so.  Sometimes we are allowed to see just a little of it, so we will not be discouraged.  The effects of energy are mysterious in all realms.  Albert Schweitzer, The Teaching of Reverence for Life

Restoring the Earth

The very process of the restoring the land to health is the process through which we become attuned to Nature and, through Nature, with ourselves.  Chris Maser, Forest Primeval

Adopting the bold stance involved in restoration work can catalyze a different kind of transformation.  By becoming active partners in regenerating the health of their localities--and, in a less dramatic way, of the Earth as a whole--people start to reverse the soul-numbing patterns of exploiting and abusing the source of so many life-sustaining gifts.  They also begin to release the often-repressed, but nonetheless crippling, emotions--guilt and shame, grief and despair, loneliness and powerlessness--associated with going along with the relentless machinery of corporate consumer culture.  Elan Shapiro

I know of no restorative of heart, body, and soul more effective against hopelessness than the restoration of the Earth.  Barry Lopez, Helping Nature Heal

There can be no purpose more enspiriting than to begin the age of restoration, reweaving the wondrous diversity of life that still surrounds us.  Edward O. Wilson, The Diversity of Life