“Our Dependence upon a Bounded and Wounded Earth”

“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 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.”
Sargent Shriver | Novosibirsk, USSR | April 4, 1975

Our Quote of the Week reminds us of the responsibility we all have in protecting the Earth. And by highlighting a need for a common effort, the quote underlines our connection to each other, as well.

In 1975, Sargent Shriver gave this address, Toward an International Ethic of Science, at a scientific conference in Novosibirsk, Russia. At the beginning of the speech, Shriver acknowledges the political tensions between the United States and the then-Soviet Union, and emphasizes that the two countries must go beyond the easing of tensions (“détente”) to a more peaceful and collaborative state of what he refers to “common existence":

“I believe that history calls us both to a destiny beyond détente, beyond peaceful coexistence, into a new era which might be best described as an era of ‘common existence.’ 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 – that the Soviet Union and the United States must change with the world we inhabit – and that this world will be neither habitable nor hospitable for ourselves or for others unless we invest less in rival endeavor and more in shared enterprise.”
The healing of our environment encompasses several issues that were central for Sargent Shriver, among them poverty, human rights, and ethics. If Shriver’s 1975 call to “fully recognize the extent of our dependence upon a bounded and wounded earth” was urgent in 1975, it is difficult to describe how pressing it has become in 2021. The importance of recognizing our connection to the Earth, and to each other, cannot be overstated. Climate change exacerbates other crises we’re dealing with, among them poverty, conflict, and COVID-19. 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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