Thomas Berry

“We might summarize our present human situation by the simple statement: that in the 20th century, the glory of the human has become the desolation of the Earth and now the desolation of the Earth is becoming the destiny of the human.

From here on, the primary judgment of all human institutions, professions, programs and activities will be determined by the extent to which they inhibit, ignore, or foster a mutually-enhancing human/Earth relationship.”

– Thomas Berry

Elements of a world ethic for living sustainably

Elements of a world ethic for living sustainably

Every human being is part of the community of life, made up of all living creatures. This community links all human societies, present and future generations, and humanity and the rest of nature. It embraces both cultural and natural diversity.

Every human being has the same fundamental and equal rights, including: the right to life, liberty and security of person; to the freedoms of thought, conscience, and religion; to enquiry and expression; to peaceful assembly and association; to participation in government; to education; and, within the limits of the Earth, to the resources needed for a decent standard of living. No individual, community or nation has the right to deprive another of its means of subsistence.

Each person and each society is entitled to respect of these rights; and is responsible for the protection of these rights for all others.

Every life form warrants respect indifferently of its worth to people. Human development should not threaten the integrity of nature or the survival of other species. People should treat all creatures decently, and protect them from cruelty, avoidable suffering, and unnecessary killing.

Everyone should take responsibility for his or her impacts on nature. People should conserve ecological processes and the diversity of nature, and use any resource frugally and efficiently, ensuring that their uses of renewable resources are sustainable.

Everyone should aim to share fairly the benefits and costs of resources use, among different communities and interest groups, among regions that are poor and those that are affluent, and between present and future generations. Each generation should leave to the future a world that is at least as diverse and productive as the one it inherited. Development of one society or generation should not limit the opportunities of other societies or generations.

The protection of human rights and those of the rest of nature is a worldwide responsibility that transcends all culture, ideological and geographical boundaries. The responsibility is both individual and collective.


– Extract from ‘Caring for the Earth – A strategy for Sustainable Living’ published by IUCN, UNEP and WWF in 1991.

Shakespeare – As You Like It

Act II, Scene 1

The Forest of Arden

Now, my co-mates and brothers in exile,
Hath not old custom made this life more sweet
Than that of painted pomp? Are not these woods
More free from peril than the envious court?
Here feel we not the penalty of Adam,
The seasons’ difference; as the icy fang
And churlish chiding of the winter’s wind,
Which when it bites and blows upon my body,
Even till I shrink with cold, I smile and say
‘This is no flattery; these are counsellors
That feelingly persuade me what I am.’
Sweet are the uses of adversity,
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;
And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything.
I would not change it.

To Make A Portrait Of A Bird

Paint first a cage
with the door open
next paint
something pretty
something simple
something lovely
something of use
to the bird
then put the canvas near a tree
in a garden
in the woods
or in a forest
hide behind the tree
say nothing
don’t move…
Sometimes the bird comes quickly
but it can just as well take many years
before deciding
Don’t be disheartened
wait years if need be
the pace of the bird’s arrival
bearing no relation
to the success of the painting
When the bird comes
if it comes
keep very still
wait for the bird to enter the cage
and once it has
gently shut the door with the brush
paint out the bars one by one
taking care not to touch any of the bird’s feathers
Next paint the tree’s portrait
choosing the loveliest of its branches
for the bird
paint likewise the green leaves and fresh breeze
the sun’s scintillation
and the clamor of crickets in the heat of summer
and then wait until the bird decides to sing
If the bird does not sing
that’s a bad sign
A sign the painting is no good
but if it sings that’s a good sign
a sign you can sign

– Jacques Prévert – Pour faire le portrait d’un oiseau – translation source

Environmental loss

”Far-reaching images, such as the Anthropocene and the Sixth Great Extinction are, help us register the true degree of the planet’s predicament and the real magnitude of the processes we have set in train which may bring about our ruin. They are of enormous value. They are talked about daily. Indeed, they are generating an academic industry on their own. But they do not necessarily convey the immediacy and astringent character of environmental loss, which in every case, somewhere along the line, involves hurt. If loss of nature becomes a sort of essay subject, we miss its immediacy; we may lose sight of its sadness and its nastiness, its sharp and bitter taste, the great wounding it really is.”

– Michael McCarthy’s – ‘The Moth Snowstorm’.