Guest Author, Ron Boyd, UU Congregation of Greater Canton

This sermon was given by Ron Boyd on Green Sanctuary Sunday, plus quotes that he handed out to congregational members to read when he called out the numbers of the quotes.

(1) Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, and then names the streets after them.  ~Bill Vaughn

(2) We say we love flowers, yet we pluck them.  We say we love trees, yet we cut them down.  And people still wonder why some are afraid when told they are loved.  ~Author Unknown

(3) The packaging for a microwavable “microwave” dinner is programmed for a shelf life of maybe six months, a cook time of two minutes and a landfill dead-time of centuries.  ~David Wann, Buzzworm, November 1990

When you sit down to eat your meals, do you ever consider the cycle of where it comes from, how it gets to you, and where it and its packaging goes to once you are done with it? Does it not seem extremely wasteful to dispense of billions of containers into landfills simply for the convenience of a meal that lasts only a matter of minutes. How many of you have actually ever visited a landfill to see where the countless tons of consumer waste end up? How did this experience affect you? Is it not troubling to consider the seemingly ever-increasing and irreversible nature of such wasteful activities, and the potential harm to current and future generations?

(4) Dig a trench through a landfill and you will see layers of phone books like geographical strata or layers of cake…. During a recent landfill dig in Phoenix, I found newspapers dating from 1952 that looked so fresh you might read one over breakfast.  ~William Rathje, The Economist, 8 September 1990

(5) U.S. consumers and industry dispose of enough aluminum to rebuild the commercial air fleet every three months; enough iron and steel to continuously supply all automakers; enough glass to fill New York’s World Trade Center every two weeks.  ~Environmental Defense Fund advertisement, Christian Science Monitor, 1990

(6) Our modern industrial economy takes a mountain covered with trees, lakes, running streams and transforms it into a mountain of junk, garbage, slime pits, and debris.  ~Edward Abbey

In our modern society, it is truly difficult to consciously grasp the full impact our lifestyles have upon the environment. As long as we continue the façade of living decent moral lives in our own social circles, we can all too easily avoid assuming any measure of personal responsibility for the global environmental degradation that is now taking place.

It is likely though, that we each try to do a small part through such various activities, as recycling, buying locally grown produce, mulching, using energy efficient bulbs, and so on.

However, all too often, advocating a position of living simpler lives and consuming less, and living more environmentally responsible lives, is likely to produce a reaction of people crossing their arms, rolling their eyes, and calling you Un-American.

(7) You go into a community and they will vote 80 percent to 20 percent in favor of a tougher Clean Air Act, but if you ask them to devote 20 minutes a year to having their car emissions inspected, they will vote 80 to 20 against it.  We are a long way in this country from taking individual responsibility for the environmental problem.  ~William D. Ruckelshaus, former EPA administrator, New York Times, 30 November 1988

Likely, we also recognize that we are part of a much larger system, and may feel limited in our ability to bring about change. In terms of forming public policy, we rarely have any more say than voting in elections.

We can try making informed decisions about the politicians we elect, but may also be frustrated by the lack of viable candidates truly committed to bringing about the changes needed to bring about effective results.

Since, by and large, they remain beholden to the corporate interests who largely fund their campaigns, taking a course of action inconsistent with those interests is essentially political suicide and hence unlikely to occur.

(8) It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment.  ~Ansel Adams

(9) As we watch the sun go down, evening after evening, through the smog across the poisoned waters of our native earth, we must ask ourselves seriously whether we really wish some future universal historian on another planet to say about us:  “With all their genius and with all their skill, they ran out of foresight and air and food and water and ideas,” or, “They went on playing politics until their world collapsed around them.”  ~U Thant, speech, 1970

Corporations, driven primarily by a motivation of profit, go to great lengths to convince us that our lives are meaningless without the incessant pursuit of ever more things.

Through the relentless corporate propaganda dispensed 24/7 via the radio, television, and internet we are taught to measure a person’s worth based upon how much one can accumulate or acquire in one’s lifetime.

(10) When a man throws an empty cigarette package from an automobile, he is liable to a fine of $50.  When a man throws a billboard across a view, he is richly rewarded.  ~Pat Brown, quoted in David Ogilvy, Ogilvy on Advertising, 1985

(11) In its broadest ecological context, economic development is the development of more intensive ways of exploiting the natural environment.  ~Richard Wilkinson

(12) Our children may save us if they are taught to care properly for the planet; but if not, it may be back to the Ice Age or the caves from where we first emerged.  Then we’ll have to view the universe above from a cold, dark place.  No more jet skis, nuclear weapons, plastic crap, broken pay phones, drugs, cars, waffle irons, or television.  Come to think of it, that might not be a bad idea.  ~Jimmy Buffet, Mother Earth News, March-April 1990

(13) Soon silence will have passed into legend.  Man has turned his back on silence.  Day after day he invents machines and devices that increase noise and distract humanity from the essence of life, contemplation, meditation… tooting, howling, screeching, booming, crashing, whistling, grinding, and trilling bolster his ego.  His anxiety subsides.  His inhuman void spreads monstrously like a gray vegetation.  ~Jean Arp\

(14) “There is no quiet place in the white man’s cities. No place to hear the unfurling of leaves in spring, or the rustle of an insect’s wings. But perhaps it is because I am a savage and do not understand. The clatter only seems to insult the ears.” ~ Chief Seattle

(15) We have always had reluctance to see a tract of land which is empty of men as anything but a void.  The “waste howling wilderness” of Deuteronomy is typical.  The Oxford Dictionary defines wilderness as wild or uncultivated land which is occupied “only” by wild animals.  Places not used by us are “wastes.”  Areas not occupied by us are “desolate.”  Could the desolation be in the soul of man?  ~John A. Livingston, in Borden Spears, ed., Wilderness Canada, 1970

The locus of a person’s worth has been falsely portrayed as being measured by the external things one possesses, rather than their depth of character and depth of being.

How else can we explain the exorbitant sums of money awarded to those who ruthlessly swindle and exploit countless numbers of people around the world primarily for the sake of outrageous profit margins and virtually unchecked power?

Since an individual’s inherent worth and dignity is not recognized, and since people are seen as a means to an end and not as ends in themselves, then we have an insight to the inherent madness driving this system.

(16) The old Lakota was wise.  He knew that man’s heart away from nature becomes hard; he knew that lack of respect for growing, living things soon led to lack of respect for humans too.  ~Chief Luther Standing Bear

(17) Till now man has been up against Nature; from now on he will be up against his own nature.  ~Dennis Gabor, Inventing the Future, 1964

(18) The struggle to save the global environment is in one way much more difficult than the struggle to vanquish Hitler, for this time the war is with ourselves.  We are the enemy, just as we have only ourselves as allies.  ~Al Gore

Our intellects have on one hand produced great technological marvels. Our capacity for abstract thought is unrivaled within the animal kingdom, and in terms of evolutionary competitiveness we seem to be the clear victor. Our cold, calculating abstractions though, can also be one of our greatest weaknesses.

If we are too distantly disconnected from our hearts, our source of love and compassion, we cease to value the interconnected web of life that in reality is our source of life, our mother from which we have come forth.

(19) A human being is part of the whole, called by us “Universe,” a part limited in time and space.  He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.  This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us.  Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole [of] nature in its beauty.  ~Albert Einstein, 1950

(20) You must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of your grandfathers.  So that they will respect the land, tell your children that the earth is rich with the lives of our kin.  Teach your children what we have taught our children, that the earth is our mother.  Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth.  If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves.  ~Native American Wisdom

With freedom, comes great responsibility. Much of our culture seems to have forgotten this. For many today, freedom seems to mean the right to be as self-centered as one wishes, that there is no obligation or responsibility to care for, not just other human beings, but also the environment upon which we depend.

Somewhere along the way, we have lost a great sense of community. There are forces that have sought to pit us one against the other, to divide us and weaken us. It seems we have lost our sense of what is sacred, holy, and divine.

Nature is sacred, holy, and divine. People are sacred, holy, and divine. By failing to see this, we act accordingly, we act deplorably.

The real truth is that we are truly united “in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. . . This is the inter-related structure of reality.”

(21) Our environmental problems originate in the hubris of imagining ourselves as the central nervous system or the brain of nature.  We’re not the brain, we are a cancer on nature.  ~Dave Foreman, Harper’s, April 1990

(22) When a man wantonly destroys one of the works of man we call him a vandal.  When he destroys one of the works of god we call him a sportsman.  ~Joseph Wood Krutch

(23) Every creature is better alive than dead, men and moose and pine trees, and he who understands it aright will rather preserve its life than destroy it.  ~Henry David Thoreau, “Chesuncook,” The Maine Woods, 1848

(24) Those who wish to pet and baby wild animals “love” them.  But those who respect their natures and wish to let them live normal lives, love them more.  ~Edwin Way Teale, Circle of the Seasons, 1953

(25) I think the environment should be put in the category of our national security.  Defense of our resources is just as important as defense abroad.  Otherwise what is there to defend?  ~Robert Redford, Yosemite National Park dedication, 1985

History has shown us that people can make a difference, either for good or bad, and in fact those in need of the greatest change far outnumber those who wish to maintain the status quo.

Through a means of manufactured scarcity, many have been convinced that they are powerless to effect change.

(26) Who controls the food supply controls the people; who controls the oil controls the nations; who controls the energy can control whole continents; who controls money controls the world. ~ Henry Kissinger

(27) The problem of power is how to achieve its responsible use rather than its irresponsible and indulgent use – of how to get men of power to live for the public rather than off the public. ~ Robert F. Kennedy

(28) An honest man can feel no pleasure in the exercise of power over his fellow citizens. ~ Thomas Jefferson

(29) Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

As we ponder these ideas and reflect upon where we fit in and what it means to us, we have many questions. Just by being here, we demonstrate our desire to act as a community. We share our lives and our stories with each other and we understand that we are not alone in our struggles and concerns.

Within the past couple of years, a small group of our members and friends began to meet on a regular basis to reflect upon environmental issues, to share with each other some of our own insights into the issue, and to explore ways we might begin to make changes on a grassroots level.

This group eventually became the Green Sanctuary Steering Committee after the congregation voted at our annual meeting to pursue the Green Sanctuary Certification.

Everyone who is a part of the committee brings an added perspective to a very large and complex issue. First we have shared our knowledge with each other, and as our collective understanding deepens, we recognize an obligation to bring the same degree of awareness to others.

We recognize that the first step in raising awareness is through education. We have presented services to the congregation, written newsletter columns, held an ongoing film series, and so forth, all as a part of this process.

The reaction of those introduced to this information for the first time is quite often the same. A new urgency is awakened in them, an urgency to make others also more aware.

From this awareness also comes the early stages of change. A reflection upon many aspects of lives that we so easily take for granted. It is easy to become so wrapped up in routine of our daily lives that we lose sight of the larger picture.

Members of the Green Sanctuary Steering Committee also travel, or rather carpool, to various congregations within the district for meetings with members of other congregations who are also pursuing or have acquired Green Sanctuary Certification.

Through these meetings we are encouraged by the knowledge that we are not alone in our efforts to bring about change. We are energized by others who share the same passion for this important issue.

As we probe deeper though, it becomes evident that when studying environmental issues, we cannot just isolate it as a separate entity disconnected from other issues and concerns.

Inevitably, we find that in the pursuit of real and lasting solutions, that the changes must occur at every level of society. There must be changes in government policies and laws, there must be changes within corporations and how they operate, and there must be changes in the behaviors of society. Essentially, a new paradigm shift in the course of humanity.

The more I and others study these issues, the more we come to understand that these are changes that must occur for our continued survival, we honestly have no choice in the matter. We do have choices now, however, choices which are within our means to accomplish if we have the will to make them.

It is within our means to create an economy that is more equitable to its inhabitants and also environmentally sustainable. In a way though, it is not that it this is new knowledge to be learned, but rather it is old wisdom which we have forgotten. I think it is best summed up with words attributed to Chief Seattle:

The President in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. But how can you buy or sell the sky? the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?

Every part of the earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every meadow, every humming insect. All are holy in the memory and experience of my people.

We know the sap which courses through the trees as we know the blood that courses through our veins. We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters. The bear, the deer, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the dew in the meadow, the body heat of the pony, and man all belong to the same family.

The shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water, but the blood of our ancestors. If we sell you our land, you must remember that it is sacred. Each glossy reflection in the clear waters of the lakes tells of events and memories in the life of my people. The water’s murmur is the voice of my father’s father.

The rivers are our brothers. They quench our thirst. They carry our canoes and feed our children. So you must give the rivers the kindness that you would give any brother.

If we sell you our land, remember that the air is precious to us, that the air shares its spirit with all the life that it supports. The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also received his last sigh. The wind also gives our children the spirit of life. So if we sell our land, you must keep it apart and sacred, as a place where man can go to taste the wind that is sweetened by the meadow flowers.

Will you teach your children what we have taught our children? That the earth is our mother? What befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth.

This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.

One thing we know: our God is also your God. The earth is precious to him and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its creator.

Your destiny is a mystery to us. What will happen when the buffalo are all slaughtered? The wild horses tamed? What will happen when the secret corners of the forest are heavy with the scent of many men and the view of the ripe hills is blotted with talking wires? Where will the thicket be? Gone! Where will the eagle be? Gone! And what is to say goodbye to the swift pony and then hunt? The end of living and the beginning of survival.

When the last red man has vanished with this wilderness, and his memory is only the shadow of a cloud moving across the prairie, will these shores and forests still be here? Will there be any of the spirit of my people left?

We love this earth as a newborn loves its mother’s heartbeat. So, if we sell you our land, love it as we have loved it. Care for it, as we have cared for it. Hold in your mind the memory of the land as it is when you receive it. Preserve the land for all children, and love it, as God loves us.

As we are part of the land, you too are part of the land. This earth is precious to us. It is also precious to you.

One thing we know – there is only one God. No man, be he Red man or White man, can be apart. We ARE all brothers after all.”

About the Author
Robin Nelson


  1. Karen Stucke

    Thank you Ron!
    I like the format that you used, with congregation participation. Our Green Sanctuary is planning a lay-led worship service and I will share this with them.

  2. Leon Malinconico

    Thanks lots for helpful info. Keep up the neat work. I will be returning often.

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