QUOTE: Martin Luther King Jr On Environmentalism


“We must rapidly begin the shift from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘person-oriented’ society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” –Martin Luther King, Jr.

So far in my studies this is as close as I can get to a quote about the environment from the canon of Civil Rights Movement era heroes and sheroes. The best I’ve found as a reason for this and many other important issues not typically addressed by the those involved in the movement back then “That’s just not how we were thinking.” So at a time when some issues I face as a young Black person in America today were not addressed then, Dr. King had the foresight and understanding to connect these dots just before his death. Dots that many still haven’t connected yet.

As Van Jones once noted that Dr. King and his contemporaries were working to integrate a car economy. As we can see now Detroit has all but fallen and is now nurturing a small, green revitalization, but in the 60s who would have guessed that would happen? Had we considered environmentalism on the level King did in the quote above reworking the planet into a sustainable and just way of life for all would have been much easier and far more timely.

Towards the end of his life King repeated called out the ills of capitalism as well as racism, materialism, and militarism. Those giants are rarely called out by name anymore even though these manmade institutions are rapidly destroying the planet. A “person-oriented” society is just, egalitarian, and sustainable. A “thing-oriented” society leaves us at war with ourselves, each other and the planet. Which kind of society do you want to live in?


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