Sandra Steingraber

I am a major, long-time fan of Dr. Sandra Steingraber. Wish I had the time to comb through her books (I own 2 & chatted about a 3rd here) to find more of the outstanding things she has said...but right now, I don’t.

So this will have to do!

Please learn more about her, & her work, if you don’t know much about her.

She’s one of my heroes, for sure! Check this out!! (Ms. Steingraber most assuredly has the courage of her convictions.)

There is also a film about her: more on that here


“…the need for an ‘upstream’ focus. As explained at a recent international conference, this image comes from a fable about a village along a river. The residents who live here, according to parable, began noticing increasing numbers of drowning people caught in the river's swift current and so went to work inventing ever more elaborate technologies to resuscitate them. So preoccupied were these heroic villagers with rescue and treatment that they never thought to look upstream to see who was pushing the victims in.

This book is a walk up that river.” – Sandra Steingraber, Living Downstream – An Ecologist Looks at Cancer and the Environment

“A woman’s body is (a human being’s) first environment. Whatever contaminants are in a woman’s body find their way into the next generation. I think there is no better argument for the precautionary principle.” – Dr. Sandra Steingraber, author of Living DownstreamAn Ecologist Looks at Cancer and the Environment

“May the world’s feast be made safe for women and children. May mothers’ milk run clean again. May denial give way to courageous action. May I always have faith.” – Sandra Steingraber in Having Faith

“The new thinking is that no safe threshold exists for lead exposure in children or fetuses.” ~ Dr. Sandra Steingraber,  in Having Faith – An Ecologist’s Journey to Motherhood.

“Ultimately, the environmental crisis is a parenting crisis. It undermines my ability to carry out two fundamental duties: to protect my children from harm and to plan for their future. My responsibility as a mother thus extends beyond push mowers and clotheslines to the transformation of the nation’s energy systems along renewable lines. Fine. With joy and resolve – and accepting the full severity of the situation vis-à-vis the world’s oxygen-making plankton – I hereby devote myself to the task. When I watch my children breathing in their sleep, it doesn’t feel like a choice. Happily, I’m in good company. And I have this quote for inspiration: ‘Recent studies indicate the U.S. and world could rely 100 percent on green energy sources within 20 years if we dedicate ourselves to that course.’” – Dr. Sandra Steingraber in Raising Elijah

“From the right to know and the duty to inquire flows the obligation to act.”

“I can say that it is time now to play ‘the save the world’ symphony. I don’t know what instrument you hold, but you need to play it as best as you can, & find your place in the score. You don’t have to play a solo here. But this is our task now.” – Dr. Sandra Steingraber, in a recent interview with Bill Moyers (you really MUST watch this interview!)

"I see my job, Bill, as not helping people to feel that they can be safe – but rather, showing – illuminating for people – where the paths for activism lie." -- from the interview referenced above


I'm sure there are a gazillion awesome quotations about science you will not find here. What you will find are some I consider quotable that I've scooped from here, there, & who-knows-where...

“Today no task is more pressing and noble, not only for a scientist, but also for any sober-minded individual, than to prevent nuclear insanity.” – Valery Legasov, head of the former Soviet delegation to the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency). He was upset over both the Chernobyl disaster & its handling at the IAEA & UN, & later took his life over it. (tons of great nuke-related quotations here.)

“We should be on our guard not to overestimate science and scientific methods when it is a question of human problems; and we should not assume that experts are the only ones who have a right to express themselves on questions affecting the organization of society.” – Albert Einstein

“We are aboard a train which is gathering speed, racing down a track on which there are an unknown number of switches leading to unknown destinations. No single scientist is in the engine cab and there may be demons at the switch. Most of society is in the caboose, looking backward.” – Ralph Lapp, Scientist-turned-writer

“There is more religion in men’s science, than there is science in their religion.” – Henry David Thoreau (1817 – 1862)

“The means by which we live have outdistanced the ends for which we live. Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Journalist Bill Moyers: “The news is not good these days. I can tell you, though, that as a journalist I know the news is never the end of the story. The news can be the truth that sets us free - not only to feel but to fight for the future we want. And the will to fight is the antidote to despair, the cure for cynicism, and the answer to those faces looking back at me from those photographs on my desk. What we need to match the science of human health is what the ancient Israelites called ‘hocma’ – the science of the heart.....the capacity to feel....and then to if the future depended on you.Believe me, it does.”

“In short, science is one way – and a very important one – of looking the world, but it is not the only way. It can tell us a very great deal about the natural order, but it cannot tell us all we need and want to know. If you believe it can, then you are subscribing to what is technically called “scientism” – the cult of science – and not to proper science itself. This is an extremely important point because in the eyes of many today, especially young people, science is a kind of god. Unless something can be “proved” scientifically, then it’s thought to be part of an unreal or imaginary world. This is emphatically not the view of true science. Its claims are much more modest. It can often (though not always) tell us how this or that came to be and how it operates but it cannot tell us the final answer. When it comes to questions of ultimate meaning and purpose, it must give way to other voices.” – Tom Harpur in Would You Believe? Finding God Without Losing Your Mind - A book for doubters, sceptics and wistful unbelievers…M & S 1996, pg. 64

“You can be absurd and reject the science; you can be reckless and say we can adapt to whatever happens; or you can be unethical and disregard the future.” – former World Bank chief economist Sir Nicholas Stern, speaking of Canadian Premier Stephen Harper’s refusal to legislate to slow climate change.

“Life is the ultimate teacher, but it is usually through experience and not scientific research that we discover its deepest lessons. A certain percentage of those who have survived near-death experiences speak of a common insight which afforded a glimpse of life’s basic lesson plan. We are all here for a single purpose: to grow in wisdom and to learn to love better. We can do this through losing as well as through winning, by having and by not having, by succeeding or failing. All we need to do is to show up openhearted for class. So fulfilling life’s purpose may depend more on how we play than what we are dealt.” ~ Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D., in Kitchen Table Wisdom – Stories that Heal

“Chemicals have replaced bacteria and viruses as the main threat to health. The diseases we are beginning to see as the major causes of death in the latter part of (the 1900's) and into the 21st century are diseases of chemical origin.” ~ Dr. Dick Irwin, Toxicologist, Texas A&M University

“There is fierceness at work here. There is no other explanation for the raw courage and heart displayed over and again in the people who march, speak, create, resist, and build. It is the fierceness of knowing we are human and intend to survive. To witness the worldwide breakdown of civility into camps, ideologies, and wars, to watch the accelerating breakdown of our environmental systems, is harrowing and dispiriting. But immune systems do fail; this movement most certainly could fail as well. What can help preserve it is the gift of self-perception, the gift of seeing who we truly are. We will either come together as one, globalized people, or we will disappear as a civilization. To come together we must know our place in a biological and cultural sense, and reclaim our role as engaged agents of our continued existence. Our minds were made to defend ourselves, born of an immune system that brought us to this stage in our development and evolution. We are surfeited with metaphors of war, such that when we hear the word defense, we think attack, but the defense of the world can be truly accomplished only by cooperation and compassion. Science now knows that while still in diapers, virtually all children exhibit altruistic behavior. Concern for the well-being of others is bred in the bone, endemic and hardwired. We became human by working together and helping one another. According to immunologist Gerald Callahan, faith and love are literally buried in our genes and lymphocytes, and what it takes to arrest our descent into chaos is one person after another remembering who and where they really are.” ~ Paul Hawken in Blessed Unrest – How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being & Why No One Saw it Coming <Pg. 165>

“My own definition of Dada: an insane lyrical impulse to remain light and carefree, always looking for something to wonder or marvel at, or love, or laugh at, but always remaining illogical and joyous in a world gone mad with too much logic, seriousness, science, newspapers, war, and destruction.” – Irving Stettner

“It is possible that the scientific character of mind is by its nature childish, capable through life of a child’s wonder and excitements, but lacking real discernment, lacking sadness, too easily delighted by its own intellect. There are exceptions, of course, the physicist Steven Weinberg, for example, whom I’ve read and who has the moral gravity you would want from a scientist.” E.L. Doctorow in his novel City of God, Random House, New York 2000, pg. 12.

“Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all – the apathy of human beings.” – Helen Keller

“Since the days of revelation, in fact, the same four corrupting errors have been made over and over again … worst of all, concealment of ignorance by a false show of unheld knowledge, for no better reason than pride.” – Roger Bacon


Work and Purpose

* Hope folks enjoy this little collection!

“To find our calling is to find the intersection between our own deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger.” – Frederick Buechner

“When you follow your bliss…doors will open where you would not have thought there would be doors & where there wouldn’t be a door for anyone else.”  Joseph Campbell, US folklorist & expert on mythology (1904 – 1987)

“This is the true joy in life – the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one. The being a force of nature, instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die. For the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch I’ve got to hold up for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it to future generations.”  George Bernard Shaw

In An Enemy of the People, Ibsen defined work as “the creation of good on earth.”

“Two centuries of philosophers stand in opposition to the modern American recipe for happiness and fulfillment. You can’t buy your way in. You can’t amuse yourself in. You can’t even expect falling in love to deliver you. The most promising way to happiness is, perhaps, through creativity, through literally creating a fulfilling life for yourself by identifying some unique talent or passion and devoting a good part of your energy to it, forever.” ~ Kalle Lasn/Bruce Grierson in Utne Reader

“The return from your work must be the satisfaction that work brings you and the world’s need of that work. With this, life is heaven, or as near heaven as you can get.” – W.E.B. DuBois

“In accumulating property for ourselves or our posterity, in founding a family or a state, or acquiring fame, even, we are mortal; but in dealing with truth we are immortal, and need fear not change or accident.” Henry David Thoreau

“The secret of life is to have a task, something you devote your entire life to, something you bring everything to, every minute of the day for your whole life. And the most important thing is — it must be something you cannot possibly do.” – Henry Moore, sculptor

“There is a vitality, a life-force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open… [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.” – Martha Graham to Agnes de Mille, from Dance to the Piper - quoted in Blessed Unrest – How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being & Why No One Saw it Coming, by Paul Hawken <Page 9 & in the Notes>

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” ~ Harold Whitman

“Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.” ~ Helen Keller

“Success, like happiness, cannot be pursued. It must ensue. And it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself.” ~ Viktor Frankl  [more quotes on success]

“Everyone has the power of greatness; not for fame, but greatness. Because greatness is determined by service.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, 1929-1968 [more MLK quotes here ]

“Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.”  – Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955), German-born American physicist [more Einstein quotes here ]

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” – poet Mary Oliver

"Let yourself be drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love." – Rumi, 13th-century Persian poet & Sufi mystic

“Be patient.

Respond to every call

that excites your spirit.

Ignore those that make you fearful

and sad, that degrade you

back toward disease and death.” – Rumi