When I consider that the nobler animals have been exterminated here — the cougar, panther, lynx, wolverine, wolf, bear, moose, deer, the beaver, the turkey, etc., etc. — I cannot but feel as if I lived in a tamed, and, as it were, emasculated country. . . . To my chagrin I hear that it is but an imperfect copy that I possess and have read, that my ancestors have torn out many of the first leaves and grandest passages, and mutilated it in many places. I should not like to think that some demigod had come before me and picked out some of the best of the stars. I wish to know an entire heaven and an entire earth.

Henry David Thoreau

I think of what wild animals are in our imaginations. And how they are disappearing — not just from the wild, but from people’s everyday lives, replaced by images of themselves in print and on screen. . . . The condor is an icon of extinction. There’s little else to it now but being the last of its kind. And in this lies the diminution of the world. How can you love something, how can you fight to protect it, if all it means is loss?

Helen Macdonald

We are closer than ever to understanding what it is like to be another animal, but we have made it harder than ever for other animals to be.

Ed Yong

There is no end / To what a living world / Will demand of you.

Octavia E. Butler, Parable of the Sower

Most species do their own evolving, making it up as they go along, which is the way Nature intended. And this is all very natural and organic and in tune with mysterious cycles of the cosmos, which believes that there’s nothing like millions of years of really frustrating trial and error to give a species moral fiber and, in some cases, backbone.

Terry Pratchett, Reaper Man

These animals were designed for hardship. All weakness and softness had been beaten out of their genetic lineage by the dust storms, the droughts, and the tornadoes. . . . The crayfish were plated with complex carapaces. The coyotes were shy and clever, as elusive as dreams. The groundhogs dug deep burrows, safe from heat and wind. . . . I was jealous of them all — their savage strength and vivid senses, their power and tenaciousness. The way they were born was the best way to be.

Abby Geni, The Wildlands

We assimilate a little this way, and a little that way. Life is only mutation.

Gretel Ehrlich

A grain in the balance may determine which individuals shall live and which shall die — which variety or species shall increase in number, and which shall decrease, or finally become extinct.

Charles Darwin

We are not an endangered species ourselves yet, but this is not for lack of trying.

Douglas Adams

Obviously, the fate of our own species concerns us disproportionately. But at the risk of sounding antihuman — some of my best friends are humans! — I will say that it is not, in the end, what’s most worth attending to. Right now, in the amazing moment that to us counts as the present, we are deciding, without quite meaning to, which evolutionary pathways will remain open and which will forever be closed.

Elizabeth Kolbert

It’s animal by animal that you save a species.

Diane Ackerman

If you haven’t heard what’s happening with seeds, let me tell you. They’re disappearing, about like every damn thing else. . . . But I’m not going to talk about anything that’s going to make us feel hopeless, or despairing, because there’s no despair in a seed. There’s only life, waiting for the right conditions — sun and water, warmth and soil — to be set free. Every day millions upon millions of seeds lift their two green wings.

Janisse Ray

The diversity of life-forms, so numerous that we have yet to identify most of them, is the greatest wonder of this planet.

E.O. Wilson

The beauty and genius of a work of art may be reconceived, though its first material expression be destroyed; a vanished harmony may yet again inspire the composer; but when the last individual of a race of living beings breathes no more, another heaven and another earth must pass before such a one can be again.

William Beebe