Martin Luther King, Jr.: ‘All Life is Interrelated.’

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. remains deeply etched in history for his indisputable achievements in the fight for basic human rights and universal equality. Time and time again, Dr. King maintained that freedom, equality, and justice cannot be truly achieved as long as they are still denied to some; that we all deserve basic civil rights.   

But for Dr. King, basic civil rights went well past freedom, equality, and the end of racial segregation. He was particularly adamant about environmental justice – that everyone has the right to clean air, water, and soil, as well as a right to live in healthy and nurturing natural environments. He believed that urban planning, parks and recreation, schools and education, and democratic decision making are all important civil rights issues. In essence, fair treatment of a person’s environment is tantamount to fair and equal treatment of that person. One cannot be true without the other. 

This idea is universal, that all things are equal and important. Take this quote by the great naturalist John Muir. “ When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”       

Dr. King echoed this sentiment in his 1967 Christmas sermon on peace:  

“It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality. Did you ever stop to think that you can’t leave for your job in the morning without being dependent on most of the world? 

You get up in the morning and go to the bathroom and reach over for the sponge, and that’s handed to you by a Pacific islander. You reach for a bar of soap, and that’s given to you at the hands of a Frenchman. And then you go into the kitchen to drink your coffee for the morning, and that’s poured into your cup by a South American. And maybe you want tea: that’s poured into your cup by a Chinese. Or maybe you’re desirous of having cocoa for breakfast, and that’s poured into your cup by a West African. And then you reach over for your toast, and that’s given to you at the hands of an English-speaking farmer, not to mention the baker. And before you finish eating breakfast in the morning, you’ve depended on more than half the world.    

This is the way our universe is structured, this is its interrelated quality. We aren’t going to have peace on Earth until we recognize this basic fact of the interrelated structure of all reality.” – 1967 Christmas sermon on peace       

If a section of the environment is polluted or mistreated, we all suffer. Everything is connected, whether directly or indirectly. Life cannot be delineated into clean and unclean. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” (Martin Luther King, Jr.) To live in a hazardous, polluted, or destitute environment is to not be given deserved justice. Whether it is unclean drinking water due to fracking or a suffering urban community due to budget cuts, an unhealthy environment is a civil rights issue for all.         

Dr. King’s work paved the way for environmental regulations, particularly for urban environments populated by discriminated or neglected groups. Within years of Dr. King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech, environmental defenders succeeded in pressuring the government to push through such important legislations as the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act

As we celebrate the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr., take a moment to acknowledge how far we have come and how much work there is still to be done. Complacency, especially in the modern day, is easy. Like Dr. King, have the fortitude and tenacity to stand up for what you believe and continue pushing for the intrinsic rights every being on this planet deserves.                 

“No, no, we are not satisfied and will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.

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118 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Darren Woolsey
Darren Woolsey3 years ago

Kudos to the man. . .

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Carole R.
Carole R3 years ago

thanks

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Shirley P.
Shirley P3 years ago

So very important and how extremely true is what Martin Luther KIng, Jr., said about complacency, in the modern day, being easy. That currently poses a very critical problem to us all, and the outcome will be a world none of us want. Please give it your attention to understand that only our fortitude and tenacity to fight against the wrong, will give us the world we want. It will determine our surviving or our dying out.

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Winn Adams
Winn Adams3 years ago

I hope everyone has seen the movie Selma. If not I highly recommend it. It should be shown to our children as a history lesson.

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Jack B.
Jack B3 years ago

Thank you for sharing

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Danuta Watola
Danuta W3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Mona Pietsch
Mona Pietsch3 years ago

thank you

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Angela K.
Angela K3 years ago

Thanks for sharing, he is a GREAT & HONORABLE MAN !!!

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froudji thommes
froudji thommes3 years ago

So true, so obvious... and so not yet understood... We´ll destroy the world and its other inhabitants before we´ll get it...

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