If Humboldt were on Twitter today
He liked to formulate succinct sentences and deliver punch lines. He took a stand against slavery, colonialism and environmental destruction. What stance would Humboldt take on current issues? We present his quotes in a new light.
“Ideas can only be of use if they start living in many minds.”
“Gold digging is a European disease, which borders on mania.”
“It is not enough to complain; one has to work at remedying the complaints.”
„The climate of the continents [is dependent on the changes] which humans call forth on the surface of the land masses [...] by the production of huge masses of steam and gas in the centres of industry.“
„The Indios share the same fate as the Africans: If they are not actually being massacred, they are thought to be thriving.“
„Truth itself is precious, but even more precious is the ability to find it.“
“To argue about which nation treats the blacks with greater humanity is to ridicule the word humanity and to ask whether it is pleasanter to have your stomach slit open or be tortured.”
“The moment one leaves Europe for the first time has something poignant about it. When one then clearly calls to mind how busy the traffic is between the two worlds, how easily – thanks to the enormous progress in seafaring – one can now cross the Atlantic, which, in comparison with the Pacific, is a not very wide estuary, the feeling that one is embarking on a long journey for the first time always has something deeply moving about it.”
“I thoroughly detest people who are always gauging and weighing up whether it would be beneficial to grant someone or other their friendship.“
“The amazing colours of the birds, the fish, even the crabs (sky blue and yellow!). We have been running around like fools; in the first three days, we couldn’t classify anything, constantly throwing one thing aside to seize on something else. Bonpland assures me that he will lose his mind if the miracles do not stop soon. I sense that I will be happy here and that these impressions will continue to exhilarate me in the future.“
“The larger the colonies and the more rigorous the European governments in their political malice, all the more will the immorality of the colonies have to increase.“
“The fortune of the white race is profoundly interwoven with the copper-coloured race. There will never be lasting fortune in either of the Americas until this long-suppressed and humiliated, but not degraded, race enjoys all the advantages that ensue from the progress of civilisation and the improvement of the social order.“
“The very idea of a colony is itself immoral, the idea of a country that is compelled to pay tributes to another, is one of a country in which one can only reach a certain degree of affluence; in which hard work and diligence, the enlightenment, may only spread up to a certain point.“
“If one fells the trees that cover the peaks and slopes of the mountains, one undoubtedly causes two-fold adversity for generations to come in all climate zones: a lack of fire wood and water. Thanks to their characteristics of transpiration and the radiation of their leaves against a cloudless sky, the trees are constantly surrounded by cool, humid air; …“
“In these latitudes, it is difficult for a European to remain a decent person, where impunity prevails even amongst the clergy, so that I ask God every day not to let me die here because I would undoubtedly be damned. “
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