Yesterday when I moved some books, a folded piece of paper fell out of an old book of my Mother’s. She must’ve used it as a bookmark. It’s a four-page “Royal Bank Letter” (not a newsletter, a letter) published by Royal Bank of Canada, September/October 1992, Vol 73 No. 5, ISSN 0229-0243.

Remember this is 1992.

The title of the Letter is:

Sacrifice and Society

This is exactly the larger-font italicized opening statement below the title:

At a time when everybody seems to be pushing for more social ‘space,’ self-sacrifice is not much in fashion.  But if people can’t relearn how to subordinate their individual interests to the common good, it could spell disaster for us all …

This is exactly the last paragraph on page 4:

Break a world to pieces?  At the very end of the day, after everybody has pleaded that he was only exercising his own God-given rights, that is just what an excess of selfishness could be instrumental in doing.  The underlying message from the recent Earth Summit in Brazil was that the nations of this earth simply cannot continue polluting its atmosphere, land and water as they have up to now.  Genuine, substantive and massive sacrifices will have to be made to put the world on the path of sustainable development.  In the long run, a willingness to make sacrifices may be all that stands between the human race and catastrophe.  Selfishness or survival — which is it to be?

The “Earth Summit in Brazil” is also famously known as the “Rio Summit” or “Rio Conference.” It was held in June that year, 28 years ago.


My plea to all individuals and organizations who speak for the greater good of environments and their inhabitants: please stop saying that for the sake of “future generations” we must restore the health of earth, water, and air. I’m sure the phrase “for future generations” was a show-stopper, an ideal shock-and-awe phrase, motivational — at first. Don’t we have solid proof, vivid proof, that the phrase has been the opposite of motivational? Undoubtedly, when ears hear and eyes see that phrase again and again and again, their minds will at some level believe, “Meh, this is not a problem today.” Instead, please simply say what you mean. People do many things that every day pollute our children, every thing alive, food, water, indoor and outdoor air, and land. What can we do now to heal harms and prevent pollution?

Yes, that would be several more words than the usual trite phrase. Which life or place isn’t worth an extra 15 seconds or 25 words?

Thank you.

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