Mankind ought to be working to make the earth a paradise, but we're neglecting it and thereby preventing our own progression, a BYU professor said during a human rights symposium lecture Wednesday.

Wulf Barsch, a farmer and BYU art professor, told a group of students gathered in the Ernest L. Wilkinson Center that they must leave behind the lifestyle that pollutes the environment and work to rebuild society."There's really no purpose in me saying, `Look, there's a breakdown (in society). Open your eyes and see it.' We're in real trouble," he said. "We can say all we ever want to about what's wrong, but knowledge in this case comes only by doing."

People should remember that there is a specific and important purpose for everything on the earth. They are holy things that cannot be sold, Barsch said.

"You have to take a stand. It really comes down to, `Do you take those things seriously?' I'm trying to give you a positive point of view, not a negative one," he said. "I really believe you don't get very far cultivating your mind if you don't cultivate the soil, because you come from the soil. You cannot become pure in heart in a dirty environment."

Barsch said it is obvious that drastic steps must be taken to save the environment, but society does not condone such behavior. No one thinks, for example, of having Salt Lake Valley declared a wilderness area.

"You can't force people to be pure in heart. You can't force them to enjoy good clean air," he said. "I do not believe that if you're an environmentalist it will do any good, because the environment becomes something you protect somewhere else and then go home to their VCRs and personal computers."

BYU's weeklong human rights symposium is focusing on peace, the environment and human rights in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday.

The week will end at 7 p.m. Friday with a concert featuring local bands in the Wilkinson Center Cafe, where admission will be non-perishable foods to benefit the homeless in Utah Valley.