BGCI Education Blog

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Friday, 9 February 2007

The tale of a true hummingbird

Last night, BGCI hosted a talk by Professor Wangari Maathai, the women's rights campaigner, founder of the Green Belt Movement and Nobel Peace Prize winner - the first African woman to have been awarded this accolade. And well deserved this accolade is, she is an amazing woman, now in her late sixties, who inspired and motivated the audience at the Royal Geographical Society.

Professor Maathai is a consummate story-teller and throughout her speech I was amazed by the dedication and belief she has in the work she and her organisation are doing, the optimism she displays and the determination which has seen her through many difficult years as a woman's and environmental campaigner in Kenya.

She told us a story - a tale of a courageous hummingbird.

Watch the video on YouTube

The forest it lived in was burning down, the fire was raging through the trees and all the animals in the forest were fleeing for their lives. They stopped at the edge of the forest and watched their home being destroyed, crying and wailing about their misfortune. One tiny hummingbird saw what was happening to her home. So she went to a stream, collected a drop of water in her beak and carried it to the fire. Quick as she could she flew back to the stream and collected another drop, and took it to the fire, and another drop, and another. Quick as she could she collected water and took it to the fire.

The other animals watched her, and called to her 'Stop what you are doing, it is pointless, give up now, you will never be able to change anything, it is too late'. But she wouldn't listen, she kept on collecting drop after drop and taking her tiny amounts of water to the fire. Event eh elephants, with their big trunks, who could suck up a lot of water from the stream, said to her 'Stop this, there is no point, we are lost'. But she still wouldn't listen, and carried on zipping between the stream and the fire. A third time, the other animals watching said 'Don't continue, give up your work'. In between collecting drops of water she turned to them and said 'I may not be able to do very much, but I am trying my hardest - I am doing the very best that I can'.

Professor Maathai turned to the audience and addressed us all saying that we should also be like hummingbirds, it doesn't matter how small or insignificant we feel as individuals when thinking about environmental issues, we should just do the very best we can.

One of the campaigns the Green Belt Movement is involved with at the moment is the Billion Trees Campaign. Again, like the little hummingbird, the idea is that even if only 1 in 6 of us plants a tree, we can still between us all trying our best, plant a billion trees this year - thereby protecting watersheds, preserving soil and creating habitats for many different species.

So, go out today and plant a tree - just make sure you are doing the best you can!


spider said...

This story seems to be the thing that everyone remembers. Many people mentioned it afterwards in the bar and Baroness Walmsley also said she felt like a hummingbird in her vote of thanks.

It shows how a good story can often communicate a lot more effectively than lots of facts and intellectual discussions. Maybe we can compile some stories to use.

Brian J said...

Dear Sarah,
Thanks for sharing your experience of hearing Dr. Maathai. Your retelling of her hummingbird story was a treat for those of us not in London and thus unable to hear her in person!
--Brian Johnson