Because I run an environmental charity, people often assume I am a hard core environmentalist, militantly preaching and living green. I’m not. Like most people, I sometimes feel overwhelmed thinking about all the problems in the world, and sometimes get bogged down by environmental doom and gloom. After all, it can be hard to see what one person or family can really do to help. Still, I firmly believe that doing one small thing today can make a difference.
I first heard the hummingbird fable from Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai. It’s a beautiful story about a massive forest fire and the courageous efforts of a tiny hummingbird.
All the animals in the forest watched a huge forest fire getting bigger and bigger. They felt so overwhelmed and powerless, except for a little hummingbird. It said, “I’m going to do something about the fire.”
The little hummingbird flew to the closest stream, scooped-up a drop of water and put it on the huge fire. Then she went back to the stream and did it again. She kept going back, again and again and again. All the other animals watched, some tried to discourage the hummingbird with comments like, “Don’t bother, you are too little, your wings will burn, your beak is too tiny, it’s only a drop of water, you can’t put out this fire.”
And as the animals stood around disparaging the little bird’s efforts, the hummingbird noticed how hopeless and forlorn they looked. Then an elephant shouted out to the hummingbird in a mocking voice, “What do you think you are doing?” And the hummingbird, without wasting time or losing a beat, looked back and said, “I am doing the best I can.”
The collective impact of one small thing
It’s not hard to be a hummingbird environmentalist. This week for example I thought, “What’s one thing I can I do differently? “ I decided to take the kids to the store but instead of driving, as we usually do, we bicycled. At first I didn’t feel like it, but we ended-up having a really great time.
Forty percent of all trips are made within two miles of home. If individuals and families choose to bike or walk to work, or to make fewer shopping trips each week, they could really help the planet (and their wallet). If American drivers were to make just one four-mile round trip each week with a bicycle instead of a car, they would save nearly 2 billion gallons of gas. At $4 per gallon, total savings would be $7.3 billion a year (Source: The Sierra Club, Pedaling to Prosperity). And if people all over the world chose to leave the car at home and walk or bike just once a week, the impact would be even more powerful.
Become a Hummingbord Environmentalist
For me, the key to being a Hummingbird Environmentalist is not immersing oneself in environmental politics. It is about having an open heart, thinking beyond yourself, and being willing to try something new – even fun – once in a while. We can all do one thing better. Here are three ideas that I hope get you inspired.
· Incorporate public transit into your next family outing – if your kids are like mine, they will love the chance to take the bus or train
· Make a hummingbird craft with your kids – it’s a great way to share the hummingbird fable and show them that anyone, no-matter how small, can help make the world a better place.
· Plant a tree: Spend $10 to have a tree given to a child through the Love Trees children’s tree planting and environmental education program.
· Make a donation to The Charitree Foundation – the children’s tree charity. Charitree has more requests for trees than they can fill so please donate – they need you.