The Story of the Hummingbird, as told by celebrated Kenyan environmental activist, women’s rights advocate, and 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Professor Wangari Maathai in this clip from Dirt! The Movie:

We are constantly being bombarded by problems that we face and sometimes we can get completely overwhelmed.

The story of the hummingbird is about this huge forest being consumed by a fire. All the animals in the forest come out and they are transfixed as they watch the forest burning and they feel very overwhelmed, very powerless, except this little hummingbird. It says, ‘I’m going to do something about the fire!’ So it flies to the nearest stream and takes a drop of water. It puts it on the fire, and goes up and down, up and down, up and down, as fast as it can.

In the meantime all the other animals, much bigger animals like the elephant with a big trunk that could bring much more water, they are standing there helpless. And they are saying to the hummingbird, ‘What do you think you can do? You are too little. This fire is too big. Your wings are too little and your beak is so small that you can only bring a small drop of water at a time.’

But as they continue to discourage it, it turns to them without wasting any time and it tells them, ‘I am doing the best I can.’

And that to me is what all of us should do. We should always be like a hummingbird. I may be insignificant, but I certainly don’t want to be like the animals watching the planet goes down the drain. I will be a hummingbird, I will do the best I can.

In the 1970s, Professor Maathai founded The Greenbelt Movement, an organization that works to empower women through environmental conservation, and educates communities about their political, economic, and environmental opportunities. The Story of the Hummingbird describes her motivation around these pursuits, but it is also an allegory for participation and personal empowerment that we can apply to any challenge.

Read more about Professor Maathai’s pioneering leadership at NobelPrize.org and GreenbeltMovement.org.

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