Why the hummingbird?
The Hummingbird Fable comes to the Commission from Nobel Peace Laureate, Wangari Maathai, who would often use the fable as an anecdote when recounting her environmental activism in Kenya and Africa. The fable illustrates how the smallest of contributions is important and like the hummingbird, we must do what we can.
Wangari Maathai's story
One day a terrible fire broke out in a forest, and a huge woodlands was suddenly engulfed by a raging wild fire. Frightened, all the animals fled their homes and ran out of the forest. As they came to the edge of a stream they stopped to watch the fire, feeling very discouraged and powerless, and grieving the destruction of their homes. Every one of them thought there was nothing they could do about the fire - except for one little hummingbird.
This particular hummingbird swooped into the stream and picked up a few drops of water, then flew into the forest and put them on the fire. Then it went back to the stream and did it again, and it kept going back, again and again and again. All the other animals watched in disbelief; some tried to discourage the hummingbird.
“It’s too much.”
“You’re too little.”
“Your wings will burn.”
“Your beak is too tiny.”
“It’s only a drop.”
“You can’t put out this fire.”
And as the animals stood around disparaging the little bird's efforts, the bird noticed how hopeless and forlorn they looked. Then one of the animals shouted out and challenged the hummingbird, asking 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 what I can.”