Jen's MEM Journey

The Starfish Story
by Jennifer Weiss -- May 13th, 2011

Finding environmental inspiration in a surprising place.

My classes are over for the year and I hate to admit it, but I haven’t done a lot over the last two weeks.  My first year at the Nicholas school was exhilarating and inspiring, but the combination of school and life was harder than I expected, so I have taken these last few weeks “off.”  I guess some people call it relaxing?

However, yesterday I did get out of the house to attend a brunch at my daughters’ elementary school honoring the many, many volunteers that our school is lucky to have.  I walked in the door motivated by the prospect of having coffee and pastries with friends. I walked out with a renewed commitment to my environmental education, inspired by a starfish.

As each of us entered the room, we were given a Thank You gift – a handmade starfish pin with this story attached:

The Starfish Story

One day a man was walking down the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean.

Approaching the boy, he asked “What are you doing?”

The Youth replied, “Throwing starfish back in the ocean.  The surf is up and the tide is going out.  If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”

“Son,” the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish?”  You can’t make a difference!

After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf.  Then, smiling at the man, he said,

I made a difference for that one.”

While I know that this story was intended as a thank you to each of the school volunteers who make a difference every day, I have another take on it.  It is exactly the sentiment that we, as environmental leaders, need to instill in every member of the global community.  Each of us making just one little difference can have a huge impact on the world’s environmental future.

Over the last year, I have learned about our environment and the challenges we face as a global community.  I have discussed the hard decisions we will have to make and the changes we will have to inspire in order for future generations to be able to enjoy the earth as we do today.  And, I have looked into the eyes of our children and seen their unselfish commitment to changing the world.

Over the next year, I plan to devote a large portion of my time to a Master’s Project which involves environmental education for these future leaders.  But, it’s not just the children that can make a difference.  By making just one little change in our lives, each of us can make a difference that will promote a sustainable environmental future.  Each one of us can throw a starfish back in the water.

So, let’s not let our children have all the fun.  Find your starfish – whether its recycling, changing a light bulb or biking to the store – and save one everyday.

And, if you run out of starfish to throw back, let me know.  I’ve got a whole bunch of them just waiting to be rescued.

©2016 Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University | Box 90328 | Durham, NC 27708
how to contact us > | login to the site > | site disclaimers >

footer nav stuff