Book Review: Flight of the Hummingbird

Hummingbird and Flower Photo

Image source: Getty Files

Feeling overwhelmed about the state of the planet? Read this book. Feeling like you could be doing more but don't know what to do? Read this book. Feeling like everyone is pointing and laughing because you're an eco-geek who is into recycling, composting and reusing plastic silverware? Read this book.

Flight of the Hummingbird: A Parable for the Environment, is the tale of a forest that is on fire and how the different forest animals respond to the challenge. It is often the smallest and least likely in the crowd who can make the biggest difference. The subtitle of this book should have been, 'Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.' Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas is the illustrator and each of the drawings are so appropriate and fit in beautifully with the story. This book is something that you can buy for your child that they will come back to time and again, the older they get. The parable of the hummingbird has been passed down among the Quechan people of South America and the Haida of the North Pacific, but similar stories also exist through cultures around the world.

The book also includes commentary by two individuals who are hummingbirds in their own right - Wangari Maathai and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Maathai inspires readers by reminding them about how she started with a project planting seven trees and ended up inspiring people across Kenya to plant over 30 million trees through the Green Belt Movement. She also tells the tale of how she was introduced to the Buddhist word mottainai, which means to treat all resources with respect and gratitude, and how she now focuses on the 4 R's "reduce, reuse, recycle and repair."

The book also includes several other passages such as an essay by His Holiness the Dalai Lama praising the parable of the hummingbird. He says that its important to remember that we should have compassion for each other and for nature, which is both peaceful and gentle, but which can also be powerfully transforming. We might never know how our actions towards the plant affect each other, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to do what is right.

There is also a note from the illustrator examining about the collective power of individual actions, as well as a note about how hummingbirds, though tiny have been used throughout cultures across the world to symbolize committed determination as well as a bringer of relief.

There is talk nowadays of environmental fatigue and environmentalism being a fad. We can't afford for this to be a fad. When you get discouraged and feel like protecting the planet is a fad, read this book. A similar parable is told about dancing with a bear, 'When you're dancing with a bear, you can't get tired and sit down. You have to wait for the bear to get tired.'

Greystone Books, the publisher, has avoided almost 1 million pounds of CO2 emissions, saved 500,000 pounds of solid waste and 14,000 liters of water by using 100% post consumer recycled paper in its books.

Flight of the Hummingbird can be found on Greystone Books as well as on
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