Make a Difference


My mother used to read to me and my sister a fable about the birds coming together to have a competition: who could fly the highest? The mighty eagle is sure he will win, and majestically with those great, strong wings, he flies higher and higher and gradually the other birds get tired and start drifting back to the ground. Finally, even the eagle can go no higher, but that’s alright because he looks down and sees all the other birds below him. That’s what he thinks, but hiding in the feathers on his back is a little wren, and she takes off and flies highest of all.

This is a very symbolic story for me. If we think of our life as an effort to fly always a little bit higher and reach a goal that’s just a little bit beyond our reach, how high can any of us go by ourselves? We all need our eagle.

When I look on my life and I think of all the amazing people who have helped me on my flight, I imagine them as feathers on my eagle – big strong feathers, small feathers, every feather playing its role in keeping me aloft or helping me to get up when I have a tumble.


We started a program for youth, Roots and Shoots. It’s a symbolic name; roots make a firm foundation, shoots seem tiny but to reach the light, they can break through brick walls. And I see the brick walls as all these problems that we’ve inflicted on this planet, the environmental ones and the social ones. A message of hope: Hundreds and thousands of young people around the world can break through, can make the world a better place. The most important message: Every individual makes a difference. Every one of us, every day of our lives, makes an impact on the environment, on society, and we get to choose what kind of difference to make.

We tend to feel helpless thinking, “I’m one person and there are more than 6 billion in the world, so although I know the kind of things I should do to ensure ecological footprints as I go through life, how can it really make a difference if I turn off the tap when I’m cleaning my teeth? How can it really make any difference when I switch off an electric light when you think of the blazing lights that are wasted around the world?” But if we add up all those little things in our own lives and then we think how today millions of people around the world are equally aware, just think of the difference if everybody did just that. It would be huge! And those of us who make ethical choices in what we buy and what we don’t buy, the cumulative result of that is huge. Once we change the way we buy, the companies will change far more quickly than if legislation is introduced.

The philosophy of Roots and Shoots encourages young people to reach for knowledge and understanding.

Knowledge alone, facts alone, isn’t enough. You need to understand the big picture. It teaches the importance of hard work, rolling up your sleeves and getting down and doing things and persistence; if it doesn’t work once then try again, maybe in another way.

A woman came up to me after one of my lectures after 9/11 and said, “Dr. Jane, read this afterwards.” It was a quotation from Mohandas Ghandi: “Every evil regime in human history has ultimately been overcome by good.”


We can look around the world and we see many problems. But equally we look around the world and we find many solutions. Our job is to replicate the solutions and to live with courage and not to live in fear and to live with determination that will create a more healthy and a better world for our children and theirs, and to know that there is hope.

Hope really lies in the hands of all of us. We can make the difference. We can put the right people in power to make the right decisions that must be made.

We can die knowing that we’ve done our best to create a world that will be a safer, healthier, and more beautiful world for our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. It’s up to us.

~ Jane Goodall, United Nations Messenger of Peace

 Lesson From Thomas Alva Edison                                                      My Biggest Hurdle 

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