An old man walking along the beach at dawn saw a young man picking up starfish and throwing them out to sea.
"Why are you doing that?" the old man inquired.
The young man explained that the starfish had been stranded on the beach by a receding tide and would soon die in the daytime sun.
"But the beach goes on for miles," the old man said, "and there's so many! How can your effort make any difference?"
The young man looked at the starfish in his hand and without hesitating threw it to safety in the sea. He looked up at the old man, smiled and said, "It will make a difference to that one."
The president told that story yesterday as he signed the Edward M Kennedy Service Act. He said that it's a story that Teddy Kennedy likes to tell when speaking about service but I think it's a good thing to think about on Earth Day, too. As we make small decisions, using reusable bags at the grocery store, turning down the thermostat, composting, riding bikes instead of driving, eating local and organic etc, it can feel like those things don't really make that much difference. But they do, a little at a time.
watch Obama's speech here (he tells the story at about 17:30)
image from Life