When he was a boy growing up in Nyeri, Kenya, he witnessed something disturbing. Nyeri is a small town in in the country’s Central Highlands, marked by steep slopes that many residents farm. Over time, he noticed those slopes eroding, threatening the survival of those around him.
One day, Wangari Maathai, an environmental activist who would later win the Nobel Peace Prize and who is also from Nyeri, started talking about the dangers of soil erosion. She got the residents to start planting trees to save their steep slopes. She was the first person young Peter Ndiang'ui had ever seen wearing a university gown.
As a result of that visit, he not only found a new passion for sustainability and the environment, but he would also go on to earn a master’s degree, an education specialist degree and a doctorate in educational leadership from FGCU.
Today, Dr. Ndiang'ui teaches “University Colloquium,” a class required of every undergraduate student at FGCU. The class helps students find their place in the environment by learning where their food comes, where waste goes, how energy is created and how fragile our ecosystems actually are.
For those who don’t quite understand their role in the environment, Dr. Ndiang'ui tells a story told to him by Maathai. There was a huge fire in the forest. All the animals stood there helpless and afraid, except for one hummingbird who kept filling her tiny beak with water and depositing the water on the fire. When the other animals asked her what she was doing, she said, “I’m doing the best I can do.”
“University Colloquium” teaches students how to do the best they can do. We don’t need to have the big solution that solves everything, if that even exists. All we have to do is to be like the hummingbird and play our part in the best way we know how.