One day he was walking along the shore. As he looked down the beach, he saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself to think of someone who would dance to the day. So he began to walk faster to catch up. As he got closer, he saw that it was a young man and the young man wasn’t dancing, but instead he was reaching down to the shore, picking up something and very gently throwing it into the ocean.
As he got closer, he called out, “Good morning! What are you doing?” The young man paused, looked up and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”
“I guess I should have asked, Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?”
“The sun is up and the tide is going out. And if I don’t throw them in they’ll die.”
“But young man, don’t you realize that there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it. You can’t possibly make a difference!”
The young man listened politely. Then bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves.
“It made a difference for that one!”
From an adaptation of Loren Eisley’s work by Joseph Barker
Nan loves the Starfish Story.
by Justin Minkel on Wednesday, 05/07/2014
Here’s why I hate the starfish parable.
First off, human interference with nature often ends badly for nature, even when the humans involved are well-meaning little Samaritans. Maybe some species of sea bird needed the starfish for food. Maybe the starfish population would skyrocket out of control, leading to starvation and ecological chaos, if a portion of their number didn’t die on the beach. Who does this kid think he is, Jacques Cousteau?
In fact, maybe the starfish just looked like they were dying, but were actually engaged in some obscure starfish ritual essential to their survival. That starfish he rescued probably said to itself,
“Damn. It took me months to get onto that beach.”