Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Wangari Maathai, the Nobel Peace Prize winner of 2004

I've been reading today about Wangari Maathai, the Nobel Peace Prize winner of 2004 (and first African woman to recieve the NPP). She is a Kenyan professor passionate about the environment, and concerned over Africa's status in general. She has been beaten and jailed many times for her activism, but has continued to petition for more sustainable energy/resource development, protection and interest in women's rights, and education about AIDS.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee said this about her,
“She has taken a holistic approach to sustainable development that embraces democracy, human rights and women’s rights in particular. Her efforts have been adopted by other countries as well. We believe that Maathai is a strong voice speaking for the best forces in Africa to promote peace and good living conditions on that continent”

Especially memorable is the Green Belt Movement she began in 1977. Because of the "degradation of their immediate environment," women, the caretakers of their families, were unable to meet their basic needs. Because these African women are the ones often responsible for tilling the land and feeding their families, they are the first to realize that the environment is suffering, as the resources they rely on begin to dry up. The Green Belt Movement is a simple idea: plant trees. Over 30 million trees have been planted since 1977, offering fuel, food, shelter and income for families, and improving soils and watersheds. These trees also became a symbol for peace during conflict resolutions in the years following.

Here are some interesting quotes from Maathai herself:

"If we did a better job of managing our resources sustainably, conflicts over them would be reduced. So, protecting the global environment is directly related to securing peace."

“It is evident that many wars are fought over resources, which are now becoming increasingly scarce. If we conserved our resources better, fighting over them would not then occur.”

and from her acceptance speech or "Nobel Lecture" on December 10, 2004

"I would like to call on young people to commit themselves to activities that contribute toward achieving their long-term dreams. They have the energy and creativity to shape a sustainable future. To the young people I say, you are a gift to your communities and indeed the world. You are our hope and our future."


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