Wangari Maathai

It all began for Dr. Maathai from a memory of a stream near her house where she played and got water. As her life continued Dr. Maathai noticed that destruction of the local environment and its ecology were linked to poverty. In fact, she was one of the first to state this observation publicly. But Dr. Maathai didn’t stop there, she went on to establish the Greenbelt Movement in her native Kenya.

The Greenbelt movement started to take action to reestablish ecosystems by paying women to plant trees near where they lived. This had multiple effects. It helped the environment because trees stabilized soil, by stabilizing soil trees help keep both water and air clean and they provide food and cover for a host of organisms.  These are only three benefits provided by trees, I am sure you can think of many more.

By paying women to plant these trees the Greenbelt Movement helps women reconnect, in a positive way, to their environment. It gives the women working a voice about what their environment looked like and it helps them earn money to care for their families. These are just a a few of the benefits the women receive from their participation.

The Greenbelt Movement has many more projects now.

For her efforts with this program Wangari Maathai earned the Nobel Peace Prize. Dr Maathai didn’t stop there. She went on the fight for the environment, women’s rights, justice in government and other values. For this she earned both derision and respect.

Dr. Maatha died today at the age of 71. She will be missed but her legacy will live on in the work she started and the women she inspired. You can read more about Dr. Maathai here and here and many other places on the web.

From the memory of a stream, the insight to connect environmental degradation with poverty, and the power of will to act, Dr. Maathai became a powerful force for the environment and women. She is also an excellent example for the rest of us.

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