Wangari Maathai dies at 71

UPDATE: Dr. Wangari Maathai Laid To Rest In Kenya

Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize recipient and leader of Greenbelt Movement dies at 71

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, President Obama, and other world leaders today paid tribute to Professor Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and one of Africa’s foremost environmental campaigners, who died on Sunday. She was 71.

“It is with great sadness that the family of Professor Wangari Maathai announces her passing away on 25th September, 2011, at the Nairobi Hospital, after a prolonged and bravely borne struggle with cancer. Her loved ones were with her at the time,” the Green Belt Movement announced on its website. Maathai was the founder of the Green Belt Movement that encouraged women in rural Kenya to plant trees to improve their livelihoods through better access to clean water, firewood for cooking and other resources. Her movement planted an estimated 45 million trees in Africa and assisted nearly 900,000 women to establish tree nurseries and plant trees to reverse the effects of deforestation, according to the United Nations tribute to her.

“Her passing is a loss for the people of Kenya and the world,” Ban Ki-moon said in a statement published on the UN website. Maathai was a “globally recognized champion for human rights and women’s empowerment” and a “pioneer in articulating the links between human rights, poverty, environmental protection and security,” he added.

“She was a visionary who saw over the tree canopy, but never lost sight of the roots.”

“She was a visionary who saw over the tree canopy, but never lost sight of the roots,” said Jan McAlpine, Director of the Secretariat of the UN Forum on Forests, adding that Ms. Maathai was a great woman and a wonderful leader who made a difference both in Kenya and around the world, one tree at a time.

“Wangari Maathai was a force of nature,” UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said in a news release. “While others deployed their power and life force to damage, degrade and extract short term profit from the environment, she used hers to stand in their way, mobilize communities and to argue for conservation and sustainable development over destruction.

“She was, like the acacias and the Prunus Africana trees Wangari fought so nobly and assiduously to conserve, strong in character and able to survive sometimes the harshest of conditions,” he added.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2004 to Wangari Maathai for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.

“Peace on earth depends on our ability to secure our living environment. Maathai stands at the front of the fight to promote ecologically viable social, economic and cultural development in Kenya and in Africa. She has taken a holistic approach to sustainable development that embraces democracy, human rights and women’s rights in particular. She thinks globally and acts locally,” the Committee said when it announced its decision to award her the Nobel Peace Prize.

“Maathai combines science, social commitment and active politics. More than simply protecting the existing environment, her strategy is to secure and strengthen the very basis for ecologically sustainable development,” the Committee added.
more at the link

Greenbelt Movement
Website for the Greenbelt Movement. Information on dedications, testimonials, memorials, etc. can be found here.
For those who claimed environmentalism and peace were not connected, the life of Dr. Maathai proves them wrong. Depletion of resources especially now in a world where those resources are being depleted twice as fast as they are being restored is one of the primary reasons for conflict. Water scarcity, deforestation, land grabs, pollution, etc. as well as the effects of climate change as a result of human actions is already leading to crop failure, degradation of land, water scarcity and other effects on biodiversity up the food chain and web of life.

Dr. Maathai understood all of these residual consequences of our actions and devoted her life to preserving forests which balance out biodiversity and climate while providing water, sustenance and a way of life for so many indigenous people who now see their land and water being sacrificed for corporate greed. For those who did not know of her, your life can only be enriched by reading her story of courage.

I got to know of her by reading of her while researching a paper on the environment when I was college. I learned of the Greenbelt Movement and what she had done in regards to inspiring the women in her group to plant trees. At this time it was considered a threat for women to take on so much power in controlling anything. Yet, Wangari Maathai and her movement brought about great change in Kenya and the world with passion, resolve and courage even in the face of beatings and arrests. For me she was the personification of courage and an inspiration in my life.

A great light has gone out, but the light and hope she gave to this world will never go out. Thank you so much for the gift you gave us all. We will hopefully pay it forward.

My Dedication To Dr. Maathai

You too can plant a tree to keep her legacy alive.

TAKING ROOT: The Vision Of Wangari Maathai

"I will be a hummingbird"

I will do my best.