Authors: Green For All
You cannot protect the environment unless you empower people, you inform them, and you help them understand that these resources are their own, that they must protect them.
The world lost a champion yesterday. The world broadly: the people of the world and the planet itself.
Wangari Muta Maathai was perhaps an improbable leader. Born in the highlands of Kenya, she was one of the few girls in her generation to go to school. After attending college in the United States, she returned to Kenya to teach. She soon engaged with environmental and humanitarian organizations in Nairobi.
This work introduced her to rural Kenyans who complained of worsening environmental conditions, and led to the insight that changed the world: the green belt. By planting trees, villages got access to firewood, improved soil, improved water systems. But - more importantly - it gave birth to the idea that improving the environment was good for society.
Professor Maathai led a movement that unsettled existing leaders. She stepped forward boldly with an innate sense of the strength of her own values and with little hesitation. She risked her own safety to reveal a simple truth. She was the sort of leader every activist should strive to be: humble, brilliant, dedicated, world-changing. She was an inspiration to all of us at Green For All.
In 2004, Professor Maathai received the Nobel Peace Prize for her work on sustainable development and toward peace - the first African woman and first environmentalist to be so honored. Grist.org interviewed Professor Maathai shortly after; it's worth a read to give more background on the life of a remarkable woman. You can also learn more at the webpage of the Green Belt Movement, the organization she helped found in 1977 that carries on her work. We also encourage people to leave a comment on her Facebook wall, extending your appreciation.
With Wangari Maathai's death, a light has gone out. But the many fires of knowledge and innovation her life inspired have made the world a much brighter place for her having been on it.