Just when Wangari Maathai thought no one was listening to the message of her organization, The Green Belt Movement, she received a surprising call – she had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The first environmentalist ever to be recognized with this honour, Wangari realized “that the world was listening”.
Wangari initiated The Green Belt movement in Kenya, a program in which groups of women are paid to plant trees, proving advantageous for both the environment and the women.
The movement set off the United Nations One Billion Trees Campaign. Each year, the campaign aims to have one billion trees planted worldwide. In 2004, the Nobel committee awarded Wangari with the Nobel Peace Prize for her work in Kenya.
"The honor was not just for me. It was also for the thousands of women who planted 30 million trees throughout Kenya as part of the Green Belt Movement."
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Scene from Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai, courtesy of Marboro Productions
Photos courtesy of Getty Images
Music by Ado
Think of global environmental problems in the 21st century, and global warming will likely top the list. It’s something we hear about nearly every day, yet we don’t have a stable solution for.
There are ideas though. Take trees, a major life force for the planet, providing shelter and food for up to 90% of terrestrial species, oxygen for humanity, and support for most of the world’s natural systems.
Yet according to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), 13 million hectares of forest, an area the size of Greece, are uprooted every year, and only 20% of the world’s forests remain intact.
As trees are lost, carbon is emitted into the atmosphere; deforestation contributes more emissions per year than the entire transport sector.
Though deforestation is global in nature, it is especially drastic in many parts of Africa. For Wangari Maathai, a native Kenyan and Nobel Peace Prize winner, the problem of deforestation sparked a bright idea in her.
Recognizing that women in her community didn’t have firewood, water or a voice to take action, she founded the Green Belt Movement, building on the idea that a single grassroots action can have widespread global effects.
The simple act of planting a tree, and recognition of the linkage between environment, democracy, and peace, soon spread like wildfire across the globe, empowering other communities to protect their local environments and speak up for change.
In the fight for environmental protection, we can’t sit idly; take action now and start Talking Climate Change.
"It is the people who must save the environment. It is the people who must make their leaders change. And we cannot be intimidated. So we must stand up for what we believe in." -Wangari Maathai