Wangari Maathai and Ecologically Sustainable Development


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Wangari Maathai and Ecologically Sustainable Development - How much difference can planting one tree make? A lot, as Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai of Kenya has shown. Maathai, who was awarded the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize for her “contribution to sustainable development, democracy, and peace,” founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977. This grassroots group organizes volunteers primarily rural women to plant indigenous trees in forests, wildlife reserves, farms, and public places. Tree planting helps to reverse some of the serious problems caused by deforestation, including erosion, loss of biodiversity, and decreased water supply.

Green Belt Movement volunteers plant a tree
Green Belt Movement
volunteers plant a tree
Green Belt Movement volunteers have planted more than 30 million trees since the group was founded and continue to maintain more than 6000 tree nurseries across Kenya. Maathai’s Green Belt Movement also uses tree planting as an entry point for other activities. By enabling local communities to change environmental history, the organization empowers them to address issues related to environmental conservation, community consciousness, equity, livelihood security, and accountability. Maathai’s model has inspired similar groups in other countries, including Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Zimbabwe.
How important is environmentalism to the world?
In Maathai’s words, “Some people have asked what the relationship is between peace and environment, and to them I say that many wars are fought over resources, which are becoming increasingly scarce across the earth. 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.”*
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