Kenyan environmentalist and activist Wangari Maathai would have turned 73 years old today.
In 1977 she founded the Green Belt Movement, a non-governmental organization focused on environmental conservation. The Movement has helped Kenyan women over the years to plant trees and fight deforestation while generating income, it is estimated that more than 51 million trees have been planted since. On top of benefiting people from her native Kenya, the movement has trained over 30,000 women in food processing and land and resource preservation worldwide.
In 2004, Wangari Maathai receved the Nobel Peace Prize, making her the first African woman to win it.
What she said:
African women in general need to know that it’s OK for them to be the way they are – to see the way they are as a strength, and to be liberated from fear and from silence.
But when you have bad governance, of course, these resources are destroyed: The forests are deforested, there is illegal logging, there is soil erosion. I got pulled deeper and deeper and saw how these issues become linked to governance, to corruption, to dictatorship.
In a few decades, the relationship between the environment, resources and conflict may seem almost as obvious as the connection we see today between human rights, democracy and peace.
We are very fond of blaming the poor for destroying the environment. But often it is the powerful, including governments, that are responsible.
When resources are degraded, we start competing for them, whether it is at the local level in Kenya, where we had tribal clashes over land and water, or at the global level, where we are fighting over water, oil, and minerals. So one way to promote peace is to promote sustainable management and equitable distribution of resources.