For many years, before humanity became aware of the dangers of climate change, Wangari Maathai was advocating the planting of trees. Her work was based initially in her home country of Kenya in order to redress the imbalances created by the imposition of a Western paradigm of progress on a country and people whose inherent wealth and wisdom went unrecognised. Wangari’s intuitive understanding of ecology began when she observed a pristine stream in her childhood village become dry and barren as the forests around her home were cleared; she realised that the wellbeing of her people depended on the wellbeing of the natural world. This innate understanding of the interconnectedness of all life led her to found The Greenbelt Movement in Kenya, which has in the intervening years planted millions of trees. I asked Wangari if she felt The Greenbelt Movement was a model that could be replicated throughout the world.
“The fact that trees can sequester carbon is really a miracle,” she replied, “but when we started planting trees, that was not foremost in our minds. But the more I now think about climate change, the more I know for sure that trees are our best friends in the global effort to mitigate climate change. So, yes, at Copenhagen in 2009) we will be strongly advocating that forests must be part of the solution.”
Despite Wangari’s Nobel Prize and her high-profile work (and that of many others) to save the world’s remaining forests, the message still seems to fall on deaf ears. “How is it”, I asked, “that well-educated politicians and economists still cannot see the link between healthy environments and healthy people and economies?”
By the end of 2009, more than 7.4 billion trees were planted as part of ‘the Seven Billion Tree Campaign’ in excess of the 7 billion target. For more information visit www.unep.org/billiontreecampaign.
Professor Wangari Maathai is Founder of The Greenbelt Movement and 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. www.greenbeltmovement.org
Printed with permission from Resurgence Magazine, U.K.
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