Tuesday, October 04, 2011

One Tree at a Time

Last week Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathi of Kenya died of cancer at age seventy one. She was the founder of the Green Belt movement which eventually planted millions of trees across Africa and continues to do so. Her award in 2003 was hugely significant in that it was the first time the Peace Prize was awarded for making peace with the planet.

Ms. Maathi was a courageous woman. In the early days of the movement she and followers were beaten and jailed for protesting the clear-cutting of forests in her native Kenya, an activity supported by the government but which resulted in desertification. Her husband divorced her, essentially for being an "uppity" woman. But she persevered and brought about change which continues to make peace with the Earth. She has empowered countless rural African women who have been the heart and soul of the Green Belt movement.

Last year she published her book Replenishing the Earth: Spiritual Values for Healing Ourselves and the World. The description of the book on the Green Belt website says "Maathai wants to impart that feeling to everyone, and believes that the key lies in traditional spiritual values: love for the environment, self-betterment, gratitude and respect, and a commitment to service. While educated in the Christian tradition, Maathai draws inspiration from many faiths, celebrating the Jewish mandate tikkun olam ("repair the world" and renewing the Japanese term mottainai ("don't waste"). Through rededication to these values, she believes, we might finally bring about healing for ourselves and the earth."

Her death is definitely a loss, but the movement continues.

Have you heard about Ms. Maathi? Are you impressed/inspired by story? How do we make sure that these stories of "tikkun olam" are told?

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