The world is less green and bright this morning. Nature lovers, women’s rights activists, and spiritual people in the San Francisco Bay Area and across the globe are learning that an extraordinary woman who saved a people and preserved fragile areas of our planet for future generations will fight for us no more.
Nobel Laureate Wangari Muta Maathai lost her battle with cancer on September 25, 2011. Surrounded by loved ones, Professor Maathai died at Nairobi Hospital. She is survived by her three children (Waweru, Wanjira, and Muta) and her granddaughter, Ruth.
Maathai, as regular readers of this column know from this Examiner’s review of Maathai’s book, Replenishing the Earth: Spiritual Values for Healing Ourselves and the World, was the forward thinking founder of the Green Belt Movement.
If she had done nothing more than inspiring her fellow Kenyans to plant more than 45 million trees to green their communities and nation, that would have been accomplishment enough for ten lifetimes. That effort has been credited with the restoration of the forest cover in the five most critical water catchment areas of Kenya which provide water for more than 90 percent of that nation’s population.
But she did not stop there. Maathai launched a Women for Change (WfC) initiative which has, since 2003, enabled women and girls to eradicate many of life’s most difficult challenges caused by poverty, food insecurity, and HIV/AIDS.
According to the Green Belt Movement’s web site, just a few of the world leaders who have been moved to comment on Professor Maathai’s passing include:
- Hillary Rodham Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State: The world has lost a powerful force for peace, democracy and women’s rights…. Her death has left a gaping hole among the ranks of women leaders, but she leaves behind a solid foundation for others to build upon.
- Archbishop Desmond Tutu, fellow Nobel Peace Prize Laureate: Wangari Maathai understood and acted on the inextricable links between poverty, rights and environmental sustainability…. She was a true African heroine.
- Barack Obama, President of the United States, fellow Nobel Peace Prize Laureate: The work of the Green Belt Movement stands as a testament to the power of grassroots organizing, proof that one person’s simple idea – that a community should come together to plant trees – can make a difference, first in one village, then in one nation, and now across Africa.
- His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, fellow Nobel Peace Prize Laureate: She was determined to make our world a more peaceful, better place to live. I hope her valuable achievements will inspire other women to follow her example and take a more active role in society.”
More tributes may be found online here. To share your condolences, visit the Green Belt Movement’s web site: www.greenbeltmovement.org/. Then go plant a tree in her memory.