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Lessons from Wangari Maathai

The Late Prof. Wangari Maathai

She took up a dirty cause as a young girl, it involved digging and planting on dirty earth all while her peers were going to the disco with bell-bottoms or whatever it is that was in fashion during her youth.

I have googled images of her and she seemed happier in photographs where she was either holding a tree seedling or hugging a fully grown tree – not even the smile she wore when she won the the prestigious  Nobel Peace Prize would beat any of these.

When she started her cause many thought she had gone nutts, they called her mad. a former president even ordered a truckload of armed policemen to violently throw her and her Greenbelt Movement from Karura forest. The harmless woman took a beating for a cause she cherished.

But even after receiving one of the most prestigious international awards for championing environmental conservation, Wangari Maathai was not honored by her people. The best we could was make her an Assistant Minister for environment.

Today as I write this, world leaders are gathered in New York at the UN Headquarters and top of their agenda is fighting climate change and terrorism which if you ask me has everything to do with environmental conservation.

If only we listened to Wangari Maathai and planted trees, we could not be as concerned about climate change as we are today. Here we are now grappling with the effects of destroying our environment and so serious has that destruction become that it is threatening the very existence of humanity and life on earth.

Today we talk about the carbon credits  market as an incentive for people to plant trees but not knowing that at the same time we are encouraging the industrialized world to continue destroying the world because at the end of the day they can afford to buy the carbon credits.

Is it too late to reverse the effects of climate change?

It’s as simple as encouraging everyone to plant trees, Maathai did it in her small way but life has taught us that the only way we will survive is if this is upscaled.

Nations have succeeded in forcing their citizens to join the military, why are they finding it hard to force their citizens to do a harmless thing like planting trees.

We don’t need the whole world sitting in conferences every year spending billions while we can do practical things to save this planet for ourselves, our children and our children’s children.

If we sustainable used our natural resources, we would not be worried about poverty because our food production will definitely improve. We will not be spending billions in treating diseases and most importantly we will not be fighting terror because there will be enough resources to share across the board such that no one would hardly feel short-changed.

That is the message that Wangari Maathai was telling the world before death robbed us of her wisdom three years ago.

There is a Wangari Maathai living inside each and everyone of us. We all have something we can do to make this world a better place for ourselves, our children and our children’s children.

It doesn’t matter how small it is – hers was planting trees, what is yours?

Follow me on Twitter @IamOminde



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