Last month, I presented a brief introduction to a series in which I’d like to comment on a number of aspects of the green revolution, namely practical environmental conservation measures on multiple scales. I distinguish between the established Green Revolution — which more directly encompasses issues surrounding agricultural production — and an ideal green movement where a growing interest in sustainability translates to universal commitment to action. The green revolution to which I refer recognizes that all forms of sustainable development, such as food sovereignty/sustainable agricultural development, economic development of marginalized groups and nations and ecologically-sensitive design and construction, connect and solutions should be prepared accordingly. Over the course of my blog series, I’ll aim to feature, at least, one example of a noteworthy, heroic act for each post, so that the various forms and accessibility of the green revolution are made apparent. The green revolution should emphasize that anyone can act heroically for the sake of ourselves, that of our future and that of the planet we inhabit; a hero sacrifices in order to direct energy into something beyond the limits of his/her own life.
The debate surrounding carbon footprints and subsequent offsets is a common way in which to address the issue, but its critiques and commentary are ubiquitous and it has been covered a good amount already. I’ve decided to highlight a successful example of community grassroots organizing because it allows one to become invested in a movement and to build confidence in one’s ability to strengthen that movement through his/her unique skills and interests. I echo John Lennon’s sentiment that “a working class hero is something to be,” but no one is exempt in my eyes from responsibility to the Earth and its inhabitants and anyone can be a hero[ine].
Today’s Featured Act: Dr. Wangari Maathai – Green Belt Movement
Dr. Wangari Maathai is an environmentalist, a political and human rights activist, a member of Kenya’s parliament, a former Assistant Minister for Environment, Natural Resources and Wildlife, winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize and the founder of the Green Belt Movement. As the first woman in East and Central Africa to have earned a doctoral degree and the first African woman and environmentalist to have been awarded a Nobel Peace Prize, it is no wonder that Professor Maathai initiated a grassroots tree planting program — to address issues of deforestation, soil erosion and an inadequate water supply in her country — which also blossomed into an organization that works with women to improve their quality of life. According to the Green Belt Movement, Professor Maathai has helped women in Kenya plant more than 30 million trees on their farms and on school and church lands. In 1986, the Green Belt Movement established a Pan African Green Belt Network through which it shared its environmental conservation/tree planting programs with other African groups. Today, more than 40 million trees have been planted in total across Africa due to GBM’s efforts. As a result, soil erosion has been reduced in critical watersheds, thousands of acres of biodiversity-rich indigenous forest have been restored and protected and hundreds of thousands of women and their families have empowered themselves and their communities.
Professor Maathai was listed 6th in the UK Environment Agency’s peer review of the world’s Top 100 Eco-Heroes. She is has also been listed in the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Global 500 Hall of Fame among many other acknowledgements and awards throughout her career.
On receiving the news of being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, 2004
It is evident that many wars are fought over resources which are now becoming increasingly scarce. If we conserved our resources better, fighting over them would not then occur…so, protecting the global environment is directly related to securing peace…those of us who understand the complex concept of the environment have the burden to act. We must not tire, we must not give up, we must persist.
From a speech at Radcliffe College, Harvard University, USA, 1994
The women of the Green Belt Movement have learned about the causes and the symptoms of environmental degradation. They have begun to appreciate that they, rather than their government, ought to be the custodians of the environment.
I will feature some of the people mentioned in the Salon.com/Rolling Stone report, Climate Warriors and Heroes, but please take your time reading through these contributions from a vast range of fields in the meantime.
Photos and quotations from The Green Belt Movement