do Trees have to do with Peace?
African woman, Dr. Wangari Maathai, is this year’s Nobel Peace Prize
Laureate. Her story...
Thirty years ago, in the country of
, 90% of the forest had been chopped down. Without trees to hold the
topsoil in place, the land became like a desert.
When the women and girls would go in search of firewood in order to prepare
the meals, they would have to spend hours and hours looking for what
few branches remained.
A woman named Wangari watched all of this happening. She decided that there
must be a way to take better care of the land and take better care of
the women and girls.
So she planted a tree. And then she planted another. She wanted to plant
thousands of trees, but she realized that it would take a very long time
if she was the only one doing it.So she taught the women who were looking
for firewood to plant trees, and they were paid a small amount for each
sapling they grew.
Soon she organized women all over the country to plant trees, and a movement
took hold. It was called the Green Belt Movement, and with each passing
year, more and more trees covered the land.
But something else was happening as the women planted those trees.
Something else besides those trees was taking root.
The women began to have confidence in themselves.T hey began to see that
they could make a difference. They began to see that they were capable
of many things, and that they were equal to the men.They began to
recognize that they were deserving
of being treated with respect and dignity.
Changes like these were threatening to some. The president of the country didn
t like any of this.So police were sent to intimidate and beat Wangari
for planting trees, and for planting ideas of equality and democracy in people
s heads, especially in
s. She was accused of "subversion" and arrested many times.
Once, while Wangari was trying to plant trees, she was clubbed by guards hired
by developers who wanted the lands cleared. She was hospitalized with
head injuries. But she survived, and it only made her realize that she
was on the right path.
For almost thirty years, she was threatened physically, and she was often made
fun of in the press. But she didn
t flinch. She only had to look in the eyes of her three children, and in
the eyes of the thousands of women and girls who were blossoming right
along with the trees, and she found the strength to continue.
And that is how it came to be that 30 million trees have been planted in
, one tree at a time. The landscapes--both the external one of the land
and the internal one of the people--have been transformed.
In 2002, the people of
held a democratic election, and the president who opposed Wangari and
her Green Belt Movement is no longer in office. And Wangari is now
s Assistant Minister for the Environment.
She is 65 years old, and this year she planted one more tree in
celebration and thanksgiving for being given a very great honor:
Wangari Maathai has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. She is the first
African woman to receive this award.
After she was notified, she gave a speech entitled, What Do Trees Have
To Do With Peace?"
She pointed out how most wars are fought over limited natural resources,
such as oil, land, coal or diamonds. She called for an end to
corporate greed, and for leaders to build more just societies. She
"Our recent experience in
gives hope to all who have been struggling for a better future. It
shows it is possible to bring about positive change, and still do it
peacefully. All it takes is courage and perseverance, and a belief that positive
possible. That is why the slogan for our campaign was
It is Possible!
"On behalf of all African women, I want to express my profound
appreciation for this honour, which will serve to encourage women
, and around the world to raise their voices and not to be deterred."
"When we plant trees, we plant the seeds of peace and seeds of
hope. We also secure the future for our children. I call on those around the
world to celebrate by planting a tree wherever you are."
As she received the Nobel Peace Prize this week in
, she invited us all to get involved:
"Today we are faced with a challenge that calls for a shift in
our thinking, so that humanity stops threatening its life-support
system. We are called to assist the Earth to heal her wounds and in the
process heal our own."
Can we accept Wangari
As we look around our neighborhood or city,
as we look at our own country,
What is needed?