Wangari Maathai's White Paper
All the 2006 Principal Voices are submitting a White Paper to the Web site, explaining their views at length.
Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement and winner for the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize, argues that how everyone has a role to play in environmental protection efforts.
Our environment is fragile and the Earth's resources are limited. We must learn to manage these resources responsibly, accountably and share them more equitably.
This will only be possible if we govern ourselves in a political space that is democratic and respects human rights, the law and the diversity of cultures, traditions and perspectives. In such a world, where dialogue is encouraged, many conflicts can be pre-empted.
Among the many human activities that degrade the environment are deforestation and the clearing of shrubs and other vegetation from the land, both of which exacerbate the process of desertification. Other harmful behavior includes creation of pollution and waste, often driven by the "single use products" such as thin plastics and paper.
Initiatives to mitigate this environmental degradation must come from governments, the private sector and individuals. To encourage and support such efforts, it is essential to raise awareness, so a critical mass of people within government bodies, corporations and among citizens understand what is at stake and are motivated to take action.
In this respect, it is critically important to have strong citizens' movements -- a civil society -- that are able to take action and demand a clean environment from all the other actors.
Countries and regions that do not have strong citizens' movements are unlikely to meet the environmental challenges that face them. In Africa in particular, a stronger civil society is especially needed to address the issues of deforestation and desertification.
One of the issues that is likely to be a major source of conflict in Africa in coming years is the availability of clean drinking water. While people can live without oil or minerals, they cannot live without water.
There are many ways in which the environment can be rehabilitated and sustained. Individuals, companies and organizations can engage in activities such as planting trees, as well as protecting existing trees and forests. They can curb soil erosion through simple techniques such as building trenches and harvesting rainwater, protecting watersheds and riverine habitats. They can also recycle, reduce waste and lower their consumption of fossil fuels. Such activities would help reduce negative environmental footprints.
When I was in Japan I learned about the concept of "mottainai." It originates in the Buddhist tradition and the concept roughly parallels the "3R" campaign that has been popularlized in the U.S. and Europe for many years; reduce, reuse and recycle and don't waste. I have been working to make the concept of "mottainai" better known and I hope that it will be adopted more widely.
Through my work over the past 30 years I have seen again and again that women are the first to experience the impact of limited natural resources since they are often engaged in ensuring the survival of their families. Therefore, they tend to be more responsive to addressing the situation, and willing to work for the rehabilitation of their immediate environment. Men, by contrast, tend to be driven by the necessity of earning an income and as such tend to look further into the future rather than worry about immediate survival.
Many people, organizations and companies have resources, knowledge and skills and can support those who are in the forefront of protecting our environment and ensuring that our needs, as well as those of future generations, can be met. In particular, they can support initiatives for women and families.
The Green Belt Movement shares, with many others around the world, the vision of a clean and healthy environment, and appreciates the efforts of those who devote their time, energy and resources to the wellbeing of the Earth and all its inhabitants. Not only do we honor and respect them, but we also hope that more people will be inspired to join them -- and us -- and play their part.
To find our more about the Green Belt Movement's work and Wangari Maathai, please visit www.greenbeltmovement.org
What do you think?
In my opinion, the key to settle this issue is to create the link to education between friends, relatives and society. That is our long-term project.
Your comments resonate innately with me. Now more and more people are coming to realize that trees can help, they are a value commodity that we all need, not just for development but to sustain our habitat now and for our future generations.
We are working in Southeast Asia to emulate your work in Africa, through our own charity the PATT Foundation (www.plant-a-tree-today.org).
It is a commendable effort that I think should come to Nigeria and the West African sub-region. I want to say thank you Wanagari Maathai.
I personally commend these exercises, because they will really go a long way to help correct some major issues on the environment -- so continue in it.
Your vision is noble and the earlier we believe in it and start working towards its realization, the better for us, our children and our children's children in future generations.
Thanks, Wangari. l admire your efforts! l think me and you are quite aware of the dangers ahead of us and that of our generation, but how many of us are really taking steps to correct or stop the destroying this life supporting system? God bless you!
I must view the comments of Ms. Maathai against my observations in East Africa, where the indigenous forest is being massively degraded by charcoal burners. This is an issue which all agencies seem to need to ignore.. It would be meaningful if you applied your resources to some investigation on this issue.
God bless people like you, Wangari. I entirely agree with you as well as share your vision. Great job!!!
Wangari, I applaud your motivation but I've got to wonder if you don't feel like Sisyphus. I wasted thirty years trying to show people what is happening to this Earth, trying to tell them we are astray but it interferes with their planned hopes and dreams of self fulfillment... they don't realize that when the ecology collapses the economy goes too.
Those of you that have learned to survive on money will be fine just as long as your digestive juices can work with ink and paper. God's speed, Wangari; you will need it.
I applaud the efforts of Wangari Maathai and the Green Belt Movement. I also work with a West African organization who started an organic farm in southwestern Nigeria. Every process is designed to reuse and recycle waste. The farm has had a positive impact on development in the area providing jobs, nutritious food and training for future farmers.
I share your vision!! Thank you and God bless.