With fires burning where fires don’t usually burn, from Siberia to Alaska to the Amazon crisis, I wanted to focus on those who have been doing something about it. In areas all over the planet, people are showing up and planting trees. Millions of them, from India, the Philippine’s, Africa, China and Israel. The billion tree project, by the Nature Conservancy, is actively working in many regions to help local communities put their plans in place.

As I researched this topic, I found a fascinating graph showing areas that can support trees without disrupting commerce and agriculture. For instance, here in the USA, there are many areas of the Midwest/Mideast locations that can benefit. Also in Europe, including the British Isles. The entire eastern region of Australia is another opportunity. So as the fires burn, trees are being born elsewhere. Keep them coming!

Wangari Maathai was the founder of the Green Belt Movement and the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. She authored four books: The Green Belt Movement; Unbowed: A Memoir; The Challenge for Africa; and Replenishing the Earth. As well as having been featured in a number of books, she and the Green Belt Movement were the subject of a documentary film, Taking Root: the Vision of Wangari Maathai (Marlboro Productions, 2008). 

Ms. Maathai’s legacy is huge in Kenya and East and Central Africa, not just for planting trees, but for her internationally acknowledged struggle for democracy, human rights, and environmental conservation. Wangari was jailed and beaten for her activism on a few occasions. She helped change the government as well. She understood the connection when helping empower the people. She has a very long list of accomplishments and honors. And she was fortunate to be raised with an education, which she in turn helped to raise up the consciousness of her country, and beyond. Education, especially for women, does change the environment for the better.

Many empowered African women have been featured throughout my blog stories. Every single one of them is changing their cultural norms by being the voices of the oppressed. Not all had educational opportunities, but they found a way, inspired by women around them. Every single one of them is paying it forward.

In 1971, Wangari Maathai received a Ph.D., effectively becoming the first woman in either East or Central Africa to earn a doctorate. She was elected to Kenya’s National Assembly in 2002 and has written several books and scholarly articles. She won the Nobel Peace Prize for her “holistic approach to sustainable development that embraces democracy, human rights, and women’s rights in particular.” Maathai died of cancer on September 25, 2011, in Nairobi, Kenya.

Born on April 1, 1940, in Nyeri, Kenya, environmental activist Wangari Maathai grew up in a small village. Her father supported the family working as a tenant farmer. At this time, Kenya was still a British colony. Maathai’s family decided to send her to school, which was uncommon for girls to be educated at this time. She started at a local primary school when she was 8 years old.

An excellent student, Maathai was able to continue her education at the Loreto Girls’ High School. She won a scholarship in 1960 to go to college in the United States. Maathai attended Mount St. Scholastica College in Atchison, Kansas, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in biology in 1964. Two years later, she completed a master’s degree in biological sciences at the University of Pittsburgh. Maathai would later draw inspiration by the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements in the United States.

Maathai sought to end the devastation of Kenya’s forests and lands caused by development and remedy the negative impact that this development had on the country’s environment. In 1977, she launched the Green Belt Movement to reforest her beloved country while helping the nation’s women. “Women needed income and they needed resources because theirs were being depleted,” Maathai explained to People magazine. “So we decided to solve both problems together.”


To learn more about Wangari, I have included a link. She was truly remarkable. I hope you too find inspiration and plant a tree or organize an event or join a local group doing the work. I know my region has many offerings throughout the year to get involved in park and forest restorations. This takes more than a village…it takes each and every one of us.

Wangari Maathai and the Green Belt Movement
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