What do Trees have to do with Peace?
An African woman, Dr. Wangary Maathai, is this year’s
Nobel Peace Prize
Laureate. Her story...
Thirty years ago, in the country of Kenya, 90% of the forest
chopped down. Without trees to hold the topsoil in place, the
became like a desert.
When the women and girls would go in search of firewood in
prepare the meals, they would have to spend hours and hours
for what few branches remained. A woman named Wangari watched
this happening. She decided that there must be a way to take
of the land and take better care of the women and girls.
So she planted a tree. And then she planted another. She wanted
thousands of trees, but she realized that it would take a very
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
amount for each sapling they grew.
Soon she organized women all over the country to plant trees,
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
besides those trees was taking root. The women began to have
in themselves. They began to see that they could make a difference.
began to see that they were capable of many things, and that
equal to the men. They began to recognize that they were deserving
being treated with respect and dignity.
Changes like these were threatening to some. The president
country didn't like any of this. So police were sent to intimidate
beat Wangari for planting trees, and for planting ideas of
democracy in people's heads, especially in women's. She was
"subversion" and arrested many times.
Once, while Wangari was trying to plant trees, she was clubbed
hired by developers who wanted the lands cleared. She was hospitalized
with head injuries. But she survived, and it only made her
she was on the right path.
For almost thirty years, she was threatened physically, and
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
of women and girls who were blossoming right along with the
she found the strength to continue.
And that is how it came to be that 30 million trees have been
Africa, one tree at a time. The landscapes -- both the external
the land and the internal one of the people --have been transformed.
In 2002, the people of Kenya held a democratic election, and
president who opposed Wangari and her Green Belt Movement is
in office. And Wangari is now Kenya's Assistant Minister for
She is 65 years old, and this year she planted one more tree
celebration and thanksgiving for being given a very great honor:
Maathai has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. She is the
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
natural resources, such as oil, land, coal or diamonds. She
an end to corporate greed, and for leaders to build more just
"Our recent experience in Kenya gives hope to all who
struggling for a better future. It shows it is possible to
positive change, and still do it peacefully. All it takes is
perseverance, and a belief that positive change is possible.
That is why
the slogan for our campaign was 'It is Possible!'"
"On behalf of all African women, I want to express my
appreciation for this honor, which will serve to encourage
Kenya, Africa, and around the world to raise their voices and
not to be
"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
world to celebrate by planting a tree wherever you are."
As she received the Nobel Peace Prize this week in Oslo, she
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's invitation?
As we look around our neighborhood or city, as we look at
country, What is needed? What is our equivalent of planting