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Wangari Maathai at the Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo

PHOTOGRAPH: REUTERS/Yves Herman

I NTERV I EW w i t h WANGARI MAATHAI

TREES ARE THE ANSWER

Let us continue the work started by Wangari Maathai in Kenya and reforest the entire world, sequestering atmospheric carbon and creating right livelihood for all. Interview by Satish Kumar.

For many years, before humanity became aware of the dangers of climate change, Wangari Maathai was advocating the planting of trees. Her work was based initially in her home country of Kenya in order to redress the imbalances created by the imposition of a Western paradigm of progress on a country and people whose inherent wealth and wisdom went unrecognised. Wangari’s intuitive understanding of ecology began when she observed a pristine stream in her childhood village become dry and barren as the forests

around her home were cleared; she realised that the wellbeing of her people depended on the wellbeing of the natural world. This innate understanding of the interconnectedness of all life led her to found The Greenbelt Movement in Kenya which has in the intervening years planted millions of trees. I asked Wangari if she felt The Greenbelt Movement was a model that could be replicated throughout the world.

“The fact that trees can sequester carbon is really a miracle,” she replied, “but when we started planting trees,

that was not foremost in our minds. But the more I now think about climate change, the more I know for sure that trees are our best friends in the global effort to mitigate climate change. So, yes, at Copenhagen we will be strongly advocating that forests must be part of the solution.”

Despite Wangari’s Nobel Prize and her high-profile work (and that of many others) to save the world’s remaining forests, the message still seems to fall on deaf ears. “How is it”, I asked, “that well-educated politicians and economists

30 Resurgence No. 257 November/December 2009

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