Wangari Maathai addresses Green Cross Sweden’s Annual Meeting

GCI Honorary Board Member and Nobel Peace Laureate Wangari Maathai attended Green Cross Sweden’s Annual Meeting held 2 April in cooperation with Green Cross partner Rewir AB. She spoke on raising awareness on climate change and how to inspire change.

Photos courtesy of Anders Rosenberg

Prof. Maathai’s organisation, the Green Belt Movement, works closely with Green Cross Sweden on a peace project in Kenya. The project is aimed at conflict mitigation and environmental restoration in local communities. Started in 2006, the joint project is in the Maai Mahiu Rift Valley province, where conflicts erupted between the pastoral community of the Maasai and the agricultural community of the Kikuyu. Through activities such as tree planting, conflict mitigation and environmental education, the project brings the communities together for empowerment. Since the project started, some 200,000 trees have been planted. Post-election violence erupted last year bringing the project to a halt. With calm being restored, the project has resumed with the establishment of peace building councils for dialogue and reconciliation. Prof. Maathai has taken a number of steps to promote rapprochement among local communities through tree planting as well as creating youth football teams.

Prof. Maathai said that the Kenyan unrest last year stems from a denial of basic needs such as farmland and water. “The rivers and vegetation are disappearing and the Sahara is expanding,” she said. “The crop failures in Kenya alone are a serious cause for concern. Water is now more expensive than coca-cola in Kenya.”
Referring to current challenges, Prof. Maathai pointed out that it is human beings and not the planet that faces extinction. “There is still much work to be done, we are now nearly 7 billion people, and those extra people also need land and water to continue to survive. With the current trend of mass consumerism and greed, it will be us, and not the planet that is going to be extinct if we don’t change our attitudes.”
Prof. Maathai ended her speech to Green Cross Sweden’s Annual meeting by making a call for action: “When you upset the balance in Africa, then the ripples will go out to Europe, this is inevitable. Please work every day towards doing something to protect the planet. You can only do the best you can, and that is all you can do.”
Prof. Maathai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 in recognition of her success with protecting the forests in Kenya and her dedication to increasing environmental awareness in Africa.

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