Reflections from under the Derby

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Wangari Maathai
Wangari Maathai died this week. I first learned of her from lizannewrites and then bought the book The Challenge for Africa. Professor Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement in Kenya in the late 70s to help women improve their lives by improving their access to firewood and clean water. She became passionate about the environment and sustainability, especially pertaining to preserving native forests in Kenya and the impact of reforestation on climate. Her movement started planting trees near her homeland. Her efforts have resulted in the planting of over 30 million trees and helped almost 1 million women in Kenya. She was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.

Dr. Maathai was an amazing woman. It's a shame she is not widely known. She will have a state funeral in Kenya - a well-deserved and untimely honor. In her book The Challenge for Africa, she wrote:

My grandparents and others of their generation measured their happiness, their material and spiritual well-being, in ways far different from today. Their medium of exchange was goats. They kept domestic animals, which they used carefully for survival and treated humanely, and cultivated a variety of food crops on their land. Because most of their basic needs were met, they didn't consider themselves poor. They lived within a community of rituals, ceremonies, and expressions of their connection to the land and their culture; they didn't feel alienated or adrift in a meaningless, highly materialistic world that assigns value only in dollars and cents, because their world was animated by the spirit of God. They took what they needed for their own quality of life, but didn't accumulate and destroy in the process - and they did all this so that future generations would survive and thrive. By the time my mother died, in 2000, everything could be sacrificed for money: forests, land, goats, values, and people.

I was hoping that on my visit to Kenya next year that I might have the opportunity and honor to meet her. I can now only hope to carry on her legacy by finding a way to help poor farmers in her home country. Well done, good and faithful servant.

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