Wangari Maathai has passed on. Amongst her long list of incredible life achievements including being the first woman in eastern central Africa to earn a PhD and winning a Nobel peace prize, she was also an advisor and friend to us here at Do The Green Thing.
Back in 2007 when Do The Green Thing was in its early days, Andy saw Professor Maathai speak at RIBA and was completely blown away. So much so that he cheekily approached a woman there, Maggie Baxter who put him in touch with her via Francesca de Gasparis, the woman who runs the UK Greenbelt Movement to what Professor Maathai thought of the Do The Green Thing as an idea.
Francesca very kindly put Andy and Naresh’s plans in front of Professor Maathai pre-launch and Professor Maathai agreed to endorse the idea as well as offer her support for the future as things took shape.
You know when you have an idea that you really believe in, and then someone you really admire believes in it too? That’s what happened to us. To have such an inspirational person endorse Do The Green Thing meant a lot and gave us a huge boost from the very beginning.
The news of the death of Prof Maathai a fortnight ago was a shocker, especially because her illness was unknown to the general public.“Prof Maathai’s departure is untimely and a great loss to all who knew her — as a mother, relative, co-worker, colleague, role model, and heroine; or who admired her determination to make the world a more peaceful, healthier, and better place,” reads a statement from the Green Belt Movement, announcing her death.
A politician, a professor of veterinary medicine and a conservationist, all rolled into one, Prof Maathai is best known for founding the grassroots based Green Belt Movement that empowers ordinary Kenyans to conserve the environment as a way of political and cultural emancipation.
Her ingenious illustration of the interconnections between culture, politics, economics and the environment marked a breakthrough in conservation activism, winning her several accolades.
In her acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004, Maathai moved thousands to tears as she pointed out the destruction that humanity had visited on Mother Earth warning that we were doomed to extinction unless this was reversed.
While her passing is sad, her legacy will live on through everything she has accomplished and she’ll continue to inspire and motivate anyone who has ever believed in making this world a better place.