Nobel Peace Prize Winner Wangari Maathai, You Are Sorely Missed


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.

Katherine Hui
Katherine Hui is currently the Social site editor at Green Thing, a web-based public service in London that inspires people to lead greener lives through creative content.

Before this, she worked as the Development Manager at Social Innovation Camp, an organization that encourages people to use web and mobile-based technology to mobilise social change. She oversaw 300 ideas submission and helped build 20 prototypes – five of which have gone on to get further funding or investment.

Katherine’s came over to the UK form Canada in 2007 for an MSc program at the London School of Economics. Before arriving in London, she managed a small environmental start-up in Vancouver called the Canadian Climate Change Alliance.

Katherine is football mad. She is a loyal supporter of Arsenal FC, plays for Islington Borough Ladies FC and coaches for Gunners in Islington in her spare time. Her second favourite hobby is kite surfing and she can sometimes be found chasing the wind.
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