Just found the daily blog of a website which had been recommended to me called Sustainable Table and was happy to see it dedicated on Earth Day to Wangaari Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement and 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Winner. She has visited our little church in Guilford, Vt. and has even planted a tree there. We sang my setting of Wendell Berry's poem Great Trees for her and now that song has made its way to Kenya. http://www.amidonmusic.com/store/details/hymns.html
The blogger writes:
"The amazing thing about Professor Maathai is that in 1977 she looked around at the problems in Kenya, where she lives. She saw that there were problems with lack of water, lack of firewood where women had to walk further and further to gather wood, deforestation, hunger and poverty, women’s rights issues, as well as other problems. Rather than get overwhelmed by it all, she looked at the problem very simply and thought ‘trees’. Yes, she decided to start planting trees. And she did - over 20 million trees were planted from 1977-1997!
How much more simple is that? By planting trees, she and thousands of Kenyans are reviving the landscape where food grows again, water is retained in the soil, and people aren’t as hungry. In addition, she has women gain more rights and get their dignity back.
According to the Green Belt Movement website, “Through its holistic approach to development, the Green Belt Movement addresses the underlying social, political, and economic causes of poverty and environmental degradation at the grassroots level. Its empowerment seminars help people make critical linkages between the environment, governance, and their quality of life. Participants develop a deep desire to better their own lives and communities. As they gain economic security, they are willing to protect shared resources such as forests, public parks, and rivers. The GBM started by addressing a serious problem with a simple solution: getting communities to plant trees as a symbol of their commitment. Today, this approach is taking root worldwide.”
Also, on today's Speaking of Faith program (firstname.lastname@example.org)with Krista Tippett they interviewed Wangaari and I learned this:
"For a quarter century Wangari Maathai and the women of her Green Belt Movement improbably faced off powerful economic forces and Kenya's tyrannical ruler, Daniel arap Moi. She was beaten and imprisoned. Nevertheless, the movement spread to 600 communities across Kenya and into 20 countries. After Moi's fall from power in 2002, Wangari Maathai was elected to her country's parliament with 98 percent of the vote."
"Then, sitting across from her, it is not hard to imagine that this woman has stood up to a dictator and won, and that she has fought off encroaching desert by leading thousands of people to plant 30 million trees. She became the first woman in Central Africa to earn a Ph.D. and the first woman to chair a department at the University of Nairobi".
Happy Earth Day!
Great Trees by Wendell Berry
Slowly, slowly they return
to the small woodland let alone
great trees outspreading and upright apostles of the living light.
Patient as stars they build in air
tier after tier a timbered choir
stout beams upholding weightless grace
of song a blessing on this place.
They stand in waiting all around
uprisings of their native ground
downcomings of the distant light
they are the advent they await.
Receiving sun and giving shade
their lives a benefaction made
and is a benediction said over the living and the dead.
In fall their brightened leaves released,
fly down the wind and we are pleased
to walk on radiance amazed
oh light, come down to earth be praised.