*For those of you who missed the first part, I’ll leave the introduction below:
“As most do, in celebration of Black History month, I find it of high importance to honour black people who made history and changed the very fabric of our society. It’s key that we remember the victories of black people outside of the grasp of colonialism and slavery. I once heard someone say that our history did not start with slavery, but was disrupted by it, and that has stuck with me for years. But as a sustainable blogger, I wanted to honour the unsung heroes of my race. Through the month of October, I wanted to talk about three black figures who have inspired means for a more sustainable world.”
Number 2: Wangari Maathai (1940-2011)
This woman is truly remarkable. Maathai was the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her work towards peace through sustainability. Her work more specifically, was beginning the Green Belt Movement, which ran for almost three decades – in that time, over 45 million trees were planted to combat deforestation. Not only did she champion sustainability, but she worked towards improving family life for local communities. The Green Belt Movement didn’t just glide through its mission swiftly either – it was faced with much pressure and political crackdown from the Kenyan Government in the late 80s for promoting democracy in a one party system. And the Nobel Peace Prize was not the only thing she was first to take as an African woman – she was the first ever woman in East and Central Africa to become a Doctor of Philosophy. This woman went beyond inspiring women, she empowered them through her own movement by getting them on board with its mission to fight deforestation – a mission that allowed women to provide for their families.
If I could sit Maathai in a room and ask her one question today, it would be:
“Did you expect the world to be where it is now regarding deforestation?”
I’m really curious to see what her answer would be as someone who’d been caring about these issues far before they were as critical as they are today. Would she have predicted that we would leave it this late to take the grave realities of environmental issues seriously? How would she have reacted to the intentional fires used to clear the Amazon in Brazil, for example? Whilst I’d imagine it would be disheartening, I feel that one thing she could always hold to is her legacy in the lives of those around her – she was able to use environmentalism to empower women – those women and their families will never forget her impact in their personal lives. I think it’s so crucial that people become aware of how interlinked environmentalism is with other political postures, as it also carries a very human face. If anything, I would’ve loved to have thanked her for showing us the female face that environmentalism can take on.