Peace Prize goes green

Feature story - 8 October, 2004
Wangari Maathai has planted tens of millions of trees, opposed genetically modified organisms and titanium mining in her native Kenya, and won numerous awards for her environmental activism. She has also been beaten, harassed, and imprisoned for her work. For the first time in history, the Nobel Committee has recognised the war on planet Earth by conferring upon her the Nobel Peace prize.

Work for a green planet is work for a peaceful planet.

In a world in which Henry Kissinger can receive the prize, and leaders like Tony Blair and George Bush can be nominated for killing tens of thousands of civilians on false pretences, it's good to see real acts of peace acknowledged.

Wangari Maathai, and the Green Belt movement she founded, have been fighting war with trees. In using forests to combat drought and ensure biodiversity, activists like Wangari make an essential link between environmentalism and peace, by ensuring humans stay within the productive limits of their supporting ecosystems.

Armed conflicts bring death and misery to millions of people in scores of countries around the world every day. Since 1989 the number of civil wars has tripled. Many of those conflicts are over limited resources or diminishing land, driven by over-exploitation of natural resources.

When forests that have housed and protected indigenous populations for thousands of years are cut down, natural borders and buffers between people disappear. Sources of livelihood become scarce. Severe drought and ecosystem collapses bring competition and war.

Wangari Maathai founded the Green Belt movement in Kenya in 1977. The group has planted more than 30 million trees across Africa, primarily by village women, in attempt to stop the massive deforestation of the continent.

Wangari was beaten, harassed, and thrown in jail many times for her efforts to protect the environment. Throughout her struggles, she has used the power of non-violence and creative resistance to advocate for democracy and foil crimes against the planet.

That's our kind of Peace Prize winner.