Peace and Environmental Justice Taking Root

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wangarimaathaifrancescabill21Francesca Rheannon and Bill Baue of Sea Change host an intimate chat with Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai about the links between environmental justice, women’s empowerment, democratic governance, and sustainability at the Marlboro College Graduate School, where Baue teaches.  Maathai is touring the US promoting her new book,THE CHALLENGE FOR AFRICA, as well as the documentary, TAKING ROOT: The Vision of Wangari Maathai.  In the second half of the show, Rheannon and Baue speak with the filmmakers, Alan Dater and Lisa Merton of Marlboro Productions.

In her native Kenya, Wangari Maathai saw that deforestation was devastating the environment. Good arable land was eroding, streams were getting polluted or drying up and the women had to go further to find ever-scarcer firewood. So in 1977, she founded the grassroots Green Belt Movement. Over the past 32 years, it’s planted 35 million trees, bringing back whole ecosystems with it and revitalizing villages.

The program has been carried out mainly by women in those villages. By hiring them to plant the trees, it gave them the means to care for their children and protect their environment.

The corrupt regime of Daniel Arap Moi sought to stop her, arresting her numerous times and even jailing her. In 1991 she was beaten while planting trees on public lands and suffered a head injury. But she fought on and earned world acclaim for her actions and her courage.

In 2004 Maathai became the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for “her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.”

She’s in the US to promote her new book, CHALLENGE FOR AFRICA and a new film about her, TAKING ROOT, which aired recently on the PBS program, Independent Lens.

Taking a break from her tour of major cities, Wangari Maathai visited the filmmakers near their home in Vermont for a public talk.  Sea Change Co-Hosts Francesca Rheannon and Bill Baue  sat down for an intimate chat with Wangari Maathai at the Marlboro College Graduate School, where Baue teaches.

The story of Wangari Maathai, and the Green Belt Movement, is captured vividly in the documentary, TAKING ROOT.  The film won a bunch of awards in 2008.  Rheannon and Baue spoke with filmmakers Alan Dater and Lisa Merton of Marlboro Productions from their home studios.  The interview started with the question, what inspired them to tell the story of Wangari Maathai’s vision in film?