水曜日は、Heroes and Giants
“It’s the little things people do.
Those things will make the difference.
My little thing is planting trees.”
This is what the Kenyan environmental activist Wangari Maathai said.
You may know her because she said the Japanese word ’Mottainai’ teaches the ideas of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Respect.
Maathai was born in 1940 in a small village in Kenya.
At that time, Kenya was still under the control of Britain.
When she graduated from high school many countries in Africa were becoming independent.
Kenya was also preparing for independence so the government sent students with good grades to America.
Maathai was one of them.
In America, she studied to become a scientist.
After Kenya became an independent country, Maathai returned and started teaching at a university in Nairobi.
In Kenya, the first years after becoming independent were very difficult.
People try to grow plants such as grains that they could sell to other countries.
But those plants hurt the environment because they didn’t match the soil in Kenya.
Also, many trees were cut down to grow these plants.
This damaged the ecosystem and there were not enough natural resources such as wood and water.
In 1977, because of these problems, Maathai started the green belt movement.
She believed that planting traditional African trees would solve the environmental problems.
She started to plant trees in rows so they looked like belts.
This was good for controlling floods.
Also, Maathai thought planting trees would help make the lives of women easier.
In Kenya, the women gather firewood and water every day.
Parts of Kenya were becoming a desert because too many trees were cut down.
So women had to walk farther and farther to get firewood and water.
If there were trees nearby, it would be easier for them to gather these resources.
This movement started locally but it continued to spread and soon the Kenyan government noticed.
They did not want any changes because they wanted to stay powerful.
Maathai started this movement so she was attacked and was hurt badly several times.
She was even put in prison but this did not stop her.
With the help of her friends in other countries, Maathai talked about the difficult situation in Kenya at many environmental conferences.
In 2002, Maathai became a member of the government.
And in 2003, she became the assistant minister on environmental issues.
Because of all her efforts, she won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.
Wangari Maathai died of cancer in 2011.
Before dying she said,
“Please do not put my dead body in a coffin that is made of wood.”
She was truly an environmentalist until the very end.