Wangari Maathai was the founder of the Green Belt Movement (GBM):
An environmental organization that empowers communities, particularly women, to conserve the environment and improve livelihoods. [GBM was founded] to respond to the needs of rural Kenyan women who reported that their streams were drying up, their food supply was less secure, and they had to walk further and further to get firewood for fuel and fencing. GBM encouraged the women to work together to grow seedlings and plant trees to bind the soil, store rainwater, provide food and firewood, and receive a small monetary token for their work. [source]
In one of her books, Wangari explains how she got began her important work:
I reacted to a set of problems by focusing on what could be done. As it turned out, the idea that sprang from my roots merged with other sources of knowledge and action to form a confluence that grew bigger than I would ever have imagined.
Trees have been an essential part of my life and have provided me with many lessons. Trees are living symbols of peace and hope. A tree has roots in the soil yet reaches to the sky. It tells us that in order to aspire we need to be grounded, and that no matter how high we go it is from our roots that we draw sustenance. It is a reminder to all of us who have had success that we cannot forget where we came from. It signifies that no matter how powerful we become in government or how many awards we receive, our power and strength and our ability to reach our goals depend on the people, those whose work remains unseen, who are the soil out of which we grow, the shoulders on which we stand. If we really carry the burden, we are driven to action. We cannot tire or give up. We owe it to the present and future generations of all species to rise up and walk!
Wangari died in 2011 at the age of 71, but her legacy will live on forever. I am so appreciative of her beauty and inspiration; her work and Spirit are the wind beneath my wings as I work to improve my own life and community.
I leave you with this beautiful story told by Wangari called “I Will Be A Hummingbird”: