Passing of a Hero: Wangari Muta Maathai

wangari_photo "You cannot protect the environment unless you empower people, you inform them, and you help them understand that these resources are their own, that they must protect them." -- Nobel Peace Laureate and leader of the Green Belt Movement, Wangari Muta Maathai.

Maathai, who is noted as the first environmentalist to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for environmental work, passed away this weekend. She was also the first African woman to be honored and is responsible for mobilizing women to plant thousands of trees in Africa. Maathai was an honorary member of the Green Cross International (GCI) board (Global Green is the American arm of GCI).

"Her leadership and work serves to enlighten us all that alleviation of poverty, sustainable development, preservation of our environment, establishment of truly democratic institutions, and peaceful resolution of conflict are all integral parts of a safe and secure global future," said Mikhail Gorbachev, founding President of Green Cross International, in a statement. "She helped bring about a new understanding of the inter-connections between environment and peace. This is one of her very important contributions."

More information: The Green Belt Movement website. There are also good tributes from Time magazine and on the Climate Progress website, and you can find interviews with Maathai from the Treehugger archives.