I just sat in on a public discussion with Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai. Besides her commanding presence and infectious smile, a few things struck me about her. Along with Al Gore, she is among the world’s best-known environmental luminaries, and yet she’s been working on a community level for more than 30 years. How is it that a community activist can create change that resounds on a global level? Her answer was simple — she listens to the people she works with, and teaches empowerment rather than victimization. Whether it is teaching rural Kenyan women to plant trees, as she’s done with the Green Belt Movement, or highlighting climate solutions on every corner of the planet as we will do on October 24 of this year, the lesson is the same: Organizing our communities, empowering people around us to take action and hold our leaders accountable is the most important way we can lead the world into a safe, clean and just future.
Dr. Maathai’s story is particularly poignant because it shows how interwoven environmental issues, community empowerment and political action are. For those of you in the United States, take an hour tomorrow night to watch her story in a masterfully produced documentary called Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai. If the inspiring talk she gave today is any indication, her story will leave you empowered and energized to start planning the October 24 event in your community.
You can find local showtimes by visiting the PBS website.