Sustainability Stars (8)

Caboz, a writer for Forbes Africa, in South Africa, won for his piece ‘40 Years of Mozambique - The Dead Port that Rose Again’ which was chosen from entries spanning 38 nations across the African continent
WASHINGTON D.C., United States of America, October 19, 2016/ -- Jay Caboz, from South Africa, has been awarded the GE Energy & Infrastructure Award, presented by Thomas Konditi, President and CEO GE Transportation Africa & GE South Africa, at this year’s CNN MultiChoice African Journalist 2016 Awards ceremony.  

Caboz, a writer for Forbes Africa, in South Africa, won for his piece ‘40 Years of Mozambique - The Dead Port that Rose Again’ which was chosen from entries spanning 38 nations across the African continent.

The awards, which rotate location each year in tribute to their Pan-African credentials, were held at a Gala ceremony hosted by CNN and MultiChoice at the Gallagher Convention Centre, in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The judging panel said: “This is a beautifully written story about the main port in Mozambique that had all but died – being brought back to life 40 years later. The writer weaves into the story the lines and events that took place in Mozambique over that period to bring us to where we are today, a vibrant port. It is indeed a great story straight out of Africa.”

Greg Beitchman, VP Content Sales and Partnerships, CNN International, said: “Powerful journalism has shone through once again at this year’s CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Awards – from uplifting storytelling to hard-hitting investigations. Congratulations to all of tonight’s finalists and winners.”

The Director of Communications & Public Affairs for GE Africa Patricia Obozuwa said “Jay Caboz’s award winning entry is a typical example of the power of journalism to redirect public focus on the topical issues. We are glad to be associated with the Energy and Infrastructure category of the CNN Awards.”

Tim Jacobs, CEO Multichoice Africa, said: “Congratulations to all the winners, your words and images reflect the reality of our world and attest to the important role the media plays in Africa’s development. As a good corporate citizen, together with our partner, CNN and other sponsors we will continue to invest in the CNN Multichoice African Journalist Awards to ensure increased development and advancement of outstanding journalism across the continent.”

Yolisa Phahle, CEO of M-Net, congratulated the winners of this year's awards: “Thank you to each of you for telling the stories of Africa and its people to the world. We’re proud to play a role in amplifying your voices and the voices of other journalists across the African continent.”

Source: Press Release from GE

Njeri will be leading Greenpeace Africa into a new wave of environmental justice for Africans by Africans
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, September 25, 2016/ -- Kenyan born Njeri Kabeberi, has been named as Executive Director for Greenpeace Africa (www.GreenpeaceAfrica.org) after an extensive search for a combination of skills required to drive the organisation towards a people –powered movement.

According to the Greenpeace Africa Board, Africans are hungry for a new story, one with a better take on nature, on humanity, their livelihoods, their future and their connection to the earth. “It was critical to find someone who embodies passion, activism and understands the context of environmental justice in Africa and we are confident that Njeri represents that” said Greenpeace Africa Board Chair Brian Kagoro.

Greenpeace currently runs campaigns on four key issues on the continent, to protect the Congo Basin from large scale deforestation, stop overfishing in West Africa, promote ecological farming in the horn of Africa as well as demand a shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources in South Africa in order to reverse the impacts of climate change.

With a long history in human rights activism, Njeri will be leading Greenpeace Africa into a new wave of environmental justice for Africans by Africans.

“We will continue to work on our flagship campaigns but more so, we shall be working closely with communities to ensure that our campaigns speak to the local realities on the continent and can effect change in the day to day life of our people” said newly appointed Greenpeace Africa Executive Director Njeri Kabeberi.

“Africa has a major role to play in the global efforts to reverse climate change, protecting its vast natural forest and safeguarding its rich ocean resources is centre to the continent’s contribution in averting the catastrophic effects of climate change. It is important that the continent works together to push for an end to illegal logging, unsustainable fishing and a shift from industrial agriculture to ecological farming to ensure that our biodiversity is protected” added Njeri.

Njeri joins Greenpeace after serving as CEO of the Civil Society Reference Group and as the immediate former Executive Director of the Centre for Multiparty Democracy.  She is also a member of the board of advisors of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) and chairs the board of the International Centre for Policy and Conflict.  

Njeri is passionate about social justice and women’s rights, and in 2010, amongst others, received the ILO Wedge Award.  She also has extensive INGO leadership and management experience and was on the Board of the Kenya Human Rights Commission for many years.  

 Source: Greenpeace

Sunday, 16 August 2015 00:00

Thoma Sankara - The People's President

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On December 21 1949, Marguerite Sankara, a young lady from the then Upper Volta gave birth to a calm baby boy. She named him Thomas Isidore Noël Sankara. For several years every day, he arose early in the morning and attended primary school in Gaoua. Upon completing, he proceeded to and high school in Bobo-Dioulasso, the country's second city.

At the tender age of 34 in 1983, Thomas Sankara became the president of Upper Volta. One of the first things that he did was to change the country’s name to Burkina Fasso.

Later in the mid-eighties, Thomas Sankara refused to accept the ‘norm’ of African presidency being synonymous with riches. He continued living the same simple life he had lived before he became president and demanded the same from his cabinet ministers. He was not just being sentimental when he said severally that ‘I want people to remember me as someone whose life has been helpful to humanity.’

Throughout his presidency, he promoted women’s rights with passion. Sankara's government included a large number of women. Improving women's status was one of Sankara's explicit goals, an unprecedented policy priority in West Africa. His government banned female circumcision, condemned polygamy, and promoted contraception. The Burkinabé government was also the first African government to publicly recognize AIDS as a major threat to Africa.

Monsieur Sankara could strum the guitar with the same poignant melody with which he spoke. When he wasn’t plucking the warm guitar strings or chatting with the masses, he could be found on his motor bike rambling along the streets of Ouagadougou. It was in the midst of this rumble of the motor, roar of the people and awakening lull of the music that he said sadly that, ‘I can hear the roar of women’s silence.’

Thomas refused to keep quiet in the midst of the injustice that was swarming his country and continent. He loathed corruption with a passion, promoted reforestation and embraced policies that would enhance both education and health. Under his tenure, even when Kenya’s Wangari Maathai was not yet immersed in tree planting, when there was no billion tree campaign, Sankara oversaw the planting of ten million trees.

In 1984, one year into his vibrant presidency, Sankara changed the country’s name into Burkina Faso, meaning "the land of the upright people" in Mossi and Djula, the country’s two major languages. He didn’t stop there but went on to give the country a new flag and new national anthem - Une Seule Nuit

Contre la férule humiliante il y a déjà mille ans,
La rapacité venue de loin les asservir il y a cent ans.
Contre la cynique malice métamorphosée
En néocolonialisme et ses petits servants locaux
Beaucoup flanchèrent et certains résistèrent.
Mais les échecs, les succès, la sueur, le sang
Ont fortifié notre peuple courageux et fertilisé sa lutte héroïque.

CHORUS:
Et une seule nuit a rassemblée en elle
L'histoire de tout un peuple.
Et une seule nuit a déclenché sa marche triomphale
Vers l'horizon du bonheur.
Une seule nuit a réconcilié notre peuple
Avec tous les peuples du monde,
A la conquête de la liberté et du progrès
La Patrie ou la mort, nous vaincrons !

Nourris à la source vive de la Révolution.
Les engagés volontaires de la liberté et de la paix
Dans l'énergie nocturne et salutaire du 4 août
N'avaient pas que les armes à la main, mais aussi et surtout
La flamme au coeur pour légitimement libérer
Le Faso à jamais des fers de tous ceux qui
Çà et, là en poluaient l'âme sacrée de l'indépendance, de la souveraineté.

CHORUS

Et séant désormais en sa dignité recouvrée
L'amour et l'honneur en partage avec l'humanité,
Le peuple du Burkina chante un hymne à la victoire,
A la gloire du travail libérateur, émancipateur.
A bas l'exploitation de l'homme par l'homme!
Hé en avant pour le bonheur de tout homme,
Par tous les hommes aujourd'hui et demain, par tous les hommes ici et pour toujours!

CHORUS

Révolution populaire notre sève nourricière.
Maternité immortelle du progrès à visage d'homme.
Foyer éternel de démocratie consensuelle,
Où enfin l'identité nationale a droit de cité,
Où pour toujours l'injustice perd ses quartiers,
Et où, des mains des bâtisseurs d'un monde radieux
Mûrissent partout les moissons de væux patriotiques, brillent les soleils infinis de joie.

CHORUS

English translation

Against the humiliating bondage of a thousand years
Rapacity came from afar to subjugate them for a hundred years.
Against the cynical malice in the shape
Of neo-colonialism and its petty local servants.
Many gave in and certain others resisted.
But the frustrations, the successes, the sweat, the blood
Have fortified our courageous people and fertilized its heroic struggle.

CHORUS:
And one single night has drawn together
The history of an entire people,
And one single night has launched its triumphal march.
Towards the horizon of good fortune.
One single night has brought together our people
With all the peoples of the World,
In the acquisition of liberty and progress.
Motherland or death, we shall conquer.

Nourished in the lively source of the Revolution,
The volunteers for liberty and peace
With their nocturnal and beneficial energies of the 4th of August
Had not only hand arms, but also and above all
The flame in their hearts lawfully to free
Faso forever from the fetters of those who
Here and there were polluting the sacred soul of independence and sovereignty.

CHORUS

And seated henceforth in rediscovered dignity,
Love and honour partnered with humanity,
The people of Burkina sing a victory hymn
To the glory of the work of liberation and emancipation.
Down with exploitation of man by man!
Forward for the good of every man
By all men of today and tomorrow, by every man here and always!

CHORUS

Popular revolution our nourishing sap.
Undying motherhood of progress in the face of man.
Eternal hearth of agreed democracy,
Where at last national identity has the right of freedom.
Where injustice has lost its place forever,
And where from the hands of builders of a glorious world
Everywhere the harvests of patriotic vows ripen and suns of boundless joy shine.

 

CHORUS

Sunday, 16 August 2015 00:00

The Africa I See - Mwalimu Julius Nyerere

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‘The history of the world is but a biography of great men.’ These words were uttered by Thomas Carlyle, the nineteenth century Scottish historian. Going by these words, the history of East Africa in particular and Africa as a whole is, to a huge extent, a biography of great leaders like Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, Tanzania’s first president.

But let me hasten to add that the folly of greatness is that it often clouds the real values that the great ones treasured. It is for this reason that I have always sought to know the values that Mwalimu Nyerere treasured. The answer came in the most unlikely of places – in the waiting room of Arusha’s Kilimanjaro Airport.

We were waiting for our flight to Nairobi and I was sipping a cup of lukewarm coffee as I conversed with Hon Dudu, a former Member of Parliament of the East Africa Legislative Assembly and a current District Commissioner in Uganda’s Karamoja District. He was a clean shaven stocky man who had once flown fighter jets for the Ugandan Airforce.

‘Did you ever meet Mwalimu Nyerere?’ I asked him from the blues. I have this bad habit of changing topics in the middle of a conversation.

Hon Dudu paused as an intense look spread all over his face. He smiled and although he was gazing at me, it was as if he was gazing back into the distant past, when he had met the iconic Tanzanian leader not once but many, many times.

‘Mwalimu Nyerere was my teacher,’ the retired pilot told me calmly.

I fleetingly wondered whether this was back in the fifties before Mwalimu Nyerere became president. Surely, no president could find time to teach.

‘It was in 1981. Each week without fail, the president would come to our class to teach us about leadership in the African context, amongst other topics.’

‘What!’ I exclaimed. ‘You mean to tell me that every week President Nyerere stood in front of you and taught you all these things.’

‘Yes,’ Hon Dudu said as he sighed in recollection, ‘on the few occasions that he missed class, he would make sure that he compensated by teaching double lessons.’

Finally! I thought to myself. Finally I was going to hear a first person account of Mwalimu Nyerere. Maybe, just maybe, I was going to catch a glimpse of the values that had guided this humble, charismatic African leader.

For the entire time that it took to wait for our Precision Air flight, I sat transfixed to the witness account of a leader who united his country and inspired his continent as he challenged the world to relate with Africa as an equal partner.

Mwalimu Nyerere had a very private and personal practice that he engaged in every day – prayer. Every day at 5AM, or thereabout, he would retreat to his private prayer room and for a whole hour, he would seek the strength and guidance of his beloved Heavenly Father.

To him, this prayer was more than a ritual. It was an intimate conversation between a son and his father. Neither was it a religious practice. It was a pragmatic way of tapping into strength that would take him throughout the day. In doing this, he seemed to be subscribing to the words of Bwak the Bantu poet that, ‘humility is an embrace of both utter helplessness and total strength.’

However, strength, if not expended wisely and strategically, accumulates into destructive power. From the time he strode onto the national stage, he always sought to remind Africa that it had a past that could enrich its future. It was this belief that informed his much touted embrace of socialism. Unfortunately, the general misconception was that his socialism was a protest against capitalism.

Mwalimu Nyerere espoused the socialism that was rooted in traditional Africa where collective responsibility was a cornerstone of the society. Because it took a village to raise a child, the adult who resulted from this child was accountable to and responsible for the community. This was more than the communal sharing of resources that was a key feature of eastern socialism.

With nearly thrice as many tribes as Kenya, Tanzania has nonetheless been able to escape from the shackles of tribalism. This was not an accidental twist of fate. Whenever he met and interacted with Tanzanians from all corners of the vast country, he saw fellow Africans, not fellow tribesmen. Using the leadership pulpit, he steered national policy and dialogue towards a place where the nation reigned supreme because the value of traditional Africa had not been relegated to the dusty annals of history.

Complacency was a word unknown to him. With his characteristic fervor, he urged Africa to follow Tanzania’s example. ‘African nationalism is meaningless, dangerous, anachronistic, if it is not, at the same time, pan-Africanism,’ he reminded Africans. For him, Africa needed to unite, not just in boardrooms and treaties but in action, farms, cities and highways.

It took two to dance, hence Africa needed to partner together in a dance not just of survival but of prosperity.

Mortality denied Mwalimu Nyerere a chance of further orchestrating the dance of prosperity. His prayer was that a new generation of Africans would take the baton and lead Africa into a prosperity that would not sacrifice human relations on the altar of profits.

 

We are that generation. 

Sunday, 16 August 2015 00:00

Murtala Mohamed

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In July 1975, thirty-seven year old General Murtala Mohammed, took over as Head of State while President Gowon was away in Kampala, Uganda attending the Organization of African Unity (OAU) Heads of State Summit.

Addressing the nation, the new leader said, ‘the leadership either by design or default had become too insensitive to the true feelings and yearnings of the people…’ General Mohammed went on to say that the new government would give Nigeria a new lease on life.

Murtala Mohammed also seemed to believe in this principle of the rising tide. He always began his speeches with the words, ‘fellow Nigerians.’ The implicit message in these two words was that, ‘although we have different ethnics groups and different classes, we are one people – Nigerians.’

On October 1st 1975, as the Independence Day trudged on, I was relaxing with my family at home listening to the president’s speech over the radio. ‘My fellow Nigerians,’ he began, his voice powerful, arresting. ‘Today we…’ my mind drifted away from the speech into the sixteen years that we had been independent.

But at a national level, the sixteen years had brought much grief to the country. While Nigeria the country was politically independent, Nigeria the people had almost been torn asunder in three years of a needless yet bloody war. Poverty was still rampant as was illiteracy. In addition… my mind wandered back to the president’s speech.

He was talking about a five-stage political problem that would culminate in democratic rule by October 1979. That would be great! I thought. ‘Don’t all they say that?’ A cousin of mine who was staying with us shook his head, ‘just like Gowon, this guy will probably still be president long after the 1978 football world cup.’

‘Have you ever seen any other president in the world who doesn’t have an entourage?’ I asked my cousin. He munched the sweet, cold papaya, ‘that entourage issue is just a show! Murtala wants to show the world that he is different.’ I disagreed, ‘how about staying in his personal house instead of the official presidential palace? Is that also a show?’ Before any answer could come, I continued, ‘how about using his personal car to attend to personal business, is that also a mere PR exercise?’

This truth sank home even deeper a few months later when Murtala Mohammed gave one of the most powerful speeches ever given at an OAU summit. The venue was Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. 

‘Africa has come of age. It is no longer under the orbit of any extra continental power. It should no longer take orders from any country, however powerful. The fortunes of Africa are in our hands to make or to mar.’

For too long have we been kicked around; for too long have we been treated like adolescents who cannot discern their interests and act accordingly. For too long has it been presumed that Africa needs outside experts to tell him who are his friends and who are his enemies.

The time has come when we should make it clear that we should decide for ourselves; that we know our own interests and how to protect those interests; that we are capable of protecting Africa’s problems without presumptuous lessons in ideological dangers, which more often than not, have no relevance to us nor for the problem at hand.

Wow! I thought triumphantly then became instantly pensive when the gravity of Murtala Mohammed’s words hit home. He was saying that Africa was now an adult; that Africa must now learn to make the right choices on her own; that Africa must make up her own mind; take her own stand and chart her own path. That Africa must carry her own beautiful burden of success.

 

February 13 1976. This has to be one of the darkest days in Nigeria’s history. For on this day, Murtala Mohammed was assassinated in his car. At the tender age of 37, his visionary leadership was cut short by an assassin’s bullet. Like a star, he had lit up the Nigerian sky with humility and strength. Like a shooting star, he had disappeared just when Nigeria, Africa and the world was beginning to take notice. Like a constellation of stars, he had left behind a pattern of stars that others could follow.

Sunday, 16 August 2015 00:00

The Green Dream

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Step by step, the soles of his feet slapped the hot sand as he ran as fast as he could. The sand was so hot that he felt as if he was stepping on hot water. But this didn’t slow him down. A few meters ahead of him was Katune.

Katune was his only bridge to the future, and he was going to get it by any means necessary.

Katune was a cow. His dear mother’s only cow. It had slipped out of the rope around its neck and bolted up the dry seasonal river that they had been crossing. The fourteen year old boy ran along the riverbed with all his might. He had to re-capture that cow because he was on his way to Kabati market to sell it as this was the only way his parents could raise money for his school fees.

His parents had to choose between the cow and his education. They chose his education. So as he ran after the surprisingly fast cow, he knew that he was quite literally running after his education. Running for his life. Chasing his dream.

The young boy later became Dr Isaac Kalua, the renowned environmentalist and founder of the Green Africa Foundation. This is the story of his green dream and how it came true.

Although rivers are meant to flow merrily, most rivers in Kitui County in eastern Kenya are seasonal. For most of the year, they are dry parches of hot sandy riverbeds. As a child, Isaac lived daily with this dryness – dry riverbeds, dry farms, dry atmosphere. Not to mention a dry throat that often ached for the rare quench of cool, clear water. But in the midst of this grey dryness, he noticed the green habits of his father. The elder Kalua would plant trees not just in their small farm but along the dusty roads of Kitui.

In the words of Dr. Haim Ginott, the eminent American child psychologist, ‘children are like wet cement; whatever falls on them makes an impression.’ The tree planting habits of his father made an impression on young Isaac. From a tender age, he learnt to appreciate not just tree planting, but tree growing. The fact that he was surrounded by dryness only caused him to appreciate trees even more.

Although they say that life begins at forty, Isaac’s seems to have began at thirty. In the year 2000, when he was only thirty years old, he founded the Green Africa Foundation, right in the same dry land of Kitui that he hailed from.

He was determined to make this new organization a hybrid of conservation and empowerment. With an intense look in his eyes, he says firmly, ‘I believe in establishing economic hubs at the grassroots level towards a green Africa.’ These two components of economy and environment are anchored in an ethical cornerstone that emphasizes compassion for fellow human beings. Consequently, the ‘green’ in Green Africa has three meanings – compassion for fellow human beings; health, peace and sustainable livelihoods and finally, passion for the environment.

These three meanings may seem like a handful but Dr Kalua says that they stem from a simple creed, ‘thinking and acting green can take you to the next level.’ This simple sentence is at the very heart of his green dream. It is the essence of Green Africa Foundation. Thinking and acting green means that you will reach out to humanity in compassion and peace, reach out to the environment in conservation and reach out to the society in sustainability.

 

Dr Kalua is a green diplomat. An ambassador of the environment. He often travels across the world to preach the green gospel even as his organization leads by example. He subscribes fully to the words of James Kent the eighteenth century American legal scholar that, ‘in life, nothing is so potent as the silent influence of a good example’

This is an excerpt from Dr Kalua's upcoming memoirs..

Sunday, 16 August 2015 00:00

Brains and Passion

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It is not often that brains and passion converge. Highly intellectual people are often devoid of visible passion that can rouse and move others. They may be able to perfectly articulate an intellectual argument but rarely do they inspire.

Akpezi Ogbuigwe is an exception. She is intensely intellectual and passionate. For several years, she was the head of Environmental Education and Training in the United Nations Environment Programme. Her unbridled enthusiasm moved her skeletal staff to tireless efforts that vastly enlarged UNEP’s footprints in the environmental education sector.

One of Akpezi’s biggest achievements during her time with UNEP was establishing and developing an unprecedented university project. Known as Mainstreaming Environment and Sustainability in African Universities (MESA), the project revolutionized UNEP’s relationship with universities in the quest for sustainability conscious higher education.

By the time she left UNEP, 80 universities from 30 African countries had already become members of the MESA initiative. This may have been pleasantly surprising to many but to Akpezi, it’s what she expected since she had already seen the power of vision, purpose and faith. A couple of years earlier, she had overseen the production of UNEP’s first ever handbook for journalists, again working with journalists from across the continent in its production.

Before she joined UNEP Akpezi was a Professor of Law at the Rivers State University of Science and Technology in Nigeria. She enjoyed this job a lot because her a golden opportunity to mentor youth in both academics and life skills. What joy!

Mentoring young people is one of the deep joys of her life. It is for this reason that even when she left her teaching job and joined UNEP, she always looked for opportunities to mentor young people. She left a lasting mark in this mentorship endeavor when she initiated the Sustainability Generation project. In a workshop that was held in April 2009, students from all over the world came together to brainstorm about the proactive approach that their generation could take to enhance sustainability in the world.

In her keynote speech at the workshop, she said fervently, ‘step forward and change your world. Ste forward and rekindle the spirit of freedom. Turn the music on and let the world hear the beat of the African drums, the music of the African soul.’

 

If her heart could be unveiled, these words would be seen coursing through it, for she believes so passionately in the African premise and promise. Indeed, she is a passionate sustainability star who continues to leave indelible green marks in the lives of mentees all over the world.

Sunday, 16 August 2015 00:00

Asante Sana Wangari Maathai

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On the morning of 24th September 2011, the world woke up one morning to the sad and tragic news that Professor Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan environmentalist, human rights activist and Nobel Peace prize winner passed away the previous night at about 10 PM in Nairobi hospital.

Although she had finally lost a long battle against cancer, she had won many battles during the incredible 71 years of her life.

I last met Wangari Maathai in 2010 on July 26 during the screening of her autobiographical movie, ‘Taking Root, the Vision of Wangari Maathai.’ I was the moderator of the post-movie discussion so as soon as the screening ended, I went forward and ushered Wangari Maathai to the stage. She shook my hand and said in her gentle but firm manner, ‘people must not forget where we came from.’

For almost an hour, I sat proudly next to her and watched as she engaged both the audience and panelists with her trademark vigor. It was such a refreshing and reinvigorating experience as we collectively walked down memory lane and dissected what that great daughter of Africa had been through.

Although her life is over, her dream of sustainability lives on. Hers was a life that changed democratic space in Kenya and entrenched environmental sustainability into the very heart of global discourse and action.

She achieved so many groundbreaking things during the 71 years of her life. She was the first woman to earn a PHD in East and Central Africa. She started the Green Belt Movement and spoke out about the central role of environment in the society when barely anyone in the world was doing so. But even back then in the seventies, she understood that you cannot separate the earth that we depend on from the world that we live in. Hence she championed both environmental and democratic initiatives.

In 2004, the world at last caught up with her when she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Finally, the world formally acknowledged what she had known all along – that the earth and the world are intertwined. That environmental sustainability must walk hand in hand with social and economic progress. That the environment is a key pillar of peace.

At 10PM on September 25th, Wangari Maathai’s green and life-changing journey came to an end. The world is a better place because of this journey. We must follow her footsteps and practice what we preach. Our own lives must continue changing our world not just through talk, but through action..

 

Thank you, Wangari Maathai, for following your dream and changing our world, in both small and big ways. We should all follow in those indelible, green footprints.