Thursday, September 24, 2009

Wangari Maathai: World-renowned Kenyan environmentalist and Nobel Peace laureate


New York — World-renowned Kenyan environmentalist and Nobel Peace laureate Wangari Maathai has appealed to the world's leaders to agree on an "ambitious" and "binding" deal at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December.

Maathai was speaking at the historic one-day UN summit on climate change held in New York. She was chosen to speak for international civil society and appeared with eight presidents from around the world, including Barack Obama of the United States and Paul Kagame of Uganda.

And now the Nobel Laurette Speaks up on Violent disparities

Wangari Maathai makes the relationship between needs and wars so clear that even the Nobel committee (which awarded her the peace prize in '04) got it. Violent disparities in access to resources, lead to violence. The wars right now destroying people and the planet are wars over the stuff of life: land and water and fuel.

If we can see the link between conflict and resource strain in Kenya and Congo and Brazil, why are we surprised that here at home, anger and tension-in-the-air is rising?

Extreme poverty, bankruptcies, defaults, debt--they're all on the rise for the majority of Americans, even as a tiny minority grow their share of all wealth, and grab more than their fair share of the scarce resource that is the government's care and attention.


The system is stressed and so are the people. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey found the average family premium for health insurance rose to $13,375 last year, a jump of 5% even as inflation fell. That makes for an obscene rise of 131% over the past ten years. No wonder, that at the same time the number of Americans without any health coverage rose to 46.3 million.

Healthcare is a scarce resource, and people's fears for themselves and their kids are very real.

The Census Bureau shows that the child poverty rate rose to 19.0% last year. That translates to 14.1 million children living in poverty in the richest nation in the world. By some estimates, that could be 26.6% by the end of 2009.

Income inequality is at an all time high. Resources are strapped. Are we really surprised that fear -- and gun-sales -- are rising?

Maathai's Green Belt movement believes in better environmental stewardship and better sharing will reduce war. She talks about it on GRITtv this week: "There is no way to have peace without equity."