A few years ago I had the distinct pleasure of seeing Professor Wangari Maathai speak at a "Power of Women" event. I had never heard her name before and have to admit I was a little more excited to hear Barbara Walters and Erin Brockovich (both of whom were pretty darn cool to see too). However, when Wangari Maathai stepped on to the stage and started talking, I was mesmerized.
Please, please watch the video below to hear the story she closed with.
There's literally nothing that I can say that even does justice to some of the other amazing things she shared that day, but I would definitely recommend reading some of her books, especially her memoir, Unbowed. Here's a link to her books that are available at the Calgary Public Library.
She was an amazing woman and an amazing human being. Reading her memoir and getting just a taste of what she went through in her lifetime was completely inspiring. I think the most amazing thing about reading the memoir was how she never seemed to lose hope that she could really make change happen (or perhaps just that change is possible).
The basic background that you need to know is that she started an environmental organization in Kenya called The Green Belt Movement, which plants trees in Africa to help protect against the erosion that makes it difficult if not impossible for the people there to grow food (rather than cash crops like coffee) to support their lives, create firewood for fuel and provide jobs for women. She was also the first African woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize.
Here's a New York Times article that was written when she passed away on September 25 this year. I have to say that though I'm not sure a lot of us understand how much impact this one person had on our earth (I know I don't), it is a true loss for the human race.