When the world is celebrating the 73rd birth anniversary of renowned environmentalist Wangari Maathai, a new book titled Maatrathukkaana Pengal – Wangari Maathai that was released here brings out the life and work of Maathai in brief. The main aim of bringing out this book is to introduce the great environmentalist to common people and to remember her at a time of pro-environment struggles.
Poovulagin Nanbargal, a concerned group of citizens working towards environment protection and development, has published this book. This is the seventh book in the series of eco-feminism.
Wangari Maathai, born in Ihithe, Kenya on April 1, 1940, got her education at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Nairobi. In 1977 she founded the ‘Green Belt Movement’, an environmental organisation to plant trees. She served as assistant minister for Environment and Natural Resources during the presidentship of Mwai Kibaki between 2003 and 2005. In 2004 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the first African woman and the first environmentalist to receive the Peace Prize. She succumbed to cancer in 2011.
The book Maatrathukkaana Pengal – Wangari Maathai is a collection of essays about Maathai that were published in various magazines and penned by well-known environmental activists like Adhi Valliappan, Arachalur Selvam, Kavitha Muralidharan, R Senthil and Sivagnanam. The book includes original articles and translations of Maathai’s Nobel lecture and interviews.
The book has much unknown information about Maathai, like that she was the first woman from the East and Central African countries to get a degree and to work as head of one of the departments of the University of Nairobi.
It also has the little known information that the Nobel Prize committee, for the first time, considered environmental activism as an effort to bring peace in the world and awarded the Peace Prize to Wangari Maathai for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace. The book also contains details about Maathai’s personal life including her husband’s statement that Maathai’s education was a reason for their divorce as he was ‘unable to control her’.
The book traces her struggle in the 1980s when she was arrested for opposing the construction of a complex at Uhuru Park and her initiative ‘Green Belt Movement’ also finds prime space. Through her initiative more trees were planted, which provided employment opportunities to nearly 80,000 women in African countries. She made trees a symbol of the struggle against politics, which she thought exploited environment. She once said, “It’s the little things citizens do. That’s what will make the difference. My little thing is planting trees.” While other environmentalists spoke about the three Rs — Reduce, Reuse and Recycle — Maathai was the first environmentalist to introduce the fourth R — Repair.
“When women have seeds in their hands, the world will witness peace. Maathai herself became a seed and she grew up like a tree that resulted in conserving forests. She became our identity and a force behind us to protect environment,” says the foreword in the book by Poovulagin Nanbargal.