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RE: [greenyes] RE: PEER Press Release

Much good could be accomplished if you would open your mind and open your eyes
to accept as allies the Conservatives and Christians that you seem to despise.
Why do you persist in alienating of a significant portion of our population with
your hate-filled, divisive rhetoric? All Christian denominations place care for
the poor and care for our environment as part of their core doctrine.
Interesting that no one mentioned the Christian foundation of Wangari Maathai,
the Nobel Peace Prize winner, whom we all applaud for her work.
Dan Weisenbach
Please read:
Planting seeds for empowering women
by Emily Hershberger

Catholic Kenyan environmental activist Wangari Maathai won the 2004 Nobel Peace
Prize - a first for an African woman and a first for environmentalism - for her
work with the Green Belt Movement, the largest community-based environmental
organization in Africa.

Maathai is particularly known for leading poor Kenyan women in a reforestation
movement that has planted 30 million trees and for actively resisting the
corruption of Kenyan president Daniel Arap Moi. At the announcement of the
prize, the international press ran photos of Maathai standing tall, proud,
beaming - and alone - in the spotlight.

"The Nobel Prize is absolutely a singular recognition," explained Kenyan
activist Njoki Njehu, director of the Washington, D.C.-based "50 Years is
Enough" debt-relief campaign. "But it is also a collective recognition...[of]
African women in terms of a way of valuing women's work that has not been

Lilian Njehu, Njoki Njehu's mother and an early member of the Green Belt
Movement (GBM), sees Maathai's accomplishment as a victory for thousands of
African women who are challenging cultural norms and empowering their
communities through grassroots environmental activism.

Lilian Njehu can easily count herself among these women. In 1978, one year after
the GBM's inception, she heard Maathai speak at a seminar opposing
deforestation. "It doesn't matter if you are poor or wealthy," she remembers
Maathai saying. "If the country becomes a desert, we are all going to die."

Maathai's message gripped Lilian. "Those words about how we needed to protect
the environment really touched me as a Christian," Lilian, an Anglican, said. "I
realized the preaching or the evangelizing we were doing to people about
Christianity would come to nothing if they died of a destroyed environment."

Lilian and her Anglican church women's group, the Mother's Union - committed to
nurturing their families, raising their children in a Christian context, and
caring for their country, community, and environment - began a two-year process
of creating what became the Kanyariri Mother's Union tree nursery, the first
community tree nursery of the Green Belt Movement.

The nursery, which women tended on public school grounds and filled with
indigenous and fruit-tree seedlings that they raised in their own gardens, not
only exercised Christian stewardship, but also radically challenged cultural and
political ideas. For one thing, growing trees of monetary value challenged a
societal taboo against women owning property. For another, said Lilian, the
intergenerational project ushered in "a new way of people
understood that the land, the environment, what they had, didn't belong to the
head of state - it belonged to the community. People had a right to fight for it
for its preservation for future generations."

The power of GBM's grassroots community advocacy, and specifically the
tree-planting project, attracted women not only from Kenya's 42 ethnic groups,
but also from around the world. "Women understood it and saw that it was very
much about the condition of their lives," Lilian said, explaining how tree
planting met needs for firewood, windbreaks, food and medicine. "They carry the
burden of their home. They are the ones who figure out, 'What is the family
going to eat?'"

In 1985, women from all over Africa and the world came to the third United
Nations Conference on Women held in Nairobi. They heard about the work of the
GBM and came to the Kanyariri tree nursery for training. Today more than 10,000
people have participated in the GBM's environmental training programs to become
"foresters without diplomas"; 6,000 women's groups form 600 GBM networks. The
women at Kanyariri also began a vocational training center for youth that
weren't going on to higher education. This training center also equips GBM
organizers from across Africa.

With this in mind, say Lilian and Njoki, Maathai's Nobel Prize and her 30 years
of work represent thousands of voices. "[The Green Belt Movement] was a way of
saying to people: there is knowledge in your community," said Njoki. "The
colonial and neo-colonial education had been saying to people in Kenya and all
of Africa: 'You don't know anything, you don't have any knowledge, you only have
problems and someone else has the solution.' This idea that the solutions and
the environmental needs of the communities would be met by the resources within
the community...was a very different way of thinking about women's work and the
knowledge base within communities."

Lilian and the Mother's Union continue their work of tending people as well as
trees. Their most recent project includes founding churches with clinics, and
running the Kianjogu Mother's Union Mercy Home, a home for 55 AIDS orphans, ages
5-12. They are also addressing a need for greater food security through a
"container garden" kitchen project that trains families who don't have even a
"spoonful of soil" to grow onions, carrots, cabbage, and kale in bags of soil
and manure. The project has become something that less-educated women can be
proud of; they are teaching women with jobs about their portable gardens.

When asked how all this fits with her Christian faith, Lilian Njehu was humorous
and blunt. "It's obvious. It's in Genesis."

Lilian Njehu, founding member of the Kenyan-based Green Belt Movement, and her
daughter Njoki Njehu, director of the Washington, D.C.-based 50 Years Is Enough
debt-relief organization, were interviewed at Sojourners in October by associate
editor Rose Marie Berger and editorial assistant Emily Hershberger. For more
information, see and

On Mon, 1 Nov 2004 09:44:20 -0800, Steve Bloom wrote:
> Unfortunately, Bush and a lot of his supporters are confirmed
> Millenialists who see exploiting the Earth prior to the anticipated
> return of that Jewish preacher (who as such still wouldn't be
> eligible for membership in certain private social institutions run
> by members of the Bush "base") as their God-given duty. Long-term
> environmental concerns are just not a problem for these people.
> I'm reminded of a joke (?) I heard a few days ago that Bush's
> favorite song is "Nearer My God to Thee." That in turn puts me in
> mind of a bumper sticker my partner recently put on her car that
> reads "Where are we going, and why am I in this hand basket?" --
> Steve Bloom

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