Dr. Wangari Maathai died yesterday in her native Kenya. A Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2004 for her tireless efforts to re-forest Kenya, Maathai faced enormous odds as a female environmentalist in African society. But she persevered, helping establish an organization, the Green Belt Movement, which is responsible for replacing thirty million trees.
Thirty. Million. Trees.
Way back when she won the Peace Prize, I remember crying as I watched the footage, ridiculously moved by her story. She withstood police beatings and fierce criticism, but most of all, she withstood and fought back against despair — something all environmentalists grapple with, day in and day out, worrying their efforts are pointless.
Now she’s gone, but she’s inspired millions. I hope she will be buried beneath one of her many precious trees, slowly and truly becoming part of them.