Planting Trees for Women and Planet: Wangari Maathai Replenishes the Earth

So many environment books focus on doom and gloom, sacrifice and fear, and us versus them, and often that is what sells. As politicians and even religious leaders bicker endlessly over the true way to save the world, environmental pioneer Wangari Maathai got to work, organizing women and planting trees and, in 2004, becoming the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Her new book is a deceptively simple call for integrating spirituality and environmentalism. In Replenishing the Earth, Maathai speaks of the commonality of spiritual traditions around the world, with special mention of the Kikuyu and Christian traditions with which she grew up.  Maathai’s words point out the unity and interconnectedness from which true environmentalism springs. 

Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement in Kenya, which aims to reduce deforestation while supporting women with revenue by the simple act of planting trees.  Seedlings become a source of income to poor rural women even as the air and biodiversity are improved and soil and water conservation enabled. Since its founding in 1977, the Green Belt Movement is responsible for planting some 40 million trees across Africa, while empowering women to stand up for the rights of themselves and their communities.
Maathai’s vision of unity extends beyond the human race to all living things: “When we reflect on the sacred groves and the spiritual and symbolic weight we have given to trees and forests, it seems self-evident that not only have trees been our constant companions, but we would quite literally not be human if we didn’t perhaps feel regret when a tree disappears from the landscape. For when it does, a fundamental concept from the Garden of Eden also disappears.”

“Don’t worry, there are millions of other trees….”
She writes: “I believe that we need to rediscover our common experience with other creatures on Earth, and recognize that we have gone through the evolutionary process with them.” She recounts her moment of realization while visiting a logging operation: “As I watched the tree fall, teared welled in my eyes. The timber company representative noticed that I had become emotional. ‘Don’t worry,’ he said, ‘There are millions of other trees out there in the forest.’” That simple statement embodied the short-sightedness and the blindness to waste that has plagued developed countries, which have so little forest left, and developing countries, whose forests are rapidly disappearing even as consumption has grown.

In this beautiful little video, Maathai tells the story of the hummingbird who saw a problem and tried to help.

Protecting the Environment, Fostering Peace

In her Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Maathai summed up  the indelible connections between social and environmental justice, between peace and valuing the earth’s resources:
“It is evident that many wars are fought over resources which are now becoming increasingly scarce. If we conserved our resources better, fighting over them would not then occur…so, protecting the global environment is directly related to securing peace…those of us who understand the complex concept of the environment have the burden to act. We must not tire, we must not give up, we must persist.”

Like the hummingbird, Maathai has consistently and doggedly done her best.  And her best is truly special.

Photo: Wangari Maathai in the trailer for the film Dirt! via Youtube.


W. C
W. C2 months ago

Thanks for the information.

William C
William C2 months ago

Thank you for the article.

Michelle B.

Dr. Matthai's hummingbird story is illustrated beautifully in this book. She wrote the foreword and the Dalai Lama wrote the inspring afterword:

Janine H.
Janine H6 years ago

Trees and other plants are very important. A world without them and without animals is it that what we want? Hopefully not. In my case, i love trees, plants and animals.
Other animals and plants have to go only because "we" humans do not want to share the world with other life forms, these life forms "we" would not eat (vegetarian food is not a bad idea, or eating with conscience as the so called primitive cultures did and still do, if they still exist. No meat/fish every day). "We" destroy everything around us and "we" forget, that everything is important to survive, too.

As little child i thought that rain is when God and the angels cry - because "we" humans have forgotten that we need this "intelligence", someone who could help... if "we" hadn't turned away for many centuries ago...

"Only when the last tree has been cut down; Only when the last river has been poisoned; Only when the last fish has been caught; Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten." (Native American proverb)

"We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not yet learned the simple art of living together as brothers." (Martin Luther King)

Maira Sun
Maira Sun6 years ago


Siti Rohana
Siti R7 years ago

glad to come across this article about her again and her undying passion. every word she espouses is true. our natural are increasingly scarce, i hope it doesn't apply to us who truly care become scarce.

Brunschwig k.
Komala B7 years ago

i would place environmentalism higher than the spirituality. The true spirituality is 'non violence' in other words 'respect' towards all living beings in the world. Through the protection of nature, an immortal tree called NON VIOLENCE is planted. God's presence is evident where the tree NON VIOLENCE grows peacefully without fear. i am longing for that day!!!

Pirjo H.
Past Member 7 years ago


Mari Rhame
Mira Rhame7 years ago

God really exists
God lives in the hearts of the strong, and the weak of course.
You have only to apply yourself in the proper efforts to reap the rewards.
Efforts being the key word on our behalf, thru ourself.
God spelled backwards is dog. God wanted to show us one ... one who would always love us and BE FAITHFUL.... peace..

ChanTlalok Rain C.

thanx Nancy, God bless all you Ladies.