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Nobel Peace Prize winner shares her wisdom

by Archives September 29, 2009

Despite the pouring rain, a long line of students, faculty, and guests formed outside the Hall building last Monday. They were waiting to hear Wangari Maathai speak about her life as an environmentalist, and the 30 years she spent fighting for basic rights and freedoms.
The long line of soaking wet people, many of whom had been waiting in line for over an hour, curled around the downtown building, and stretched up Mackay St. But for such a unique opportunity, not a single person seemed to mind.
In 2004, Maathai became the first African woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize. “Critics wondered if a ‘tree planter’ could really be a peace maker,” she said. When Maathai found out she won the prize, she reportedly went for a walk and planted a tree as a token of her gratitude.
Walking on stage to a standing ovation from a full auditorium, Maathai made her way toward the podium with her arms opened wide.
Throughout the lecture, Maathai emphasized the need for human cooperation when it comes to stopping wars and saving the environment. “I was happy to participate in the development of our country,” Maathai said about Kenya, which gained independence in December 1963. “We were trying to fight off a government that was trying to prevent us from helping the environment,” she said.
But Maathai persisted, creating two campaigns – The Green Belt Movement and the Billion Tree Campaign. Both are ongoing battles that Maathai continues to fight. In September, the Billion Tree Campaign reached its goal of planting 7 billion trees by the end of 2009. The mandate of the Green Belt Movement is to get communities around the world working together to protect the environment.
Maathai ended the conference with a notion of hope. “No matter how many others are discouraging us, we keep at it. And we do the best we can.”
The conference was in association with the Concordia Student Union, Arts and Science Federation of Associations, Concordia University, Sustainability Action Fund, the Concordia Council on Student Life and Yves Rocher.

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