Maathai, Wangari

1940-2011 Catholic Church

The Kenyan environmentalist, Wangari Maathai (1940-2011), began the Greenbelt Movement in 1977 with the single idea that paying women to plant trees would lift them out of poverty and reforest the land. The movement has planted more than thirty million trees; it has expanded around the world and helped nearly 900,000 women. In 2004 Maathai was the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

We need to rediscover our common experience with other creatures on Earth, and recognize that we have gone through an evolutionary process with them. They may not look like us, with their wings and scales and fur. We may not like some; others like mosquitoes we may detest. But they are part of the process of life beginning and being sustained on this planet. An apt analogy is Noah in Genesis, who found a pair of each species and two by two placed them into his ark, mosquitoes and reptiles among them. Noah was not commanded to pick only those that were useful to him; he sheltered them all. God recognized that they are part of us; they needed the chance to survive as well. And in giving them this chance, God gave us a chance too. Now we must give that chance back to ourselves, and replenish the earth.
—From Wangari Maathai, Replenishing the Earth: Spiritual Values for Healing Ourselves and the World (New York: Doubleday, 2010), 194-95.

Anne and Jeffery Rowthorn


Rowthorn, Anne and Jeffery. God’s Good Earth: Praise and Prayer for Creation. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2018.

This excerpt, received in 2019, was reprinted with permission from God’s Good Earth: Praise and Prayer for Creation, compiled by Anne and Jeffery Rowthorn (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2018).