In a world fractured by the effects of environmental degradation, political turmoil, and economic crises, it is easy to forget that cultures of peace depend on good governance and equitable management of our natural resources. Sustainable development from the grassroots up can only happen if these three core issues are addressed. It was on this holistic approach that the Green Belt Movement was founded.
My own abiding interest in the study of peace and environmentalism began in the highlands of Kenya where I grew up, and was nurtured during my studies in the US and Germany, and teaching at the University of Nairobi. My involvement in environmental and grassroots issues has taught me that the connection between environmental challenges and local conflicts cannot be assessed separately as if they were cultures in a Petri dish.
They must be understood and acted upon not just by academics, but by as many different kinds of people as possible – bustling city-dwellers, hard-working villagers and farmers, children, poets, dreamers – and by those who visit our country and carry away with them a sense of our key cultural developments and aspirations.
Since founding the Green Belt Movement in 1977, I have found that there can be extraordinary energizing, constructive, and profound connections between people from all walks of life who are interested in and want to engage with issues of conflict, natural resource management, climate change, and community engagement.
It is, therefore, my most fervent hope that the Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace and Environmental Studies at the University of Nairobi will become an international model campus for the transfer of knowledge through informative, practical, and inherently democratizing connections between the university students and faculty and the communities they serve.
Professor Wangari Muta Maathai
Nobel Peace Laureate 2004
Goodwill Ambassador to the Congo Forest