Monday, September 24, 2007
'Tree woman' comes to Chicago
If you hear me blabbing excitedly about seeing a famous woman in Chicago, you might guess she's an anorexic twentysomething toting a Prada handbag bigger than her head. But you'd be wrong. (This time anyway.) The famous woman I'm talking about today is Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai. The 64-year-old Kenyan environmentalist and human rights activist is the first African woman to win the prize; she won it in 2004 for "contribution to sustainable development, human rights and peace." She spoke at the University of Chicago as part of the Chicago Humanities Festival, one of my favorite city events. Here's more about her: "In the late 1970s Mrs. Maathai led a campaign called the Green Belt Movement to plant tens of millions of trees across Africa to slow deforestation. The movement grew to include projects to preserve biodiversity, educate people about their environment and promote the rights of women and girls." She's affectionately called 'Tree Woman'. I loved hearing her speak. Partly because it's inspiring to hear people talk about things they're passionate about. (Even if it's artichoke hearts.) And partly because it's another reminder that the world is such a big place but that one person can do so much. (As an aside she was married to a Kenyan politician who divorced her, because she was "too strong-minded for a woman". Sometimes there are no words.) So how did she celebrate her big win? She didn't dine out at Blue Agave, as I plan to when I win my Nobel. She planted a tree.