12/21/2012 07:45


“Peace on earth depends on our ability to secure our living environment.”  These words were used by Professor Ole Danbolt Mjes, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee when he presented the Nobel Peace Prize for 2004 to Wangari Maathai for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy, and peace.

            Wangari Maathai, who died September 25th, 2011, founded a movement that not only planted over 47 million trees worldwide, including re-foresting her native Kenya, but has bettered the lives of over 900,000 women through economic empowerment. Maathai was recognized for her courage in drawing attention to political oppression in her native country and internationally, her inspiration in the fight for democratic rights, and her dedication to encouraging women to better their situation. But there is more to her contribution to peace than that.

            Over the years the Nobel Committee has recognized that there are many ways to advance peace. The Committee has acknowledged that human rights and democracy advance peace. In 2004, they included environmental protection as another path to peace.

            Perhaps Wangari Maathai said it best as an Op-Ed Contributor to the New York Times published on December 10, the day of the award: “Unless we properly manage resources like forests, water, land, minerals, and oil, we will not win the fight against poverty.  And there will not be peace. Old conflicts will rage on and new resource wars will erupt unless we change the path we are on. To celebrate this award, and the work it recognizes of those around the world, let me recall the words of Gandhi: My life is my message. Also plant a tree.”

            In Oslo at a Nobel lecture given on December 10, 2004 she also said, “The state of any county’s environment is a reflection of the kind of governance in place, and without good governance there can be no peace.”  

            As we pray for peace as a new year begins, may we be inspired to work for peace by taking seriously the principles of democracy and human rights and also by looking for ways to strengthen the living environment here and around the world of our common home, earth.


Della Moen, Earth Team Volunteer, NRCS/Stephenson Soil and Water Conservation District, an equal opportunity provider and employer, 12/19/12. Della can be reached at