Earth Charter Initiative tribute to Wangari Maathai

We are sorry to hear about the passing away of Wangari Maathai. Our prayers are with her and her family.

On behalf of all those involved in the Earth Charter Initiative, I want to express our condolences to Wangari’s family and how very grateful we are for Wangari and for all she has done.

We will miss her dearly and the Earth will too.

She was a unique human being committed to “restoring the integrity of Earth’s ecological systems”. She inspired us all in her dedication to mobilize people to help reestablish the green cover of our planet.

Wangari was an Earth Charter Commissioner. She offered valuable contributions to the discussions generated by the Earth Charter drafting process. Above all, she was a great friend and human being.

The first time I saw Wangari was in January 1997 during the first Earth Charter drafting committee meeting. Her joy and humility attracted my attention. It was funny to see how, in the midst of a complicated or academic discussion she would be able to clarify issues using simple language and directness. One day, she told us in a meeting that she would describe the Earth Charter as like when someone is at a bus stop and needs to identify a bus that will take them to a given place. Well, she said, the Earth Charter is the bus that will take us to the right place.

In 2002 at one of the preparatory committees for the Johannesburg Summit she told me that she did not have a place to stay in New York, but had managed to spend the night in the YMCA. Wangari taught us her smooth, humble, and committed way of being. In September 2005, she took the time from her busy schedule to participate in the last meeting of the Earth Charter Steering Committee. At that time, we were discussing the need to constitute the new Earth Charter International Council and the future vision for the Earth Charter Initiative. She was there giving us ideas and inspiration.

When she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, it was an interesting moment for the world to see that the environment, justice, sustainability and peace issues are actually part of the same agenda.

We will miss her smile, energy and positive attitude. She had a good soul and we bid her goodbye with deep gratitude and respect.

As she wrote in the chapter on Gratitude and Respect of her book Replenishing the Earth, “gratitude is the simple acknowledgement of the bounty with which you have been blessed and a sense of responsibility for using it wisely”.

We have been blessed by you, Wangari, and we should use wisely what you have taught the world.
With this in mind and in our hearts, we should just simply go and plant a tree.

Mirian Vilela
Executive Director
Earth Charter International

On 29 June 2000, at the launch of the Earth Charter in The Hague, see picture below.
At that occasion, Wangari offered the remarks you can find by clicking here.

On 18 September 2005, at the Earth Charter Steering Committee meeting in New York.