With the untimely death of Wangari Maathai, announced today, her many friends have lost an unfailingly warm and generous woman, and her millions of admirers will mourn her inspirational presence. Wangari’s achievements are part of the public record: Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, founder of Kenya’s Green Belt Movement, patron of UNEP, the woman in her region to earn a PhD, politician, fearless and indefatigable defender of environmental values, author, lecturer, teacher — it is a long and extraordinary list and her impact on global public life was remarkable.
But equally remarkable was her unforgettable charisma. I met Wangari on many occasions in London and elsewhere and I always looked forward to it. She had a personality that filled the room with warmth and light. Her exuberance and energy, her ready laughter, her empathy and her open-hearted concern for those she met made each encounter a moment to be remembered with pleasure.
Wangari was generous to chinadialogue on many occasions, taking time to share her insights with us and with our readers. We shall miss her for her tireless campaigning to protect the environment and to give voice to the weak and poor. We shall also grieve for the loss of a brilliant, illuminating personality and a woman who truly changed her world.
Wangari Maathai on chinadialogue: