In 1977 Wangari Maathai founded The Greenbelt Movement an organization whose chief aim was to preserve the environment while simultaneously supporting communities so that a harmonious and sustainable relationship could exist between man and nature.
I first came across the organization while reading Replenishing The Earth: Spiritual Values for Healing Ourselves and the World. This book tells the fascinating story of how the movement was born, its core values, current state of the world’s ecosystem and our sometimes not-so-obvious connection with nature. It goes further to establish the connection between destructive and constructive human activities and their effects on the planet.
The GBM is unique because at its centre lie four core values: (reproduced here from the book)
Love for the Environment: Such a love is demonstrable in one’s lifestyle. It motivates one to take positive actions for the earth, such as plant trees and ensure that they survive; nurture those trees that are standing; protect animal habits…show appreciation in a tangible way for the earth
Gratitude and Respect for the Earth’s Resources: Valuing all that the earth gives us and because of that valuation, not wanting to waste anything and therefore practicing the three R’s – reduce, reuse, recycle
Self Empowerment & Self Betterment: This is the desire to improve one’s life and circumstances through the spirit of self reliance, and not in waiting for others to do it for you. It also entails turning away from inertia and self-destructive activities such as addictions
Spirit of Service and Volunteerism: Using one’s time, energy and resources to provide service to others, without expecting or demanding compensation, recognition or appreciation.