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Dr. Maathai & Dr. Goodall Would Have Been A Dream Team

Trees, Chimps, and Women Scientists in East Africa

By Andrea Corwin Published about a month ago Updated about a month ago 4 min read
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Dr. Maathai & Dr. Goodall Would Have Been A Dream Team
Photo by Olena Bohovyk on Unsplash

Can you imagine a Kenyan woman with a doctorate in veterinary anatomy and an English woman with a Ph.D. in ethology in Tanzania sitting together over tea? I wonder what their conversations would entail.

and AI created picture by Leonardo.Ai - Image Generator

Let's talk about two women I admire because of my love of the environment, wildlife, Africa, and social justice.

Dr. Wangari Maathai was the first African woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize. In addition to that great accomplishment, she was the first woman in East Africa to get a doctorate in veterinary anatomy through her studies at the University of Nairobi. I learned about her through the Shaklee Corporation and found her story admirable. Highly educated and determined, she brought about a great change with her tree planting campaign. Trees are so important to our planet, yet we continue to raze them with no respect for their age, size and the carbon capture they provide.

By Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Ms. Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977 to plant trees across Kenya. Wangari stated that poor people would cut the last tree to cook the last meal and so she mobilized Kenyans, many of them women, to plant over 30 million trees. Those Kenyan women’s financials improved with their sales of seedlings for planting. That massive planting effort in Kenya inspired the United Nations to promote a worldwide campaign, leading to 11 billion trees planted worldwide.

Ms. Maathai wanted to alleviate poverty and organized protests against a former Kenyan president. It wasn’t easy to be a dissident in that political climate, and police and thugs beat her, but she carried on with her mission to counteract deforestation. She felt strongly that conflict and land degradation kept most of the population impoverished while a few were extremely wealthy.

When that president stepped down, she got elected as the assistant minister of the environment. Wangari Maathai was strong-willed, accomplished, and educated; her husband divorced her for her strong will (what?? seems impossible, right?). Wangari challenged the divorce ruling, lost her challenge, and called the judge incompetent afterward. She was thrown in jail for six months for calling the judge incompetent.

The Shaklee Corporation was inspired by her Green Belt Movement and began a tree-planting mission with their Members and Ambassadors. It was a natural partnership because the Movement aligned with Shaklee’s mission of making people and the planet healthier. Shaklee was the first company in the world to attain Climate Neutral certification ™ which impressed and inspired Dr. Maathai.

On Earth Day 2009, Dr. Wangari Maathai, a Global Ambassador for the Shaklee A Million Trees, A Million Dreams ™, Roger Barnett, CEO of Shaklee, and then California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger planted the millionth tree in a ceremony at the Shaklee Headquarters in Pleasanton, California.

Wangari said that planting trees was also planting seeds of peace and hope. Her belief was that those privileged enough to have gotten an education, skills, or power needed to be role models for the next generation of leaders. She didn’t have patience for those discussing tree planting, and wanted to see them dig the hole and plant the tree! Dr. Maathai reminded people that we all live on the same planet, share humanity, and cannot escape that fact.

She made a lasting impact in Africa and the world. Unfortunately, she succumbed to ovarian cancer in 2011 at the age of 71. She wrote a fabulous book called Unbowed that I read and highly recommend.

Dr. Jane Goodall founded Roots and Shoots in 1991 when her talks at Tanzanian schools brought students to her asking questions how they could help with environmental concerns. Roots and Shoots focuses on conservation, environment, and humanitarian issues. There are now branches in at least 27 countries.

Dr. Goodall is famous for her studies of chimpanzees and her discovery that they use tools. Outspoken on the environment and climate change and their effects on chimpanzees, she successfully got them listed as endangered.

I recently saw a short film, Jane Goodall - Reasons For Hope. In the film, Dr. Goodall explained how she decided she needed to leave Africa and help with worldwide concerns on the state of our planet. Her desire is to help bring about hope for the planet and she states that hope must come with actions, and many small actions accumulate to create positive change. Dr. Goodall visited several projects that are inspiring and bringing about change. The film shows her meeting with the Blackfeet Nation and how they are actualizing their long time desire to bring the bison (buffalo) back to Montana. A team in Austria, the European LIFE Northern Bald Ibis project is breeding the endangered birds and teaching them how to migrate over the Alps.

Dr. Goodall, at the age of 88, is an enthusiastic force for optimism and hope and it was impressive to see her in the film fly in an ultralight aircraft over the mountain terrain in Austria. The film shows the research team with the Ibis flock flying near them and I was afraid the flock would cause a crash!

Kenya 2023 rescued chimps - kept as pets in tiny cages where some could not stand up straight

She has always been fascinating to me; she was a woman pioneer in remote Tanzania studying chimpanzees (which are stronger than men) and bringing new knowledge to the world. Her love of wildlife and Africa resonate with me because I also love both.

I don’t believe the two women ever met, but am sure they would have liked each other, had many lively discussions and life experiences to compare. The environment, wildlife, East Africa, hope for the planet, and raising people out of poverty would have been common ground. One can imagine a collaboration between them and its astounding results.

Wangari, a Kenyan woman with a doctorate in veterinary anatomy, and Jane, an English woman with a Ph.D. in ethology who studied chimps in Tanzania for 30 years, were both independent, strong and intelligent women scientists who masterfully enacted change and swayed opinions.

Can you now contemplate them having tea together?

What a force these two women would have been in joint ventures.

By Hu Chen on Unsplash

#climatechange #environment #savetheplanet #savetrees #plantatree #savenature #deforestation #drwangarimaathai #wangarimaathaifoundation #wangarimaathaimarathon #greenbeltmovement #janegoodall #janegoodallinstitute #rootsandshoots #wildlifeconservation #wildlife #animalrights #conservation #chimpanzees

Copyright © 4/11/2024 by Andrea O. Corwin

ScienceSustainabilityNatureHumanityClimateAdvocacy
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Andrea Corwin

🐘Wildlife 🌳 Environment 🥋3rd°

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Comments (8)

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  • Michelle Liewabout a month ago

    We need them around, really, Andrea. The world literally wouldn't be the same without them (at least the gorillas wouldn't)!

  • Shirley Belkabout a month ago

    Loved reading this! Strong women, women who move and shake, taking care of their children...the earth, trees, and animals.

  • Hannah Mooreabout a month ago

    I would feel so deeply inadequate at that tea. But I'd like to be there all the same.

  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarranabout a month ago

    What a stupid reason for Wangari's husband to divorce her! Such a weak ass man! She's better off without him! Jane and Wangari would have had so much to talk about!

  • Carol Townendabout a month ago

    I don't think many people know the beauty that comes from our trees. To me, trees are a crucial part of nature. They are also needed to help us to survive. Thank you for this fascinating piece about these two fascinating women.

  • Karen Coady about a month ago

    The energy of dedicated women and their unparalleled courage can teach us so much about how to live a life beyond their immediate circle. They had the integrity to reach out on a worldwide basis to make all our lives and that if our planet so much better. Congress could learn a lot about honor from these two. Thank you for bringing their brilliance to us

  • The Writer about a month ago

    a beautiful piece there

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