This Day in History

Oct. 8, 2004: Wangari Maathai Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize

Time Periods: 2001 - Present
Themes: Climate Justice, Environment, Women's History, World History/Global Studies

When resources are degraded, we start competing for them, whether it is at the local level in Kenya, where we had tribal clashes over land and water, or at the global level, where we are fighting over water, oil, and minerals. So one way to promote peace is to promote sustainable management and equitable distribution of resources. —Wangari Maathai

Wangari Maathai leads “Cancel the debt” protest in Kenya.

On Oct. 8, 2004, Wangari Maathai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Maathai was a Kenyan environmentalist who founded the Greenbelt Movement to reforest her country.

In her acceptance speech she said,

I believe the Nobel committee was sending a message that protecting and restoring the environment contributes to peace; it is peace work. . . I always felt that our work was not simply about planting trees. It was about inspiring people to take charge of their environment, the system that governed them, their lives, and their future.

She was the first African woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize. There is a children’s picture book about Maathai that we recommend, Wangari Maathai The Woman Who Planted a Million Trees

For lessons and other resources on teaching about the environment, order a copy of the Rethinking Schools teaching guide A People’s Curriculum for the Earth: Teaching About the Environmental Crisis.