Green Nobel laureate challenges church on environment

Kenyan Nobel Peace prize laureate Wangari Maathai says that the Church can play a crucial role in advocacy on environmental issues while parishes can lead the change at the local level by promoting tree planting.

Catholic News Service reports that Ms Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement and winner of the 2004 peace prize, urged hundreds of Caritas Internationalis delegates meeting in the Vatican to make environmental sustainability a priority.

She said she hoped her appeal would be "a turning point for Caritas Internationalis and indeed the church to decide to lead the faithful in being the custodians of God's creation."

"Planting trees, protecting and conserving forests, slowing down desertification processes are some of the activities Caritas could (do to) greatly enhance our capacity to reduce misery," she said.

"Taking care of the environment can eventually address many of the other Millennium Development Goals, which include cutting extreme poverty and hunger in half by 2015, she said.

Maathai was one of the keynote speakers addressing Vatican officials and hundreds of Caritas delegates gathered on 3-9 June for the 18th General Assembly of Caritas Internationalis.

Both Caritas and the church are "in a very strong position to educate (Group of Eight or G8) leaders and to hold them to accountability so it is not just talking, but it is a commitment" to improve environmental policies and cut emissions of gases widely thought to contribute to global warming, she said.

She said while the church can play a crucial role in advocacy on the international level, each individual parish and local Caritas can also do more to protect the environment, she said.

The church "could promote tree planting at the parish level with the faithful, and this is doable throughout the world," she said.

She said the church also could help protect forests, especially those in Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia that are in danger of disappearing due to unsustainable logging and desertification.

Founded in Kenya, the Green Belt Movement supplies rural African women with the resources to plant trees in their area and fight deforestation and desertification. The movement has spread to other countries and claims to have planted 30 million trees since its establishment in 1977.

Maathai said women play a crucial role in turning environmental awareness into action.

Women in industrialised and developing countries are "central to the consumer economy" and are the "major consumers of energy at the household level," therefore, they can have a hand in cutting back on daily electricity and fuel use.

They also "give many of us our values and can help us change our values" to those that respect the environment, reduce waste and live life in moderation, she said.

In a statement for World Environment Day yesterday, Caritas Australia CEO Jack de Groot said, "Caritas is in a unique position to work at the local level bringing about change on the environment, but also at the national, regional and international level advocating for change because of our unparalleled network of members."

Nobel peace laureate says church can do more to protect environment (Catholic News, 5/6/07)
World Environment day – We can all make a difference on climate! (Caritas Australia, Media Release, 5/6/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Wanngari Maathai (Wikipedia)/A>
Greenbelt Movement
The Nobel Peace Prize 2004
Prof. Wangari Maathai
The Wangari Maathai Foundation

G8 bishops challenge leaders on poverty (CathNews, 5/6/07)
Nobel Peace Laureate to open Catholic Earthcare conference (CathNews, 2/8/05)

Caritas sends "Make Aid Work" message to G8 with giant banner in St Peter's (Reuters Alertnet, 5/6/07)

6 Jun 2007