It was inspiring to hear the keynote speaker this morning. Dr. Wangari Maathai won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her efforts at organizing women to plant trees and conserve soils in Kenya. As a researcher of tick parasites of cattle at the University of Nairobi she noticed the streams turning brown and the soils eroding. She also listened to women talking about their need for fresh water, food, and other resources.
She worked with foresters, but found that they didn't have the fruit and indigenous trees that women needed. The women didn't have the technical skills of "foresters with diplomas", yet they could develop their own skills as "foresters without diplomas".
Her work also led to efforts to preserve green spaces and public forests. This was dangerous at the time as the dominant political powers were determined to sell off resources (lands) as quickly as possible (more often than not with under the table payments). Her groups were successful at saving Nairobi's Central Park in the face of the bulldozers!
She emphasized the need for all of us to reduce, reuse, and recycle resources. She also talked about the need for debt relief for African nations. Why should the people pay for money squandered by corrupt officials? She made a good case. The banks and governments from developed countries are literally profiting from the misery of the people of underdeveloped nations.
Her efforts make us realize how important forestry is to maintain and improve the quality of life for everyone. Also, forestry is social. You have to work and communicate with people. There's no hiding in the forest!