[PHOTO MISSING]After a brief photo session in the Noragric library, Professor Maathai and her entourage were escorted to the Gamle Festsal in the Clock Building. There, she was enthusiastically met by many UMB staff and students who came to listen to her presentation on Nurturing Nature to Build a Culture of Peace. Rector remarked that he had never seen the room and the upper balcony as filled as it was today.
Professor Maathai, who holds an Honorary Doctorate at UMB and is Assistant Minister for Environment, Natural Resources and Wildlife in Kenya, has been at the forefront in the fight for social, economic and cultural development in Kenya and in Africa; as a biologist she was concerned about the effects of deforestation and soil erosion, especially how this related to rural women as primary caretakers of land and family.
I look at sustainable development, peace and democracy as the three legs to a Kenyan stool: you need all three to find a balance. Without the responsible management of natural resources, it is impossible to reach the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Professor Maathai gave a descriptive account of the effects of deforestation on Mount Kenya in her homeland, which has lost much of its capacity to retain rainwater and now has dead forests, lacking birds, butterflies and various herbivores.
[PHOTO MISSING]Professor Maathai called for students and professors alike to prepare themselves to be inspired by what they learn, hear and experience. It is not just what you learn in the class room, but also what you experience in life, which will inspire you. She recalled her stay as a young woman at an Italian convent, where the nuns inspired her to become what she is today.
At the end of the one-hour long session, professor Maathai was thanked with a long and warm applause from the audience. Her contagious smile and passionate way of conveying her message left many feeling as inspired as she had talked about earlier.