Saturday, February 5, 2011

Preserving Sacred Places


~ N. Scott Momaday

Of Note: Wangari Maathai has always been a practical woman. That's why in the 1970's when she wanted to tackle environmental issues in her native Africa, she started off with a simple solution to a seemingly complex problem like soil erosion. She thought: "Why not plant trees? They will hold down the soil, are inexpensive and have both symbolic and real value." She saw herself as the hummingbird, who flew above a fire and released a few drops of water from its beak onto the towering flames. Asked why it bothered, the tiny bird replied: "I'm doing the best I can." Maathai felt the same way. In the last 40 years, her Billion Tree Campaign has planted 11 billion trees across the globe, and it won her the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize. Her Green Belt movement espouses four key values: love for the environment, gratitude and respect for the Earth's resources, self-empowerment and self-betterment and the spirit of service and volunteerism. She said these ideas came from God. That may be true because they are quite similar to the spiritual values often mentioned in this blog. Her next project is the building of the Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace and Environmental Studies at the University of Nairobi and "will emphasize learning by doing and applying knowledge to real problems," particularly in her own backyard. These practical visionaries with simple solutions are the hope of Africa. We can then watch ideas spawned here by lighted and loving energy spread to rest of the world. The developed countries might be in for a surprise when solutions come out of Africa that may well save the planet.

Today's Weather Report: I called yesterday balmy at 18 degrees Fahrenheit. Well, right now we have that beat with 29 degrees! This is me last July sitting under a tree like a toad next to the Namekagon National Wild River, which runs adjacent to my house. Back in the 1960's, a salvaging project was begun to save this river from further development and eventually bring it back to its original state. Little by little easements were purchased and homes bought out. Those that got to stay for a spell have died or moved on. The river is now enjoyed by anyone who wants to venture forth into the swarms of mosquitoes that guard the shoreline. They were thick the day of this photo--thankfully, insect repellent now has a more pleasing odor than in the 1960's when this all began.

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