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A collection of quotes and sayings by Wangari Maathai on environment, nature, women, rights, little-things, children, development, trees, water, plant, peace and humanity.

103 Motivational Wangari Maathai Quotes That Show Things In Right Perspective

Quick Facts

Famous As: Nobel Peace Prize Winner

Born On: April 1, 1940

Died On: September 25, 2011

Born In: Ihithe village, Tetu division, Nyeri District, Kenya

Died At Age: 71

Wangari Maathai was an eminent Kenyan Noble Prize laureate and environmentalist. She spent a major half of her life fighting for environmental issues. She also became the first environmentalist and African women to receive a Noble Laureate. Besides this she was also the first African women to be awarded a doctorate degree. Maathai earned prestigious positions at ‘University Of Nairobi’ owing to her exceptional academic background and oratory skills. In 1970s she founded the ‘Green Belt Movement’ that was aimed at planting trees in order to protect the environment. As years passed the non-government organization diversified and started focusing on women’s rights as well. She also turned into a political activist towards the latter half of her life. Here is a collection of views, thoughts, beliefs and causes for which she raised her voice in form of quotable quotes. Let us browse through some popular quotes and thoughts by Wangari Maathai that hold a world of wisdom.

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Human rights are not things that are put on the table for people to enjoy. These are things you fight for and then you protect.

Wangari Maathai

There are opportunities even in the most difficult moments.

Wangari Maathai

I’m very conscious of the fact that you can’t do it alone. It’s teamwork. When you do it alone you run the risk that when you are no longer there nobody else will do it.

Wangari Maathai

I have always felt that perhaps women have sometimes almost embraced the same values as men, and the same character as men, because they are in the men's world, and they are trying to fit into a system that men have created. And maybe in truth when there is a critical mass of women who play that role in governments, then we will see whether women can really manage power in a way that is less destructive than the way that men have used power.

Wangari Maathai

What a friend we have in a tree, the tree is the symbol of hope, self improvement and what people can do for themselves.

Wangari Maathai

Education, if it means anything, should not take people away from the land, but instill in them even more respect for it, because educated people are in a position to understand what is being lost. The future of the planet concerns all of us, and all of us should do what we can to protect it. As I told the foresters, and the women, you don't need a diploma to plant a tree.

Wangari Maathai

Today we are faced with a challenge that calls for a shift in our thinking, so that humanity stops threatening its life-support system. We are called to assist the Earth to heal her wounds and in the process heal our own - indeed to embrace the whole of creation in all its diversity, beauty and wonder. Recognizing that sustainable development, democracy and peace are indivisible is an idea whose time has come

Wangari Maathai

We tend to put the environment last because we think the first thing we have to do is eliminate poverty. But you can't reduce poverty in a vacuum. You are doing it in an environment.

Wangari Maathai

I want to do the right things - I want to plant trees, I want to make sure that the indigenous forests are protected because I know, whatever happens, these are the forests that contain biodiversity, these are the forests that help us retain water when it rains and keep our rivers flowing, these are the forests that many future generations will need.

Wangari Maathai

I’m very conscious of the fact that you can’t do it alone. It’s teamwork. When you do it alone you run the risk that when you are no longer there nobody else will do it.

Wangari Maathai

Every person who has ever achieved anything has been knocked down many times. But all of them picked themselves up and kept going, and that is what I have always tried to do.

Wangari Maathai

We cannot tire or give up. We owe it to the present and future generations of all species to rise up and walk!

Wangari Maathai

Finally I was able to see that if I had a contribution I wanted to make, I must do it, despite what others said. That I was OK the way I was. That it was all right to be strong.

Wangari Maathai

I stand before you and the world humbled by this recognition and uplifted by the honour of being the 2004 Nobel Peace Laureate. As the first African woman to receive this prize, I accept it on behalf of the people of Kenya and Africa, and indeed the world. I am especially mindful of women and the girl child. I hope it will encourage them to raise their voices and take more space for leadership.

Wangari Maathai

We can work together for a better world with men and women of goodwill, those who radiate the intrinsic goodness of humankind. To do so effectively, the world needs a global ethic with values which give meaning to life experiences and, more than religious institutions and dogmas, sustain the non-material dimension of humanity. Mankind's universal values of love, compassion, solidarity, caring and tolerance should form the basis for this global ethic which should permeate culture, politics, trade, religion and philosophy. It should also permeate the extended family of the United Nations.

Wangari Maathai

Those of us who witness the degraded state of the environment and the suffering that comes with it cannot afford to be complacent. We continue to be restless. If we really carry the burden, we are driven to action. We cannot tire or give up. We owe it to the present and future generations of all species to rise up and walk!

Wangari Maathai

The little grassroots people can change this world.

Wangari Maathai

It is evident that many wars are fought over resources which are now becoming increasingly scarce. If we conserved our resources better, fighting over them would not then occur…so, protecting the global environment is directly related to securing peace…those of us who understand the complex concept of the environment have the burden to act. We must not tire, we must not give up, we must persist.

Wangari Maathai

We have a responsibility to protect the rights of generations, of all species, that cannot speak for themselves today. The global challenge of climate change requires that we ask no less of our leaders, or ourselves.

Wangari Maathai

An individual citizen cannot protect himself from the powers of large corporations or external governments. It is the responsibility of the government to protect its citizens.

Wangari Maathai

It gradually became clear that the Green Belt Movement's work with communities to repair the degraded environment could not be done effectively without participants embracing a set of core spiritual values.

Wangari Maathai

You cannot enslave a mind that knows itself. That values itself. That understands itself.

Wangari Maathai

You can make a lot of speeches, but the real thing is when you dig a hole, plant a tree, give it water, and make it survive. That's what makes the difference

Wangari Maathai

You cannot protect the environment unless you empower people, you inform them, and you help them understand that these resources are their own, that they must protect them.

Wangari Maathai

It's the little things citizens do. That's what will make the difference. My little thing is planting trees.

Wangari Maathai

The generation that destroys the environment is not the generation that pays the price. That is the problem.

Wangari Maathai

The way in which we can promote peace, is by promoting sustainable management of our resources, equitable distribution of these resources, and that the only way you can actually do that, is that then you have to have a political, economic system that facilitates that. And then you get into the issues of human rights, justice, economic justice, social justice, and good governance or democratic governance. That's how it ties up.

Wangari Maathai

Because I was a woman, I was vulnerable. It was easy to vilify me and project me as a woman who was not following the tradition of a 'good African woman.'

Wangari Maathai

We all share one planet and are one hummanity, there is no escaping this reality.

Wangari Maathai

When we plant trees, we plant the seeds of peace and seeds of hope.

Wangari Maathai

Sometimes we become bound by other people's thoughts because we are not sure about ourselves.

Wangari Maathai

In Kenya women are the first victims of environmental degradation, because they are the ones who walk for hours looking for water, who fetch firewood, who provide food for their families.

Wangari Maathai

It is important to nurture any new ideas and initiatives which can make a difference for Africa.

Wangari Maathai

I don't really know why I care so much. I just have something inside me that tells me that there is a problem, and I have got to do something about it. I think that is what I would call the God in me.

Wangari Maathai

We need to promote development that does not destroy our environment.

Wangari Maathai

Unfortunately, the issues of climate change, unlike many other issues, are very subtle because the changes we observe are very, very subtle.

Wangari Maathai

Resources on the planet are limited, and limited resources can come to an end. But there are also a lot of resources that are renewable. A lot of land, for example, can be reclaimed from the encroaching deserts.

Wangari Maathai

I'm sure that many people who are involved in an environmental effort ... they will be pretty much encouraged by this recognition.

Wangari Maathai

It is wonderful when you don't have the fear, and a lot of the time I don't ... I focus on what needs to be done instead.

Wangari Maathai

It was easy for me to be ridiculed and for both men and women to perceive that maybe I'm a bit crazy because I'm educated in the West and I have lost some of my basic decency as an African woman.

Wangari Maathai

Disempowerment - whether defined in terms of a lack of self-confidence , apathy, fear, or an inability to take charge of one's own life - is perhaps the most unrecognised problem in Africa today.

Wangari Maathai

The developed world should be willing to help [Africa] and support her and make this energy affordable.

Wangari Maathai

Nobody in the world is completely dependent on another person, but we are all interdependent.

Wangari Maathai

What I am trying to say is that they need to learn to rely on themselves and to learn from other people, and when you learn something from other people, then you keep moving onward for yourself.

Wangari Maathai

The living conditions of the poor must be improved if we really want to save our environment

Wangari Maathai

Once people see that you improve you life if you are educated, then education becomes a valuable tool and people want it.

Wangari Maathai

Those of us who have been privileged to receive education, skills, and experiences and even power must be role models for the next generation of leadership.

Wangari Maathai

The issue of carbon is one area where we really need to work together and if people don't have the technology they need, that technology needs to be made available and affordable.

Wangari Maathai

Culture is coded wisdom

Wangari Maathai

I don't believe [Africa] is ready to shift - and she needs to shift. So she needs to get the technology and she can only get that technology from the developed world.

Wangari Maathai

We can love ourselves by loving the earth.

Wangari Maathai

If you make mistakes that is alright because we all make mistakes and we learn from those mistakes. You gain confidence from learning, failing and rising again.

Wangari Maathai

First of all, farmers should work with universities and research institutions in the country, and hopefully with the government.

Wangari Maathai

When you know who you are you are free.

Wangari Maathai

No matter who or where we are, or what our capabilities, we are called to do the best we can.

Wangari Maathai

And so I'm saying that, yes, colonialism was terrible, and I describe it as a legacy of wars, but we ought to be moving away from that by now.

Wangari Maathai

It's a matter of life and death for this country. The Kenyan forests are facing extinction and it is a man-made problem.

Wangari Maathai

Some say that AIDS came from the monkeys, and I doubt that because we have been living with monkeys from time immemorial, others say it was a curse from God, but I say it cannot be that.

Wangari Maathai

You can educate people on how to preempt their own conflict.

Wangari Maathai

All of us have a God in us, and that God is the spirit that unites all life, everything that is on this planet.

Wangari Maathai

I know there is pain when sawmills close and people lose jobs, but we have to make a choice. We need water and we need these forests.

Wangari Maathai

That's the way I do things when I want to celebrate, I always plant a tree. And so I got an indigenous tree, called Nandi flame, it has this beautiful red flowers. When it is in flower it is like it is in flame.

Wangari Maathai

Women are responsible for their children, they cannot sit back, waste time and see them starve.

Wangari Maathai

It would be good for us Africans to accept ourselves as we are and recapture some of the positive aspects of our culture.

Wangari Maathai

There's a general culture in this country to cut all the trees. It makes me so angry because everyone is cutting and no one is planting.

Wangari Maathai

We are very fond of blaming the poor for destroying the environment. But often it is the powerful, including governments, that are responsible.

Wangari Maathai

African women in general need to know that it's OK for them to be the way they are - to see the way they are as a strength, and to be liberated from fear and from silence.

Wangari Maathai

I think what the Nobel committee is doing is going beyond war and looking at what humanity can do to prevent war. Sustainable management of our natural resources will promote peace.

Wangari Maathai

I am working to make sure we don't only protect the environment, we also improve governance.

Wangari Maathai

In a few decades, the relationship between the environment, resources and conflict may seem almost as obvious as the connection we see today between human rights, democracy and peace.

Wangari Maathai

We owe it to ourselves and to the next generation to conserve the environment so that we can bequeath our children a sustainable world that benefits all.

Wangari Maathai

Until you dig a hole, you plant a tree, you water it and make it survive, you haven't done a thing. You are just talking.

Wangari Maathai

But when you have bad governance, of course, these resources are destroyed: The forests are deforested, there is illegal logging, there is soil erosion. I got pulled deeper and deeper and saw how these issues become linked to governance, to corruption, to dictatorship.

Wangari Maathai

For me, one of the major reasons to move beyond just the planting of trees was that I have tendency to look at the causes of a problem. We often preoccupy ourselves with the symptoms, whereas if we went to the root cause of the problems, we would be able to overcome the problems once and for all.

Wangari Maathai

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

It was easy to persecute me without people feeling ashamed. It was easy to vilify me and project me as a woman who was not following the tradition of a 'good African woman' and as a highly educated elitist who was trying to show innocent African women ways of doing things that were not acceptable to African men.

Wangari Maathai

When I first started, it was really an innocent response to the needs of women in rural areas. When we started planting trees to meet their needs, there was nothing beyond that. I did not see all the issues that I have to come to deal with.

Wangari Maathai

When you think of all the conflicts we have - whether those conflicts are local, whether they are regional or global - these conflicts are often over the management, the distribution of resources. If these resources are very valuable, if these resources are scarce, if these resources are degraded, there is going to be competition.

Wangari Maathai

You cannot blame the mismanagement of the economy or the fact that we have not invested adequately in education in order to give our people the knowledge, the skills and the technology that they need in order to be able to use the resources that Africa has to gain wealth.

Wangari Maathai

In the course of history, there comes a time when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness, to reach a higher moral ground. A time when we have to shed our fear and give hope to each other. That time is now.

Wangari Maathai

Every one of us can make a contribution. And quite often we are looking for the big things and forget that, wherever we are, we can make a contribution. Sometimes I tell myself, I may only be planting a tree here, but just imagine what's happening if there are billions of people out there doing something. Just imagine the power of what we can do.

Wangari Maathai

It is very important for young people not to be afraid of engaging in areas that are not common to the youth. Get involved in local activities, get involved in local initiatives, be involved in leadership positions because you can’t learn unless you are involved. And if you make mistakes that is alright too because we all make mistakes and we learn from those mistakes. You gain confidence from learning, failing and rising again.

Wangari Maathai

There is no reason why a company like Monsanto, for example, that is pushing GMOs, cannot go to Kenya, partner with the university, partner with the research institutions, and try to promote - in a responsible way - advanced techniques to help farmers. But this should be done in such a way that the farmers' livelihoods are not undermined because the government is irresponsible or careless, or because it is compromised.

Wangari Maathai

Anybody can dig a hole and plant a tree. But make sure it survives. You have to nurture it, you have to water it, you have to keep at it until it becomes rooted so it can take care or itself. There are so many enemies of trees.

Wangari Maathai

You have to know yourself, and that once you know yourself, then you cannot be bound by - because sometimes we are bound by other people's thoughts, because we are not sure about ourselves. But once you know yourself... I guess it is really an expression of the biblical statements that the truth will make you free! When you know, then you are free, your mind is free.

Wangari Maathai

Why do we have to have people come from afar to come and grow food for us, or to grow food to sell to us? It is partly because we are almost becoming used to people doing things for us. Like somebody else is going to solve that problem for us. And that to me is very disempowering system.

Wangari Maathai

Tradition sometimes excludes the girl child from inheriting; or single women may not want to be perceived as pursuing too much property. The law has come a long way in favor of the woman, but it is the tradition, the attitudes, that we often have to fight.

Wangari Maathai

When I went back home, I was constantly being reminded, I'm an African woman, and so there are certain things I shouldn't do, certain ambitions that I should not entertain. That was a problem for me because I had never thought of myself as an African woman, never thought of myself as a woman to begin with. For me the limit was my capacity, my capability.

Wangari Maathai

Education is a very empowering experience, so many people who went to school also managed to improve their quality of life much faster because they could get a job, they could get money. Once people see that you improve your life if you are educated, then education becomes a valuable tool and people want it.

Wangari Maathai

We’re constantly being bombarded by problems that we face and sometimes we can get completely overwhelmed. [But] we should always feel like a hummingbird. I may feel insignificant, but I don’t want to be like the other animals watching the planet go down the drain. I’ll be a hummingbird, I’ll do the best I can.

Wangari Maathai

For us who are now in power, we need to be challenged to serve the people and ignore our own egos and personal interests so that we can really demonstrate to other African states that it is possible to share power without going to war.

Wangari Maathai

Sometimes when I talk to little children I remind them of the fact that when I was growing up myself, I used to play with frog eggs and tadpoles and I used to walk in the field, I used to literally copy whatever my mother was doing on the land. And that may be the reason why I eventually developed the passion for green and for the Earth. So it is extremely important for adults and especially those who are in charge of cities to make sure that we do not lose touch with the land and with the environment. And especially our children.

Wangari Maathai

Using trees as a symbol of peace is in keeping with a widespread African tradition. For example, the elders of the Kikuyu carried a staff from the thigi tree that, when placed between two disputing sides, caused them to stop fighting and seek reconciliation. Many communities in Africa have these traditions.

Wangari Maathai

We refuse to share resources; we govern irresponsibly. If we are confident, if we have some of our cultural values, then we would be more committed to assisting our people out of poverty and creating an environment that can make it possible for our friends to assist us.

Wangari Maathai

The government of Qatar, as I mentioned, has proposed to come and lease Kenya's Tana River delta in order to farm there. What I am not sure of is, has an environmental impact assessment been made to ensure that exploiting this delta for agricultural activities is the best way we can use the delta?We must be concerned about the long-term impact of agricultural activities in the delta.

Wangari Maathai

Today with technological advancement, with the Internet, with planes, with the rate at which we travel - even if you wanted, you cannot hide from the rest of the world. And whether you like it or not, you are part of this global marketplace, and so you might as well understand it, you might as well embrace it, because even if you hide, it will find you.

Wangari Maathai

In Kenya, one of our biggest exports is coffee. Where do you grow coffee? You grow coffee in the land. To be able to grow coffee you need rain, you need special kinds of soils that are found on hillsides, and that means you have to protect that land from soil erosion so you don't lose the soil. You also want to make sure that when the rains come you're going to be able to hold that water and have it go into the ground so that the streams and the rivers keep flowing and the ground is relatively humid for these plants.

Wangari Maathai

We think that diamonds are very important, gold is very important, all these minerals are very important. We call them precious minerals, but they are all forms of the soil. But that part of this mineral that is on top, like it is the skin of the earth, that is the most precious of the commons.

Wangari Maathai

What is really important is to educate people how to protect themselves and how to ensure that, despite their poverty, they can get tested and access drugs. So I just hope that those who can will make those drugs available.

Wangari Maathai

The essential role of the environment is still marginal in discussions about poverty. While we continue to debate these initiatives, environmental degradation, including the loss of biodiversity and topsoil, accelerates, causing development efforts to falter.

Wangari Maathai

I'm sure the government of Qatar is not coming in to grow food for the people of Kenya; it's coming to grow food to sell. If it can also sell to the people of Kenya, well, then good. I think that the moves can be helpful, but I think that the history that Africa knows, as I say in my book, has been a history of exploitation.

Wangari Maathai

When these resources are degraded or polluted, then there are fewer of them for the rest of us, and then we start competing for them and eventually as we compete, there are those of us, who have the capacity, who have the ability to be the controllers, to decide who accesses them, how much they access, and eventually there is a conflict. Those who feel marginalized, those who feel excluded, eventually react in an effort to get their own justice, and we have conflict.

Wangari Maathai

The people are learning that you cannot leave decisions only to leaders. Local groups have to create the political will for change, rather than waiting for others to do things for them. That is where positive, and sustainable, change begins.

Wangari Maathai