Wangari Maathai assisting students while planting trees in West Seattle. Courtesy of West Seattle Blog.
Seattle has been chosen as a city to host a special preview screening of the film Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai at the end of this month. The film, which is slated for release in May, features Wangari Maathai, founder of The Greenbelt Movement and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
According to a release:
"TAKING ROOT weaves a compelling and dramatic narrative of one woman's personal journey in the context of the turbulent political and environmental history of her country. Raised in the rural highlands of Kenya, educated in the United States during the 1960s civil rights era, and the first female to receive a PhD in East Africa, Maathai discovered the heart of her life's work by reconnecting with the rural women with whom she had grown up. They told her that their daily lives had become intolerable: they were walking longer distances for firewood, clean water had become scarce, the soil was disappearing from their fields, and their children were suffering from malnutrition. Maathai thought to herself, "Well, why not plant trees?" Trees provide shade, prevent soil erosion, supply firewood and building materials, and produce nutritious fruit to combat malnutrition. With this realization Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement, a grassroots organization encouraging rural women to plant trees."
Maathai often illustrates her unflagging dedication by recounting the fable of the hummingbird, a story I heard her tell in 2007 when Benaroya Hall hosted An Evening With Wangari Maathai. In the simple tale, a huge forest catches on fire. Frightened, all of the animals flee to the edge of it, where they watch helplessly as the ravaging flames destroy their homes. The little hummingbird, however, flies to the nearest stream, collects a tiny drop of water, flies back to the fire and drops it on the flames. Other animals laugh and discourage her. One of them asks, "what do you think you are doing? You are too small to put out this fire!" The hummingbird, not wasting a second, responds, "I'm doing the best I can do."
Since its founding, the Greenbelt Movement has planted more than 30 million trees, some of them right here in Seattle. During her visit in 2007, Maathai took part in a tree planting ceremony with local area youth at Pelly Place Ravine in West Seattle. One student commented, ""I will look up to her and try to follow in her footsteps. She shows that women can always stand up and not stand down, always follow your dreams, and don't give up."
Maathai's story is one of inspiration. It offers not only hope, but also real solutions for a brighter future - a future in which we not only understand the importance of trees, but also realize how just one person can truly make a difference if they do the best they can.
Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai will be screened on Saturday, March 28, 2009 at 12 pm in the SIFF Cinema @ Nelsholm Family Lecture Hall in McCaw Hall at Seattle Center, 321 Mercer St. Seattle, WA.
Check out other March happenings on our monthly event guide.