Unbowed by Wangari Maathai

Unbowed - Wangari MaathaiI picked up Unbowed for my Nobel Women challenge. It turns out that, like all of the women who have won the Nobel Prize in Peace, Maathai’s story is beyond incredible. Don’t get me wrong, all people given such honors are likely to have been through hardship, but it gets me each time in a new way.

I love Maathai’s idea to build the Greenbelt Movement. It’s revolutionary and kinda simple at the same time. It was also surprising to see the way she tied environmental issues to women’s rights. It makes sense once she explains it and to see how it worked out that way there, but I never would have thought of it. The Greenbelt Movement comes from the realization that certain local vegetation was doing a lot more for Kenya than anyone thought and it is an effort to bring it all back.

There’s no doubt that Maathai’s story is amazing, as is her memoir. I loved her feminist revelations and the changing of her name and how she handled everything that life threw at her. She was an amazing woman. She was a big part of changing the culture to remember the importance of forestry and vegetation. Woods are not wasted space where we could have farms or buildings. They do more than we gave them credit for and it was people like Maathai that brought that knowledge around. Her methods weren’t always safe nor were they always radical, but they seemed to be predominantly effective and she describes why and how each idea came about. I also loved that the book includes being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. It’s a great moment to memorialize.

I’d wanted to right a more in depth review but I keep getting stuck on her ideas and what they changed about the way that we see things and how the Greenbelt Movement was a part of the big “save the trees” movement from when I was a kid in the US and it does two things for me. The first is that it totally ruins my review over and over again. The second is that it makes clear the reason why more people should read her story and about her movement. I know a lot of people that write off environmentalism like some tree-hugging garbage, but there had been consequences for cutting down so much and for the way we kept destroying ecosystems we relied on. We have to remember the consequences before make the same mistakes over again.

I had gotten the audiobook from the Scribd. It was read by Chinasa Ogbuagu, who did an amazing job. It was published in 2009, just two years before Maathai’s death during her treatment of ovarian cancer. Click on the cover image to be redirected to BookLikes for worldwide purchase options or add to Goodreads here

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