The Power of One: Wangari Maathai

Wangari Maathai

Image by visionshare via Flickr

The power of trees can’t be easily quantified either. Trees provide basic services like shade, oxygen, food, medicine, and filtering and cleaning our drinking water. They remove some of the carbon dioxide we put in the atmosphere and store it safely for us. Trees help drive the water cycle.

The list of the benefits of trees is seemingly endless. But, as Wangari Maathai wrote on the Green Belt Movement’s website, “The planting of trees is the planting of ideas. By starting with the simple step of digging a hole and planting a tree, we plant hope for ourselves and for future generations.”

In 2007, Professor Maathai also inspired young Felix Finkbeiner, a German fourth grader who, at age 9, studied the climate crisis with his class. After making a presentation to his fellow students, Felix spontaneously said, “let’s plant one million trees in each country” and  Plant For The Planet was born.

Today, over one million trees have already been planted in Germany and around the world children in over 90 countries are participating in the campaign. This past February, Felix addressed the United Nations.

In September, Wangari Maathai passed away after a long struggle with cancer. Powerful and heartfelt eulogies exist all over the internet for this amazing woman. But more awe inspiring than the beautiful words that were written about her, is the testament that her legacy will live on in the work of a generation of countless children like Felix around the planet.

On Friday, October 28th, the Green Belt Movement launched the“I am a hummingbird” campaign, an initiative to plant one billion trees worldwide in her memory.

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Kids to Climate Delegates: Stop Talking. Start Planting

In 2007, a German fourth grader, Felix Finkbeiner prepared for a school presentation on the climate crisis. While researching on the internet, Felix was inspired by the Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai and her “Green Belt Movement” in Africa.

After his presentation, Felix spontaneously said to his classmates, “let’s plant one million trees in each country” and  Plant For The Planet was born. The children’s message to the politicians is a simple one, “stop talking and start planting.”

Today, over one million trees have already been planted in Germany and around the world children in over 90 countries are participating in the campaign.

COP16 Plant a tree for the planet event

This week in Cancún, Democracy Now‘s Amy Goodman spoke with Felix and Alessa from Plant-for-the-Planet as Ecuador’s president Correa joins them to plant trees outside the Moon Palace, the COP16 climate negotiation venue. Their interview is below.

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Florida’s Great Senator- The Oldest Cypress Tree in North America

Senator CypressEvery young student can tell you what are the biggest theme-park attractions in Orlando.  But probably very few can tell you about Big Tree Park, home Florida’s oldest and most distinguished resident, the Senator bald cypress tree. Located in Longwood, FL , the Senator majestically looms high as if he could touch the clouds, above a land blanketed with way too many strip malls and concrete.

Big Tree Park, part of the Spring Hammock Preserve is a nice reprieve from the modernized world and also a nice glimpse back at what Florida’s past must have looked like. Its amazing that the Senator still exists and wasn’t a casualty along the road of Florida’s development frenzy. (In fact, cypress wood was highly prized  for building by early Floridians, as the heartwood is famous for its resistance to insects and decay.  This characteristic is only found in very old cypress trees.)

The Senator has the the distinction of being the oldest cypress tree in North America and also the largest tree of any species east of the Mississippi River. Its estimated to be 3500 years old,  and according to Wikipedia, the fifth oldest tree in the world. It is 125 feet (38 m) tall, with a trunk diameter of 17.5 feet (5.3 m). As you can read from the dedication plaque, the Seminole Indians and other Native Americans Indians used the tree as a landmark. In 1925, a hurricane destroyed the top of  the tree, reducing its height by 47 feet.

Continue down the boardwalk and you will meet the Senator’s companion, Lady Liberty, a mere 2,000 years young.

Park admission is free and it is usually not very busy. I like to visit the Senator in different seasons. Its like returning to see an old friend, there is always something different and interesting going on.

Its almost impossible to capture the massiveness of the Senator cypress in a photo. To appreciate it, you will just have to visit in person (about a half hour drive from downtown Orlando).

Map Symbol Maps with Driving Directions [Seminole County Disclaimer]
Location: West of U.S. 17-92  at 761 General Hutchinson Parkway Longwood, FL 32750
Hours: The park hours are 8:00 a.m. to sunset seven days a week 363 days a year. (Note:Parks Close at 5pm on the day before Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Eve.)The park is closed for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Contact: 407-665-2001


Plus 10 Reasons to Plant (Native to Your Area) Trees in Your Neighborhood

1. Trees Give us Clean Fresh Air– Trees absorb carbon dioxide and turn it into oxygen. Every mature urban tree removes up to 26 pounds of carbon dioxide and releases 13 pounds of oxygen into the air each year.

2. Trees Cool Our Earth– Trees cool the earth by giving us shade and by transpiring water through their leaves. Trees are known as carbon sinks because they remove the heat-trapping greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide from the air and store it.

3.Trees Act As Wind Break in a Storm or Hurricane-Trees that are planted and maintained correctly, serve as barriers against strong winds.

4. Trees Clean Our Water– Roots absorb and remove pollutants from the water that recharges our drinking water aquifer.

5. Trees Reduce Storm Runoff and Protect Against Topsoil Erosion– Humans need fertile topsoil to grow crops. The roots of trees hold onto the soil and save it from erosion.

6. Trees Provide Habitat for Native Wildlife and Migrating Birds– Trees provide nectar, nuts sees and fruit for wildlife to eat. Trees also provide another component of habitat, shelter and a place to raise young.

7. Trees Provide Food For Humans As Well.

8. Trees Increase Property Values and Add Beauty to the Landscape– Well cared for trees add 5-7% to the sale price of a home.

9. Trees Contribute to Community Pride and Peace– Urban communities with trees are more peaceful, quiet, and cooler and act as a deterrent to crime.

10. Without Trees There Would Be No Humans– Trees play a vital role in our planet’s ecosystems. The Amazon rainforest has been named the “Lungs of the Planet” because it provides the essential service of recycling carbon dioxide into oxygen and  produces nearly 20% of the world’s oxygen.

More info on Trees:

Florida Urban Forestry Council

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