Papal Encyclical - Laudato Si', the Earth Charter and the Green Belt Movement
In his recent six-day visit to Africa, Pope Francis visited Kenya on 25-27 November and part of his message was on climate justice and championing environmental conservation. The Pope, who has often spoken out about the dangers of climate change, singled out those who reject the science behind global warming.
Speaking at State House Nairobi as he welcomed Pope Francis, His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta recalled the efforts of Professor Wangari Maathai to preserve the environment stating “Wangari Maathai, our Nobel laureate, who reminded us that millions of little actions - millions of humble people working together - could win great battles. Like you, she believed that loving our natural riches was an extension of loving our brothers and sisters first. Like you, she was a warrior for nature, without falling into cynicism or despair.”
We are inspired by Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter, urging for swift action on climate change in which he cites and quotes the Earth Charter. This Encyclical underscores the need for climate action not just to protect our environment, but to protect humankind and the most vulnerable communities among us.
The Green Belt Movement (GBM) and our Founder, the late Nobel Peace Laureate Professor Wangari Maathai, has continuously supported the Earth Charter since its drafting process. Professor Maathai was a Member of the Earth Charter Commission and she was deeply involved with the drafting of the Earth Charter since 1997.
GBM has translated the Earth Charter not only into local languages (e.g. Kiswahili), but also into practice. Our reforestation and community education processes in Kenya, especially in the water towers, are a vivid example of the Earth Charter principles into action. Our Smart Water for Green Schools is another excellent project through which we have domesticated the Earth Charter. The project has gone beyond providing health sanitation and safe water, to promoting unity among the communities living in Kuresoi region, Nakuru County.
Through our Civic and Environmental Education (CEE) program, we ensure that the communities understand the linkage between their actions and their life situation (poverty, water scarcity, soil loss, and insecurity). GBM undertakes training to empower the communities and create a sense of self-knowledge and realization for them to embrace a peaceful co-existence not only amongst themselves but also with the environment. By so doing, the communities are able to make linkages between their actions and the challenges they face.
In early 2007, Professor Maathai supported the Billion Tree Planting Campaign initiated by Earth Charter UK, in Oxford. She planted the first tree for this campaign and reinforced her commitment to the principles contained in the Earth Charter. GBM has disseminated Earth Charter information to all, including communities and organizations.
Pope Francis connected the climate crisis with its root causes: destruction of ecosystems, huge consumption and massive inequality; this connection is in line with Wangari Maathai’s three legged stool principle of sustainable development. This principle, in which all Green Belt Movement’s projects are pegged, shows the linkage between good governance, environmental conservation and a culture of peace.