Monday, September 26, 2011

Eco-Warrior and My Heroine: Wangari Maathi Died Last Night

Kenyan Dr. Wangari Maathai, the first woman from Africa to win the Nobel Peace Prize, and the first woman in East or Central Africa to hold a PhD, died late Sunday night after a battle with cancer. She was 71.  She is survived by three children and one grandchild.  Her death was a surprise to many.

Maathi is one of my most revered environmental and human rights heroines.  Her beautiful, beaming face and many pictures and posters flank my office walls.  I have read all of her books with deep fascination--especially her autobiography, Unbowed-- a story of tremendous courage, adversity and triumph.  As a woman in a very patriarchal society, Maathi battled for her every achievement. 

Maathi selflessly fought for the earth and the rights of women and children throughout her lifetime. Her Green Belt Movement helped to restore ravaged landscapes and has saved countless lives. The millions of trees women planted (yes, Maathi  started her movement as a means to help the land and women and children), helped to restore soil quality (for farming and otherwise) and also provided firewood (fuel) for cooking, water, and heat.  Maathi showed the world that planting trees is both empowering for women and it is good for the earth.  So far, The Greenbelt Movement has planted over 40 million trees. 

It wasn't always easy for Maathi.  Not one bit.  A brilliant and highly educated woman was not welcomed in her culture--not at first.  During her lifetime, Maathi was brutally beaten by police, jailed, and she went through a nasty divorce with a husband who admitted to being quite displeased with her strength.  Maathi wore a lot of hats--scientist, professor, mother, activist, environmentalist, writer, politician.  She was and is a role model to all women everywhere.

In my teaching on environmentalism (I'm a professor of  English, Sustainability, and Women's Studies), we read a lot of depressing information about environmental degradation, and about how human beings are driven to poverty and despair as a result of the ravaging of our earth and natural resources.  In order to help my students learn that it is possible to successfully combat environmental degradation, in one of our class assignments, I ask that my students create research and presentation projects on an environmental hero.  Of course, Maathi is one of the most important figures in this group of eco-warriors. 

It is for this reason my office walls are covered with posters and pieces of art with Maathi's words, photographs, and images.  These student projects are a testament to Maathi's strength, inspiration, and power.

She will be missed.  

We should all plant trees in her honor.

To hear and see Maathi speak, watch here:
To learn more about Maathi, her life and work, see her Greenbelt Movement site:

Published originally at TerraSpheres:

Sunday, September 25, 2011

TRAIN WRECK of an anti-environmental bill: TRAIN Act H.R. 2401

This past week, the House of Representatives passed a shocking anti-environmental bill that stands in the way of two important public health safeguards against air pollution. The TRAIN Act H.R. 2401, spear-headed by the anti-environment Rep. Eric Cantor,  blocks requirements that would limit mercury emissions from power plants and would limit pollution that travels across state lines. The act also endangers the health of all communities.  

Many refer to the Train Act as a Train Wreck.   How can our leaders put big business before the health of our children?  Study after study links air quality to good health.  The EPA's recent report, The Benefits and Costs of the Clean Air Act from 1990 to 2020, found that reducing air pollution through the Clean Air Act will save $2 trillion by 2020 and prevent over two hundred thousand deaths annually.  Fortunately, the President has said he will veto the Train Act if it gets to his desk.  Tell your senators to vote against the Train Act, and support President Obama in his promise to veto it!

Environmental and public health  groups (as listed below) issued the following statement after the shocking House vote:

“We are heartened by the President’s strong stand against the TRAIN Act and against pollution with his promise to veto this dangerous legislation.  His leadership will keep Americans from being forced  to breathe smog and other dangerous air pollutants.  We call on the U.S. Senate to stand strong and  reject the TRAIN Act and its deadly impacts on public health.  Hundreds of thousands of asthma attacks and heart attacks and tens of thousands of premature deaths can be prevented with common  sense clean air safeguards proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency."

“The House today showed they have bought the false argument that we need to choose between protecting lives and creating jobs. Now we need the Senate and the President to protect our right to  breathe.”

Environment America
Natural Resources Defense Council
Sierra Club
League of Conservation Voters
US Climate Action Network
League of Women Voters
Environmental Defense Fund

Read more about the Train Act here:

By Heidi Hutner.  Original Post from:

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Japanese Delegation Speaks about the Fukishima Disaster

This week in New York City, a delegation of families, farmers, and spokespersons from Japan has come to tell the story of the Fukishima disaster to the U.N.  They are speaking, as well, at various public locations in NYC.  They want to share their stories and tell the world, "It is time to stop nuclear power."  I've listed the dates and times for these talks in my previous post on "Green Events."  Tonight, I will hear them speak at the Ethical Culture Society (5-9), and I will share more about this afterwards.

The two countries that have not learned from the Fukishima disaster are Japan and the U.S.

In the U.S., we have 23 reactors that are identical to those that melted in Fukishima and some of our reactors are in precarious geological positions (faultlines) where they are threatened by future earthquakes.

Are we crazy?

What are we waiting for?  It is time to mobilize and shut our plants down now.  Our children's lives are at great risk.

The Japanese delegates speak here:

Sunday, September 18, 2011

GREEN EVENTS 9-19-10-1 and a visit from Fukishima Families in NYC

This is a busy time for anti-nuclear, fracking, climate change and other green activism.  I’ve created a short list of green talks, rallies, and other events taking place mostly in NYC.  You can find the “Green Events” list at the end of this blog piece.  In future lists, I'll highlight events elsewhere as well.

For this week’s list, I’ve highlighted an important series of events including talks and discussions by a delegation of Japanese families who have been impacted negatively by the radiation released from the nuclear plant meltdowns in Fukishima since March 11, 2011.  They are coming to the U.S. to share their stories. This week we have a rare opportunity to learn about this nuclear disaster from live, powerful first-hand accounts.

One of the speakers, Kaori Izumi--director of Shut Tomari-- states, “The immense suffering of people affected by the Fukushima-Daiichi disaster can only be given meaning if we now learn from this catastrophe and those that preceded it at Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and elsewhere.”

The delegation of families from Japan have come to NYC to appeal to the UN High Commission on Human Rights to recognize and address the plight of children in the Fukushima region. Many of these children were not evacuated far enough – or at all – out of harm’s way from the radiation contamination from the reactor meltdowns. The speakers also ask that the Fukushima disaster becomes a new opportunity for the world to shut down all nuclear power plants.

The members of the Japanese delegation include Sachiko Sato, an organic farmer from Fukushima and a board member of “Fukushima Network for Saving Children from Radiation” and her 13- and 17-year old children, Mina and Yuuki who will talk about the disruption and damage to their lives and livelihoods; Yukiko Anzai, a resident near the restarted Tomari reactor, who will talk about the fate of farmers after the meltdowns; Kaori Izumi, director of Shut-down Tomari, who will discuss the unhealthy and corrupting relationship between government, business, the media and pro-nuclear intellectuals and the Japanese judiciary. They also include Aileen Mioko Smith, Executive Director of Green Action and a veteran anti-nuclear campaigner in Japan who will speak about the plight of Japan’s children and the petition she submitted on their behalf to the UN.

Hearing the voices of the Japanese families is important to our understanding of the catastrophic events in Fukishima since March 11, 2011.  As we consider the future of nuclear power in the U.S. and throughout the world, we need to understand the risks, dangers and realities of such disasters on local children, families, farms, economies, and more.  Come listen to the families speak.

I will go and listen, and then I'll write. 

*                *                *              *            *             *               *             *               *
Green Events (mostly in NYC):

--September 19, 2011  8:30 p.m.  Busboys & Poets, Langston Room, 2021 V St, NW, Washington, DC. Tel: 202.387.7683.  The Japanese Delegation will speak.

--Sep 21, 2011 5:00-9:00 pm.  Ethical Culture Society, 2 West 64th Street at Central   Park West in New York City.  Film showing of:  Knocking on the Devil's Door: Our Deadly Nuclear Legacy, directed by Gary Null.  Special presentations will be given by Gary Null, Harvey Wasserman, and the Japanese Delegation.   (tickets: $25; $15 for students).
--Sep 22, 2011 noon.  Friends Meeting House, 15 Rutherford Place  NYC.
Meeting with Delegation of Japanese families from Fukushima.

--Sep 22, 2011  2 pm. 250 Broadway City Council Hearing on Hydrofracking
16th Floor.  NYC. Committee Room Revised Environmental Impact Statement Impact.

--Sept. 22  7-9:00 pm.   Cooper Union’s Great Hall 7 East 7th Street.  NYC
Food Rights and Peace:  An Evening with Frances Moore Lappe, Vandana Shiva, and Anna Lappe. (Free)

--Sep 23, 2011  7:00  pm.   Center for Remembrance Sharing,  123 4th Ave (2nd Floor) NYC
Meet and hear report from the Japanese Delegation from Fukishima.

--Sep 24, 2011  2:00 pm.  Converging on UN 47th St & 1st Ave. NYC
Moving Planet: Bike/ Walk Rally opposing Climate Change,, Anti-nuclear Rally.

--Sept 25, 9:30-5:30pm.  26th St @ Pier 46  NYC Friends of Clearwater Water Festival. Talks on nuclear power and fracking with Ken Gale (WBAI) and Chris Williams

 --Oct 1, 2011 12:00-3 pm. Pier 95, 55th St & 12th Ave. NYC
Coalition Against Nukes in NYC  (rallies taking place throughout the
U.S.  locations listed here Anti-Nuclear Power Rally in NYC with Dr. Helen Caldicott, Harvey Wasserman, Karl Grossman, Alice Slater, Kevin Kamps, John Hall.

If you would like to suggest events to be included and posted in my future “Green Events” lists of happenings, email your requests to:

This post is available at  TerraSpheres as well-- where I am editor (and a writer) of the environmental section called "Planet".

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Celtic Voices

It is relief not to want
not to want
instead to be content
with words
with wind
with waves
or a grey billed bird
with a red feather
on its head
or the sound of a
neighbor's mandolin
at three am
windows wide
voices celtic clear
these are the mysteries
that appear
so much better
than all that

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The earth is falling on my head

I love this image  by my friend Chip Thomas, the wheat pasting photographer and medical doctor on the "Rez" in Shonto, AZ.  It speaks volumes.

©chip thomas

Sunday, September 4, 2011


Sweet morning

sleeping child
(she's taller now)


all the ones who


all those

wake to
(and everywhere)

Are we

there is birdsong
late summer crickets
patter of waking feet
drawers opening

the gift of a new day
the gift of solitude