Frog Lover: Wangari Maathai

Last week, I wrote a post about Prince Charles’ Rainforest Project, which included a video featuring celebrities with a green frog. Today I came across another Rainforest Project video, this one featuring African environmental activist Wangari Maathai with a frog. I’ve alway admired Maathai and even quoted her in our Mission statement for this blog.

Wangari Maatha, born in Kenya, was the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize (in 2004). She started The Green Belt Movement in Kenya in 1977, with the idea that communities across Kenya would plant trees to help with the problem of deforestation. To date, over 40 million trees have been planted, mainly by women.

I few years ago, I wrote a children’s book manuscript about Maathai called “The Tree Lady” (unpublished). To write the story, I did a lot of research about her. I learned that she called herself “Mary Jo” when she studied in the United States. I am a fairly reluctant Mary Jo, so I’m glad she switched back to her African name when she returned home!

Professor Maathai often talks about how watching frogs and tadpoles as a child spurred her interest in nature and biology. When she returned home to Africa from the United States, she was saddened to find that the frogs were gone: the stream by her home had dried up due to deforestation.

In an interview with Marianne Schnall, appearing today in The Huffington Post, Maathai touches on many issues, but, as always, she mentions frogs:

Sometimes when I talk to little children I remind them of the fact that when I was growing up myself, I used to play with frog eggs and tadpoles and I used to walk in the field, I used to literally copy whatever my mother was doing on the land. And that may be the reason why I eventually developed the passion for green and for the Earth. So it is extremely important for adults and especially those who are in charge of cities to make sure that we do not lose touch with the land and with the environment. And especially our children.

So in honor of Wangari Maathai, spend some time this summer enjoying nature with your kids—and try and see some frogs, too!