SPOKANE, Wash. – Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Muta Maathai’s death from cancer last month shocked and saddened the Gonzaga University community, which was anticipating her scheduled Oct. 6 Presidential Speaker Series campus lecture. Inspired by her vision, Gonzaga students are partnering with the Lands Council to honor Maathai by planting trees Saturday (Oct. 22) on Reforest Spokane Day.
More than 50 Gonzaga students will help plant trees at Liberty Park from 9-11 a.m., Oct. 22; at noon students will plant a more mature tree at Finch Arboretum to honor the legendary leader. (The Lands Council is arranging the specific location at Finch.)
Planting trees seems a most appropriate tribute to Maathai, who launched the Green Belt Movement in 1977 to prevent further deterioration of environmental and social conditions that hurt the poor, especially women, in rural Kenya. In 2004, Maathai became the first African woman to win a Nobel Prize for her campaign to save Kenya’s forests. The movement she started expanded in the 1980s and ’90s to embrace wider campaigns for social, economic and political reforms.
The Lands Council, which hosts Reforest Spokane each fall, aims to plant a total of 5,000 trees in seven Spokane locations this year. Students who would like to help plant trees should contact Parker Townley via e-mail. A bus to Liberty Park will leave Gonzaga at 8:30 a.m. on Oct. 22. Sodexo Zag Dining Sustainability is sponsoring students’ equipment and transportation. The Lands Council is donating the trees.
Gonzaga hosted a screening of “Taking Root,” a PBS documentary about Maathai, Oct. 12.