Focus On Empowerment can be heard every Thursday at 1pm Eastern.
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As we wrap up Women's History Month, we turn to the future, and look at the role of women in the Green Movement. One of the leading experts in the field is Boston based Crystal Johnson, founder and principal of ISES, Integrative Sustainability & Environmental Solutions. We'll ask Crystal to give definition to all things "green" and help us to understand the economy and political implications of environmental sustainability in a throw away world.
Just what happens to all of those computers, once they're no longer in use? What landfill...or developing country are they shipped off to? And what about all the plastic bags that don't make it to the recycle bin? What role to communities of color play in the Green Movement?
And most importantly, what can ONE person to to push the Green Movement forward?
We'll also talk to Crystal about her upcoming 3rd Annual Sustainable Economy Conference (SEC) set for April 30th.
Find out more about Crystal Johnson and her work at www.isesplanning.com.
Crystal Johnson Bio
Crystal Johnson launched ISES after almost two decades of educating diverse industries about how to best reduce their impact on the environment.
Her experience in the public and private sectors on both the west and east coasts provides her with a critical understanding of environmental issues. Crystal’s professional journey provides her with over 20 years experience in sustainability management, environmental planning and assessment and compliance review. She has experience in scoping, preparing and critique of Environmental Assessments, Environmental Impact Statements/Reports (for NEPA and state environmental regulations), Air Quality Reports, Water Resources Assessments, Climate Change Action Plans and renewable energy feasibility studies.
After graduating from the University of California Berkeley, Crystal passionately pursued a career as an Environmental Specialist...She accepted a position as an Energy Analyst with the City of Berkeley where she wrote innovative environmental policy and created energy retrofit programs for high-end commercial energy users. This opportunity lead to Energy Planner and Environmental Planner positions with Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade & Douglas, an engineering firm, in Hawaii. After many years, she returned home to Boston, MA and served as an Environmental Program Manager for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Aeronautics Commission (MAC) responsible for the environmental habitat of 47 airports. Her reputation with MAC lead to being offered a position at an engineering firm in Boston, AECOM/Frederic R. Harris, Inc., to provide Environmental Planning services. After a couple of years, Crystal relocated to NYC to work at the NYC Department of Environmental Protection's Office of Environmental Planning and Assessment as a Senior Environmental Program Manager responsible for environmental planning of 7 of the 14 NYC water pollution control plants, environmental assessments of large-scale private and public NYC projects and water demand projections for NYC. The beauty of the Hudson Valley area in Upstate NY lured her to consult in Hudson, NY as a Senior Environmental Planner and Green Marketing Director. She returned home to Massachusetts in 2009.
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By Carole Copeland Thomas
See Video Clip of Wangari Maathia At The Bottom Of This Blog
One of the world’s great environmental activists died last week, losing a hard fought battle against cancer. Her health ended her life, but her many victories and brutal struggles for women’s rights, environmental rights, democracy and peace will live long into the annals of history.
Green Movement, Women’s Rights, and Peace
Dr. Wangari Maathai, university professor turned Green Movement advocate was a champion for women and the people of Kenya. Life was not easy for her as she faced opposition from some of the most powerful men in Kenya. From the 1970s until her health failed her last week, her leadership in the National Council of Women of Kenya and the Green Belt Movement attracted the attention of civic engagement leaders around the world.
She succeeded by planting thousands of trees throughout the East African landscape.
Because of her stubborn determination, frequent arrests, and death threats, Dr. Wangari Maathai won the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize, the first African woman and first environmentalist to win this coveted award.
Struggles Made Her Stronger
When I first heard her name in 2004, I thought it odd that a woman who organized other women to plant trees to rejuvenate the hills and farmlands of Kenya would win this highly prized award. Then I read more about her life and admired and respected her courage and bravery. A bitter divorce as her accomplishments eclipsed her husband’s. Financial struggles as money dried up when she wouldn’t toe the line. Political and tribal conflict when this Kikuyu woman went up against the nation’s president, Danial arap Moi, who happened to be a member of the Kalenjin tribe (they are frequent winners of marathons held around the world). Attacks and arrests when she opposed a multimillion dollar construction pet project of President Moi. She ultimately won when the international funding of the Uhuru Park construction project was cancelled by foreign investors.
Wangari Maathai said this about the fight to save this important strip of land inside the city of Nairobi:
“When I see Uhuru Park and contemplate its meaning, I feel compelled to fight for it so that my grandchildren may share that dream and that joy of freedom as they one day walk there.”
Education Made Her Smarter
Timing was right for educating Wangari Maathai. After receiving her primary and secondary education in Kenya shortly before its independence, she was part of the educational enlightenment period of African history in 1959-1963 when American funding by celebrities and politicians including Harry Belefonte and John F. Kennedy provided university scholarships for gifted students to travel to America. Wangari Maathai’s scholarship landed her at Mount St. Scholastica College (now Benedictine College) in Atchinson, Kansas. She was sent to Kansas. Fellow Kenyan Barack Obama, Sr. was sent to the University of Hawaii with his scholarship.
After graduating from college, she continued her education, and received her master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh. It was there that she studied the strategic tactics of local environmentalists fighting against air pollution. Maathai continued with her doctoral education at The University Giessen (Germany), The University of Munich (Germany). She completed her Ph.D. in Veterinary Anatomy in 1971 from the University College of Nairobi. (Know known as the University of Nairobi, where I was privileged to speak in 2007.) She became the first East African woman to receive a Ph.D.
All of her educational pursuits were accomplished while she was still a young married woman and mother of three.
Mixed Bag: Her Political Career
She ran for political office several times. Probably lost more times than she won. And sentiments throughout Kenya about her political career were mixed. Perhaps she felt that serving in the government was a way to bring her ideas and vision for a greener Kenya to light.
When I took my first trip to Kenya in 2005, met the people, learned about the 40+ tribes, ate the food, saw the rich farmland, learned more about their economic and political struggles, I began to understand more about the power of Dr. Maathai’s human rights struggle. She beat the odds, took on the system, and cobbled together an army of women armed only with seedlings and a dream. Amazingly bold and audacious.
Meeting Wangari Maathai
The highlight for me was meeting Wangari Maathai in 2006 when she accepted the invitation of Ambassador Charles Stith to speak at Boston University’s African Presidential Archives and Research Center. She was insightful, friendly and very approachable. Members of the Kenya Sistahs (www.kenyasistahs.org), the humanitarian group that I co-founded took photos with Dr. Maathai. Dozens of Africans jammed the hallway to meet her, touch her and become inspired by her presence. Her charisma was uncanny. Her commitment to the environment and humanity unmistakable.
Remembering Her Legacy
It’s sad to realize that she is gone, only to be remembered by the great work she did for so many. Wangari Maathai was a focused fighter, a champion for the right causes that positively benefitted the significant and the voiceless alike. I pay tribute to her, and hold her up as an example of what can happen when ONE visionary person mixes determination and courage into a potent mixture that yields a net positive impact on our society.
God Bless Her Soul. May She Rest In Peace.
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Carole Copeland Thomas is a 27 year speaker, trainer and consultant specializing in global diversity, empowerment, multiculturalism and leadership issues.