Wangari Maathai, the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, explained in her Nobel lecture that: “Tree planting became a natural choice to address some of the initial basic needs identified by women. Also, tree planting is simple, attainable and it guarantees quick, successful results within a reasonable amount of time.”
Prof. Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan environmentalist and political activist (who won the coveted Nobel prize for her effort towards sustainable development, democracy and peace) receives a trophy awarded to her by the Kenya national human rights commission for her contribution towards humanity.
Book learning certainly helped Wangari to ignite the passions of others with her words, but it was seeing the problem firsthand that inspired her to get her hands dirty with a powerful renaissance — The Green Belt Movement — for the people of Kenya. And that awareness — that book learning is not enough — is why the Green Belt Movement is collaborating with the University of Nairobi and other public and private partners to establish The Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace and Environmental Studies. At the Institute, students will become stewards of the environment and of peace by learning holistic sustainable development and by linking theory with practical experience. As Wanjira explained to me last night, “The fisherman needs to understand that trees are essential for the water that he relies on for his livelihood and dinner.” Holistic, practical learning can and must be core curriculum of the 21st Century university, and the establishment of the Wangari Maathai Institute at the University of Nairobi ensures just that.
As Ndirangu Macharia, a Green Belt member says, “Most parts of our country are encroached by deserts because of our doing. It is time we protect our land from further degradation.” Esther Njoki Mwaura used to walk for hours to gather firewood. The trees at her home now provide the fuel.
Today Wanjira Maathai will address thousands of CEOs, celebrities, NGOs and policymakers at the Clinton Global Initiative. There she will share the story of the hummingbird that her mother loved to tell her. There was a huge forest fire. All of the animals were cowering on the periphery of the forest, worried and crying. A hummingbird was in the fire, flapping its wings. “My mother taught me to be that hummingbird,” Wanjira told me, “Faithful, strong and persistent, even in the face of danger, when no one else is willing to.”
The Green Belt Movement is no longer just a lone hummingbird trying to save a forest. The Green Belt Movement planted almost four million trees in 2011, with more than 51 million planted to date. 476 grassroots volunteers work directly with local communities. And in the decades to come, thousands of environmental stewards will be trained at the Institute that survives in Wangari Maathai’s name.
And that is not just a great way to honor the woman who left us too soon – two years ago, on September 25, 2011. The Green Belt Movement and the Wangari Maathai Institute For Peace and Environmental Studies could be the “simple solution” of faith, strength, wisdom and persistence needed to surmount the escalating challenges of super storms, droughts and other natural disasters of our ever-changing world.
Name: Jesse Barocas
Before Weight: 225 pounds
How I Gained It: Lack of exercise and what felt like mandatory alcohol intake that comes with being in college. I would eat whatever I wanted, but also tried to keep some sort of consciousness about what is healthy and what is not healthy. As it turns out, I didn’t even know what it meant to be conscious of my diet, which I think is a problem that most people face.
Breaking Point: I was offered a free session by trainer Steven Bell, and I was left gasping for air after 10 minutes. I was so out of shape I couldn’t even lift myself up to do a proper sit up.
How I Lost It: Working with a trainer one-on-one, three times a week. I committed 110 percent to my trainer. I was nervous, and I knew I was going to be in pain, but I also knew I could do it. It was a decision to change how I think, and a decision to change my body. I ate what he told me to eat, I did what he told me to do, and I saw the results. I lost 60 pounds in six months. I had taken a hiatus from my social life, and the next time my friends saw me, many of them didn’t recognize me. I was given a fresh start. Soon after I started training, I knew I was never going to go back to a sedentary lifestyle.
I started eating breakfast! It is absolutely true that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I started spacing out my food more and portioning better. I ate two or three larger meals and two or three snacks, for a total of five or six meals a day. I started drinking a ton more water. I hate the term diet; diet means temporary. In order to change your body, you must change your lifestyle. No matter where you are coming from, that is always attainable. Start with the small things like sodas, candies, white flour and fast food, and start making adjustments and goals of eating more vegetables and fruits, little by little.
Today, I’m working on getting more explosive, rather than losing weight or gaining muscle. I focus on specific muscle groups and use heavy weights to improve my overall power. Check out my workouts on Instagram. I love to workout with kettlebells, and I also run to make sure I burn fat. Who doesn’t want to burn body fat?!
Losing weight not only made me feel healthier and look better, it gave me a new career. I went to Boston University to become a television producer. Little did I know that my calling would end up in the fitness industry, as a motivating life coach and personal trainer.
After Weight: 170 pounds. Since losing 55 pounds of fat, I’ve put on 25 pounds of muscle.
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