From: Todd Dvorak, Associated Press
Published March 13, 2006 12:00 AM

Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai Urges Individual Action to Protect Environment

DECORAH, Iowa — Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai says people worried about the environment should rely less on government and more on themselves to protect the planet's limited resources.

Maathai, a Kenyan environmentalist who won the Nobel prize in 2004, said people who recycle and plant trees have a bigger influence on the planet's health than elected leaders.

Even nations with the best intentions fail to meet expectations, she said, citing the Kyoto international treaty as a prime example. The treaty, which the United States has refused to join because of its potentially negative impact on the U.S. economy, is designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions globally.

"There are many countries that have put their signature on the dotted line of Kyoto" but aren't meeting its goals, Maathai told about 1,500 people attending the 18th annual Nobel Peace Prize Forum on Friday at Luther College.

"The planet does not belong to those in power. We ought to embrace the Kyoto protocol in our own little way. It's the little things that we can do that are important," she said.

Maathai, 66, was honored by the Nobel committee for her work in Kenya and other African nations to improve the environment, women's rights, social justice and political activism.

Nearly three decades ago, she began mobilizing Kenyan women to plant trees as a way of conserving the environment, improving the quality of life and empowering women.

The project, credited with planting more than 30 million trees, has evolved into a broad-based, grass roots organization called The Green Belt Movement and has given rise to similar movements across Africa.

Source: Associated Press

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