When Wangari Maathai won the Nobel Peace Prize for her work founding the Greenbelt Movement, the word “pioneering” got thrown around a lot, and often applied to the Nobel laureate’s gender. Maathai was a pioneer, but not because she was woman: if anything, social entrepreneurship involves recognizing the value of activities often denigrated as “women’s work.” This year, the United Nations Environment Programme’s SEED Award continued this fallacy with its creation of a “gender equality” prize: just a quick look at the 34 other social enterprises it recognized with awards this year shows that when it comes to creating businesses around activities that value people and planet while creating a profit, women seem to “get it” much more often than their male counterparts.
It’s been a tough couple of months for heroes of the environmental and sustainability movements. Sustainable business pioneer Ray Anderson passed away from cancer in August, and now Wangari Maathai, Kenyan Nobel peace prize laureate and founder of the Green Belt Movement has also lost her own battle with the disease. Described as “a force of nature” by the executive director of the United Nations’ environmental program, Maathai recognized connections between environmental degradation, poverty and women’s rights in her home country, and she aimed to address all of these issues through one of the simplest of acts: planting trees.
You may consider cooking a necessity, or maybe even a hobby… but probably not a health risk. For over two billion people in the developing world that still cook over open fires, though, cooking is hazardous: not only is it responsible for millions of deaths from lower respiratory disease, but it’s also a contributor to deforestation (and subsequent degradation of land quality). Additionally, in wood-poor regions, it’s a practice that requires a lot of time… women may spend most of one day collecting cooking wood that will last for only two days.
When you think of international leadership towards a green economy, countries in Europe and Asia probably first come to mind: Germany’s leading the pack in terms of implementing clean technology, and China’s right there in terms of manufacturing it (even though it has a ways to go with its own environmental challenges). You might have a tough time thinking of an African nation contributing to the concept of economic growth through environmentally benign practices… and yet, according to a new report from the United Nations Environment Programme, nations such as South Africa and Kenya are creating green economic models that could serve as templates for other countries, both developing and developed.
Extreme poverty, opens sewers, and lots and lots of trash: all are a part of normal conditions in Kenya’s Kibera. One of the largest slums in Africa, Kibera’s lack of sanitation services (or almost any government services) makes it a hotbed for disease. But an organization based within the community, Ushiriki Wa Safi, has implemented a concept that can help with at least one aspect of the unhealthy environment: using the massive piles of trash as fuel for community cookers for residents.
Those of us in the developed world may have trouble wrapping our heads around the threats posed by invasive plant species. Sure, those massive patches of kudzu, for instance, aren’t particularly attractive, but we’re generally removed from direct effects on biodiversity.
Not so in places like Kenya. Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest body of fresh water, serves nearby population’s water needs, and provides fish for food. These people are feeling the direct effects of an invasive species: water hyacinths, native to South America, have infested the lake, and created a whole host of problems.
The man of my dreams—Eminem. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/GETTY IMAGES)
I had this crazy dream like a week ago — two of ‘em actually. The first one was more of a realization. I woke up in the middle of the night and was like, “Damn. I’m gonna be busy next year… So I better get some traveling in!”
The other one, also random — involved Eminem, of all people. I mean, huh? I don’t even listen to or think about him. Must have heard his song somewhere — like the time I was in K-mart and heard a lovely muzak version of Richard Marx’s “Ocean’s Apart.” Had a dream that night that I was at my mom’s dinner table introducing Richard Marx as my fiancé. My mother kept looking at his mullet with a hairy eyeball and my sister leans over and says, “Richard? What’s your last name again?” and as soon as he says “Marx,” I woke up to her mocking laughter in my ears. I didn’t go to K-Mart for a long time after that.