Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai defended being chosen as the first environmentalist to win the award, saying yesterday it would help others understand the importance...

Share story

OSLO, Norway — Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai defended being chosen as the first environmentalist to win the award, saying yesterday it would help others understand the importance of protecting the world’s resources.

“Most wars that are fought in the world are fought over what? Natural resources,” the 64-year-old Kenyan told reporters at the Nobel Institute. “If you don’t manage your natural resources equitably, you cannot have peace.”

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

Maathai, the first African woman and first Kenyan to win the peace prize, was selected for her role in founding the Green Belt Movement, which has sought to empower women, improve the environment and fight corruption in Africa for nearly 30 years. She is to formally receive the award in a ceremony in Oslo today.

A deputy environment minister in the Kenyan government, she also won acclaim for her campaign to fight deforestation by planting 30 million trees in Africa, making her Nobel prize the first to acknowledge environmentalism as a means of building peace.

When the award was announced in October, Norwegian Nobel Committee chairman Ole Danbolt Mjoes said the committee “added a new dimension to peace” by choosing Maathai, but critics contended it diluted the nature of the prize.

Maathai said protecting the environment is a vital part of building both a democratic and peaceful society.

“Without this link, we cannot make progress, we cannot have peace and we cannot have development,” Maathai said.

Richard Goldman, president of the San Francisco-based Goldman Environmental Foundation, which awarded Maathai the Goldman Environmental Prize in 1991, agreed.

He noted that Maathai is one of the few laureates not to be associated with any armed conflict. “I think that’s a step in the right direction,” he said.

Maathai dedicated the award to the hundreds of women in Kenya who have been part of the Green Belt Movement.

Maathai also said she hoped the prize, which includes a cash award of $1.5 million, would give African women more influence and stature in often male-dominated societies.

The Nobel Prizes are always presented on Dec. 10, the anniversary of the death of their creator, Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel. The peace prize is presented in Oslo, while the other Nobel prizes are awarded in the Swedish capital of Stockholm.