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Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2005

World needs to be aware of its wasteful excesses: Maathai

Staff writer

The common refrain "mottainai" ("what a waste") can be interpreted to sum up when people squander natural resources, and this meaning should be spread the world over in an effort to maintain sustainable resources and not fight over them, 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai said Monday in Tokyo.

News photo
Wangari Maathai

The visiting Nobel laureate said the Japanese word, which she learned during talks with Yoshinori Kando, head of the Mainichi Shimbun's editorial department, had a great impact on her.

"Unless we learn to manage our resources more sustainably, unless we learn to share them more equitably, unless we learn to manage them properly, we will indeed be preparing for even greater conflicts in the future," Maathai said during a news conference at the Japan National Press Club.

Mottainai could, she said, epitomize the values many environmentalists believe are necessary for sustainable development, especially in reusing and reducing our reliance on traditional natural resources.

Maathai, 64, is the first woman from Africa to win the Nobel Peace Prize and also serves as Kenya's deputy environment minister. Her nine-day visit to Japan began Feb. 14.

She said natural resources need to be used sustainably so future generations can have adequate resources and enjoy a good quality of life.

On Feb. 16, she made a keynote speech at an event in Kyoto to mark the initiation of the Kyoto Protocol. The international pact obliges the industrialized countries that ratified it to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

While major polluters, including the United States and Australia, have not embraced the international treaty, many individuals and private-sector companies in those countries support the protocol, Maathai said. She expressed confidence that these nations will come to observe the treaty.

"I know that it is partly these citizens who (will) eventually convince those governments that they must ratify" the Kyoto Protocol, she said.

Maathai has mobilized poor women to plant over 30 million trees in Kenya during a nearly 30-year period to conserve the environment and improve the quality of life. She was awarded the prize for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.

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