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    Thoreau Muses

    Thoreau Muses

    Wangari Maathai


    Our Thoreau muse this month is the internationally renowned environmentalist, women’s rights activist and Nobel laureate, Wangari Maathai.

    After exemplary performance in her primary and high school education in Kenya, Maathai was awarded a scholarship to study in the US where she completed college, attained a bachelor of science degree and a master’s in biology. After studying and working in Germany, Maathai returned to Kenya and in 1971 she become the first Eastern African woman to receive a PhD.

    Throughout the 70s and despite having a young family, Maathai worked relentlessly for women’s rights and the environment. She played leading roles in the Kenya Red Cross Society, United Nations Environment Program (UNEP),the National Council for Women of Kenya (NCWK) and most significantly her Green Belt Movement which she set up to employ women to plant native tree nurseries throughout the country.

    After her attempt to run for Kenyan Parliament was thwarted by the Government on dubious legal grounds in 1979, she threw herself into her Green Belt Movement and with the backing of the UN expanded it throughout Africa to become the Pan-African Green Belt Movement.

    Throughout the late 80s and 90s Maathai’s movement fought the oppressive Kenyan government, seeking to unite the fractious opposition parties in order to foster free and fair elections. She survived imprisonment and death threats - at times in hiding - and was instrumental in bringing the world’s attention to the actions of the vicious regime.

    In 2002 she was finally elected to Parliament as part of the Rainbow Opposition Coalition and was appointed Minister for Environment and Natural Resources. She was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her ‘contribution to sustainable development and peace’.

    We pay homage to this amazing lady for her persistence in the face of brutal political oppression and for inspiring women, not only in Kenya, but throughout Africa and around the world.

    Thoreau Muses

    Thoreau Muses

    Jane Goodall


    Famed British primatologist and ethnologist Jane Goodall is our second Thoreau Muse.

     In 1960, at the age of 28, Jane began her 56 year career studying chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania. Defying both the dangers presented to a woman in remote Tanzania in those days and the scientific convention of numbering individual animals instead of naming them, she was able to observe social behaviour that broke new ground in how we view these close relatives.

     As the only human ever accepted into chimpanzee society, Jane was the lowest ranking female member of a troop for a period of 22 months. She was able to observe unique personalities, basic tool-making skills and complex social interactions both positive and destructive. These findings suggested far closer similarities between humans and chimpanzees than merely genes and revolutionised the way we perceive other animal species’ intelligence and emotional development.

     Since the mid 80s Jane has been a leading voice for animal rights and continues to work on promoting greater awareness and education around conservation of biodiversity.

     This pioneer, widely considered the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees, not only helped pave the way for women in scientific endeavour, but challenged the deeply held idea of human elitism and changed the way we perceive our co-inhabitants of this world. For this we are profoundly grateful.



    Beyond the Lights

    Beyond the Lights

    Want to be merry this Christmas without the environmental hangover?

    It’s easy to get caught up in the celebrations and relax the standards that we hold ourselves to throughout the year. Here are some interesting facts and tips to reduce your festive footprint.
    1. Christmas trees
    There are a number of ways to minimise the impact of the all-important Christmas tree that can be found here These include:
    • Using artificial trees you already have for as long as possible or buying second-hand ones from online retailers as fake trees have a higher environmental impact that real trees.
    • Buying a certified organic tree from a registered retailer;
    • Growing your own tree;
    • Recycling real trees through your local council or;
    • Renting a tree.
    2. Gifts and Decorations
    The gift that keeps on giving…to the environment! Some easy changes that can avoid a whole heap of waste!
    • Buying energy efficient electrical equipment gifts
    • Re-using wrapping paper where possible
    • Buying good quality toys that can be passed on to younger family members, friends or charity shops
    • Why not make your secret santa swap from a second hand store or charity shop…Get creative and enjoy some major Lol’s!
    • Buying or making your own Christmas crackers with with jokes and hats but without the useless plastic toys inside and recycle the paper and plastic afterwards
    3. Christmas Dinner
    Reducing the impact of Christmas dinner doesn’t mean going without…some very small changes that can reduce waste are:
    • Preparing the right amount of food to avoid too much waste
    • Let people help themselves rather than dishing it out as food left on plates gets binned instead of being eaten as left-overs.
    • Go green! Going meat free can reduce your carbon footprint significantly, with so many alternatives out there you can have your Tofurky and eat it too!
    • So cheesy…Avoid too much cheese as it has a very high carbon footprint.
    With family and friends coming together, what better time than Christmas to encourage others to adopt more sustainable habits and understanding about our impacts on the planet. Not only can these actions help reduce the carbon footprint of your Christmas, but they can be a catalyst for positive conversation on the need to extend the love we have for our family to the world we live in.

    Merry Christmas

    Thoreau xx

    Thoreau Muses

    Thoreau Muses

    Rachel Carson


    Our first Thoreau Muse is the inspirational author and marine biologist Rachel Carson. After a distinguished career working for the US Bureau of Fisheries, Rachel turned her attention to the harmful effects of pesticides, in particular DDT, on people and the environment. Several years of rigorous scientific investigation culminated in one of the most important books of the 20th Century, Silent Spring, in 1962.

    Battling terminal breast cancer, in one of her last public appearances Rachel testified before President Kennedy’s Scientific Advisory Committee. In May 1963 the Committee issued its report largely agreeing with Rachel’s findings which led to the nationwide banning of DDT.

    The enormous social and political impact of Silent Spring is impossible to measure but it proved to be the rallying cry for the global grassroots environmental movement that gained momentum throughout the 60s and led to the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency.

    We pay homage to this remarkably courageous, intelligent woman whose work has inspired generations to make a stand for Earth and all its inhabitants.

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