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Nobel Laureate Endorses BGCI Vision for Plant Diversity as Vital to Planet’s Wellbeing

2 February 2007

2004 Nobel Peace laureate Wangari Maathai has backed Botanic Gardens Conservation International’s (BGCI) campaign for urgent action to protect global plant diversity against the ravages of climate change.

In a lecture at the Royal Geographical Society on February 8th, celebrating BGCI’s 20th anniversary, Professor Maathai will highlight BGCI’s pivotal role in coordinating climate change policy among the world’s botanic gardens. “I want to applaud the work of BGCI as the world's largest plant conservation network,” she says “and its vision of a world in which plant diversity is valued.”

"Climate change is one of the critical issues of our times,” she continues, “especially in the developing world, and it is very important to get citizens involved.”

The first African woman – and the first environmentalist – to win the Nobel Peace Prize, Kenyan Wangari Maathai is the founder and inspiration behind the Green Belt Movement (GBM), the massively successful grassroots tree planting programme launched to combat deforestation, soil erosion and water scarcity. By empowering African women to take responsibility for their own lives and environment, the Green Belt Movement is offering an African model for ordinary people around the world.

“Anyone can plant a tree and make a difference,” adds Professor Maathai.

Welcoming Wangari Maathai’s support, BGCI Secretary General Sara Oldfield echoes her concern. “Almost every day, it seems, new scientific evidence emerges, offering a grimly pessimistic view of the future if global climate change continues unchecked. Nowhere will its consequences be more deeply felt than in the developing world, where environmental degradation is so marked and biodiversity most at risk. That is why the work of BGCI and the GBM is so important.”

Both organisations, she argues, share a common purpose. “As the world’s largest plant conservation network, BGCI has a pivotal role in implementing globally the conservation message that the GBM is delivering on the ground, every day, in Kenya.

In partnership with its unique network of botanic gardens and other plant conservation organisations, many of them in the developing world, BGCI is working on practical programmes and strategies designed to safeguard vulnerable ecosystems from the worst effects of climate change.”

BGCI’s work in mobilising botanic gardens and engaging partners in securing plant diversity “is vital to the wellbeing of ourselves and our planet,” says Wangari Maathai, “and must be supported."

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