President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya has appointed Prof. Wangari Maathai, one of Africa’s most prominent environmental campaigners, as his country’s Assistant Minister of the Environment, Natural Resources and Wildlife. Prof. Maathai, who is a member of the UNEP Sasakawa Environment Prize Selection Committee, will be working with the new Minister Dr. Newton Kulundu.

A professor of zoology, Wangari Maathai founded Kenya’s Greenbelt Movement 26 years ago to fight deforestation and desertification in the country. The movement has planted over 15 million trees, produced income for at least 80,000 Kenyans, and spread to more than 30 countries in Africa and around the world.

She campaigned vigorously against the clearing of forests, amongst other environmental issues, and was both jailed and beaten under the previous government. She was active in the political opposition and won a parliamentary seat in the national election at the end of last year by an overwhelming margin, winning 27,992 votes against 554 for her closest rival.

Klaus Toepfer, UNEP’s Executive Director, wrote to Prof. Maathai to express his pleasure. He said: ‘We have always admired your courageous stand on environmental issues ... Your voice has always been heard in defence of the less fortunate.’

Prof. Maathai said: ‘I am sure that President Kibaki will be very good for the environment. He is very committed to the environment.’

At much the same time Senator Marina Silva, one of Brazil’s foremost environmentalists, took office as her country’s Minister of the Environment. A former rubber tapper, who worked alongside the late Chico Mendes, she became the youngest senator in Brazil’s Republican history in 1994. When she took office on New Year’s day she said that the objective of the new Government of President Luiz Inácio ‘Lula’ da Silva was ’to develop the country with social and environmental justice’.

Both new Ministers are previous winners of the Goldman Environmental Prize for grassroots activists. The seven new laureates announced in April include Julia Bonds, a former Pizza Hut waitress who is leading the campaign to stop opencast coal mining in the Appalachian Mountains in the United States, and aboriginal elders Eileen Kampakuta Brown and Eileen Wani Wingfield who are at the forefront of a campaign to block construction of a nuclear waste disposal facility in South Australia.

The Rolling Stones – in partnership with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), one of the United States’ leading environmental non-governmental organizations – held their first free concert for three decades in Los Angeles in February to raise awareness of global warming.

Some 12,000 fans won tickets through an Internet draw, while others were given passes by radio stations. Actors Leonardo DiCaprio, Pierce Brosnan, Cameron Diaz and Lisa Kudrow, and director Rob Reiner, were among the celebrities in the audience. Former President Bill Clinton introduced the rock and roll band.

Lead singer Mick Jagger said that the decision to do the concert was an easy one. ‘We decided that we thought it was a good cause and we would do it,’ he said. NRDC President John H. Adams said: ’the Rolling Stones deserve a standing ovation for putting the environment on centre stage’.

Mohammed Valli Moosa, South Africa’s Minister for Environmental Affairs and Tourism, was appointed Chairman of the 11th session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development, following up the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in September 2002.

Emilio Gabbrielli, the Managing Director of Thames Water Do Brazil, has been appointed as Executive Secretary of the Global Water Partnership.

This issue:
Contents | Editorial K. Toepfer | World Environment Day | Water is life | The water century | Taking it at the flood | Renewing the commitment | Waterless cities | Keeping pollution at bay | People | At a glance | Changing agenda | Nor any drop to drink | Bridging troubled waters | Books & products | Getting there | Sinking fast | Waste not | Water – the poor’s priority | Atomic power

Complementary articles in other issues:
African Renaissance (WSSD) 2002
Achieving the vision (Chemicals and the environment) 2002
Sustainable solutions (Biological diversity) 2000
Issue on Culture, values and the environment, 1996
Issue on Water, 1996
Issue on Freshwater, 1998

AAAS Atlas of Population and Environment:
Freshwater wetlands
Mangroves and estuaries