Wangari M. Maathai Sc.D.’94, P’94, P’96, was featured on ABC-TV’s World News Tonight on Feb. 26 in a story about a storage facility built by the Norwegian government to house 2 million seeds.
Being called the “Doomsday Vault,” the structure is carved into a hill on the island of Svalbard, in Norway, one of the northernmost inhabited areas of the world, and has been set up to store thousands of tons of seeds — representing several hundred varieties of plants used for food, clothing and medicines.
Maathai, vice chair of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, which sponsors the project, delivered the vault’s first box: rice seeds specially prepared with varieties originating from 104 countries. The box was opened during the ceremony, and then resealed before being placed in the vault.
“I can tell you that I’m excited about this possibility,” she said. “It’s really fascinating to imagine that we are standing here in the middle of a rock because we care because we are thinking about tomorrow. It’s really extraordinary.
“The significant public interest in the seed vault project indicates that collectively, we are changing the way we think about environmental conservation. We now understand that along with international movements to save endangered species and the rain forests of the world, it is just as important for us to conserve the diversity of the world’s crops for future generations,” she said.
The first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, Maathai will join the President’s Forum Series on Thursday, April 24, at the Smith Opera House in downtown Geneva. The mother of two HWS graduates, Wanjira Mathai, WS ’94; and Muta Mathai, H’96; she is the founder of the Green Belt Movement, a grassroots environmental organization which has assisted women and their families in planting more than 35 million trees across Kenya to protect the environment and promote sustainable livelihoods.
Maathai received the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize, and now serves as Kenya’s assistant minister for the environment. She earned a B.S. in biology from Mount St. Scholastica College, in Atchison, Kansas; a M.S. in biological sciences from the University of Pittsburgh, and her Ph.D. in anatomy from the University of Nairobi.
The above photo of her was the “Face of the Day” feature on The Atlantic.com.
Details on the Global Crop Diversity Trust are available at their Web site.