The 5-Minute Interview: Wangari Maathai, Enironmentalist and former Kenyan environment minister

'I'm not a tree-planter, I'm a scientist'
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The Independent Online

Wangari Maathai, 66, the first woman in east and central Africa to earn a doctorate degree, received the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize for developing the Green Belt Movement. Professor Maathai, a former Kenyan environment minister, launched the Botanic Gardens Conservation International 20th anniversary celebrations last week

If I weren't talking to you right now I'd be...

During this visit to London I have been spending time lecturing and doing interviews. If I was in Nairobi I would be attending parliament, visiting my constituency and women of the Green Belt Movement.

A phrase I use far too often...

When I'm surprised, I'll say "my God." I'm more spiritual than religious so there's no offence in using it.

I wish people would take more notice of...

The threat to the environment. The problem is immense which is all the more reason why everyone should see what we can do about it. For example all of us should plant a tree. After that we must ban fossil fuel and then cut down on deforestation, especially on the mountains because they are also sites of water conservation so we not only lose the biodiversity of plants and animals, but we lose water.

The most surprising thing that happened to me...

Was getting the Nobel Peace Prize. It was the first time that the Norwegian Nobel Committee decided to recognise the role of the sustainable management of the environment and good governance in promoting peace.

A common misperception of me is...

That I'm just a tree-planter. The truth is I am a scientist. I am an environmentalist, a human rights activist and very devoted to my passion.

I am a politician and...

They are very important because they are the people who create policies that determine how we govern ourselves.

I'm good at...

Working, writing, disseminating information and empowering other people. I like to read and tell stories. I used to tell stories to my three children but they are grown up now.

I'm very bad at...

Eating at regular times. I'm always on the move.

The ideal night out:

When I was young I loved to go dancing. Now it is to go and listen to some music, or go to theatre or to see a film.

In moments of weakness...

I sleep. It is my way of rejuvenating myself.

The best age to be is...

Every age has its own beauty and wonder. .

In a nutshell, my philosophy is...

Enjoy life but do not waste life.

Sara Newman

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