Wangari Maathai was the first African and Kenyan woman to win the Nobel peace prize due to her contribution in promoting sustainable management of the environment as well as her efforts in championing for the rights of the underprivileged people in the African society, especially the women and girls. She received the prize at the foundation’s headquarters in Oslo, Norway. In her acceptance speech, she emphasized on the need for people to practice sustainable activities in their interactions with nature. She also dedicated the prize to the entire African community and the women and girls who have been fighting for equal representation as their male counterparts in leadership and other positions in the society. The speech revolved around current issues in the management of forests and natural vegetation as well as the roles that the Green Belt Movement has been partaking in promoting the same. On this note, this paper critically discusses the details of her acceptance speech focusing on the logical reasoning behind the speaker’s arguments. In essence, the speech contains several fallacies that make the statements rather ambiguous and invalid at some point
Sustainability of the environment has been an issue under discussion at several global forums as leaders and citizens try to establish lasting solutions to the challenges experienced. Notably, environmental management involves the management of all environmental resources including the water bodies, the land, and the atmosphere in a manner that promotes sustainability and ability of the systems to provide support for future generations.
Indeed, the destruction of the environment and the natural systems, which make up the entire ecosystem is getting to a crisis level as climate change is being witnessed all over the world. People are clearing forests and other natural vegetation in search of space for economic and commercial development. While doing this, they fail to replace the trees, thereby subjecting the lands to considerable levels of stress. Natural habitats of animals and plants are getting destroyed. This poses a challenge to the indigenous species as they could become extinct if the large-scale destruction goes on.
Wangari Maathai is one of the leaders across the world that has made the conservation of the natural systems their sole responsibility. Through her foundation, The Green Belt Movement, she has managed to reclaim several lands, especially in Kenya, that had been previously grabbed for commercial development. In as much as she admits that it has not been easy colliding with some of the most powerful people in her quest to conserve the environment, she argues that her efforts are bearing results since the people have begun seeing the positive outcome of her activities.
The world has indeed recognized that there is an urgent need to conserve the environment and promote its sustainability so that future generations can also continue enjoying the resources. Recent discussions across the world have led to the enactment of solutions that are believed to be long-lasting. Nations are enacting policies and legislation that are aimed at promoting sustainable practices even when people carry out commercial and economic developments. They are encouraging the citizens to observe proper relationships with nature so that they would continue reaping the benefits of having the resources.
Observing the acceptance speech of Wangari Maathai after being awarded the Nobel peace prize, a fallacy that is evident is in the statement ‘Throughout Africa, women are the primary caretakers, holding significant responsibility for tilling the land and feeding their families’ (Maathai, 2004). The fallacy involves an appeal to tradition in that in Africa, traditionally, women are the ones who take care of homes and raise children on behalf of the community (More Fallacies and Persuaders Notes). Therefore, the speaker referred back to the way of life of the African people, even though the case is not the same currently.
From the argument made by Wangari Maathai above, it seems that women in rural parts of Africa suffer more than their male counterparts. Upon reading the speech, one gets the notion that the rights of women in this part of the world are disregarded by the entire society. Their roles only revolve around the homestead and taking care of children while the men occupy lucrative positions. The argument suggests that the women suffer more than men when the environment is damaged. However, this is a fallacy because the current African society promotes the rights of women and girls and empowers them to be as competitive as their male counterparts. The women are being granted access to financial empowerment as well as other economic activities that are making their lives better (Sanusi, 2012). By doing this, equality in these societies is getting achieved, though some challenges are still experienced. Apart from that, the brunt of environmental damage is equally felt by the men since they are also part of the society.
The statement above could be logical and properly formatted by the speaker. However, it lacks validity because the speaker is speaking from a general point of view. Indeed one could find that some parts of Africa still maintain the kind of lifestyle that Wangari Maathai is speaking about in her acceptance speech. Nonetheless, most of the continent is now developed, and the women and men are increasingly occupying the same positions in society. The women are increasingly getting involved in key decision-making activities and in setting policies that affect the entire societies (Wang, 2013). Therefore, their issues are getting represented properly. In as much as the men are still the majority in some professions, the women are also making significant milestones regarding the roles. Therefore, Wangari Maathai’s claim is not supported by facts but rather by assumptions and personal observations which are biased.
The acceptance speech of Wangari Maathai discusses her efforts as well as other people in trying to ensure that forests and natural vegetation have sustainability and are conserved for the sake of future generations. She speaks about the issue from the perspective of women and girls. In the speech, she says ‘I am especially mindful of women and the girl child. I hope it will encourage them to raise their voices and take more space for leadership’ (Maathai, 2004). In this statement, one observes another fallacy regarding the fate of women and girls in the African society. Again, this fallacy is an appeal to tradition since she refers to the traditions of the African societies in sidelining women and girls (Logical Fallacies). She is talking about this issue in a generalized manner. Notably, in as much as some African communities do not regard the leadership potential in women, the case is not the same across the continent. The women are now getting the necessary qualifications and are being given opportunity to occupy important positions in the society (Nkomo & Ngambi, 2013). Some communities, like Liberia, indeed have women in senior and extremely influential positions. Therefore, one can observe that the argument that Wangari Maathai gives in this statement is invalid because it fails to give a conclusive support for its conclusion.
From the speech given by Wangari Maathai, one gets the notion that there is little or no sustainable management of the environment in her native country, Kenya. She supports this argument with certain statements in her lecture. For instance, she states ‘As I was growing up, I witnessed forests being cleared and replaced by commercial plantations, which destroyed local biodiversity and the capacity of the forests to conserve water’ (Maathai, 2004). This is another fallacy in the speech because she is speaking from a personal point of view. The fallacy is an appeal to emotion since Maathai says that she witnessed the events happening and that she was still growing up.
From this perspective, the argument could make someone think that the establishment of commercial plantations is a harmful thing to the environment. Indeed it could be a wrong move to clear forests without replacing the trees. However, people are also justified to exercise commercial forestry where they plant trees as an economic activity. However, these activities are subject to necessary legislation and policies that are set to ensure that the people conduct the businesses sustainably (Corbera & Friedli, 2012). The speaker does address the issue from this angle. Therefore, the argument presented by Maathai could be valid but with false claims.
On the same point, Maathai argues that the capacity of forests to conserve water is hampered by the activities of deforestation that she witnessed as she was growing up in Kenya. The argument could be termed as inductive because it gives a probable conclusive support for its conclusion (Deductive and Inductive Arguments). For instance, when the argument is analyzed as it is, it means that the activities of deforestation are the only cause of the loss of the ability to conserve water by the forests. Nonetheless, many other factors lead to the loss of the ability, and they are not necessarily linked to deforestation or clearing the forests.
Further, the argument above suggests that efforts of the sustainable management of the environment in her home country, Kenya are below average. Primarily, this is a negative argument pattern because the statement is constructed from a moral point of view (Moral Arguments Notes). In essence, a moral statement states that some actions or objects are right or wrong. This is in contrast to the non-moral statements which do not assert any right or wrong regarding issues; they just give an observation.
Some aspects of the speech by Maathai offer some obstacles to critical thinking. These are issues that hinder one from reasonably assessing their arguments and decisions. For instance, she states that ‘In 1977, when we started the Green Belt Movement, I was partly responding to needs identified by rural women, namely lack of firewood, clean drinking water, balanced diets, shelter and income’ (Maathai, 2004). The statement is more a self-interested thinking because she argues from only one perspective. She argues from the context of rural women in Kenya, yet the issue of destruction of forests and natural resources affects all people, including people who live in cities and other urbanized settings. It is a self-interested thinking because from the context of the argument; one gets the notion that the main goal of launching the Green Belt Movement by the speaker was to help only the rural women to meet their needs.
The argument made by Maathai in her speech insinuates bias that her group, the women are the best. She says that ‘The women we worked with recounted that unlike in the past, they were unable to meet their basic needs. It was due to the degradation of their immediate environment as well as the introduction of commercial farming, which replaced the growing of household food crops’ (Maathai, 2004). She focuses on the needs of the women as opposed to the entire society. In this case, she suggests that the rights of women are more important and need to be given priority over other issues. However, it is important to note that the whole society, which includes the men and children as well as the women, feels the exact impact that these women state. Therefore, this argument by Maathai is an obstacle to critical thinking.
Wangari Maathai’s award followed her efforts in promoting sustainable management of the environment and natural resources. Her acceptance speech focused on the sustainability of the environment and championing for the rights of women and girls in societies that do not regard their input. However, her arguments in the speech presented some ambiguities concerning reasonability and logic.