October 2011


Several weeks ago, I awoke in the wee hours of the morning and learned from the BBC about the death of Dr.  Maathai, the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace prize, at the age of 71. Apparently she had been battling ovarian cancer and died following a week in a Nairobi hospital. She received the prize in 2004 – amid some controversy with some claiming that her life’s efforts were not worthy of this prestigious award.  As the first woman to be granted a PhD in East Africa (!), she is best known for founding The Green Belt Movement (www.greenbeltmovement.org) and starting a tree planting effort that began in her native Kenya and now encompasses millions of trees (literally) that have been planted in nations across the globe. She was honored for making the connections between women’s  livelihoods, development, world peace and the sustainability of communities, and for advocating for tree planting, a simple but lasting solution – re-forestation – to begin to address these critical issues.  She also served as a Minister in a previous Kenyan administration. I never had the privilege of meeting Dr. Maathai, but I grieve her loss.

So on Friday when the Nobel Committee announced that the Peace Prize this year would be shared by three women, two of whom are from Liberia, my heart sang.  The spirit of Dr. Maathi lives on.  The first democratically elected female president of an African nation, 72 year old Harvard educated Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and lesser known, Leymah Gbowee, but a powerful peace activist in her own right are the two African women carrying the baton.  Their efforts and the global recognition that is conferred by this award raises awareness of the importance of women’s rights giving visibility to the perseverance of countless women in the world’s poorest continent.

Viva the Women of Africa!

* Photo is courtesy of the NY Times website.

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Over the last few months, I’ve been convicted to take more seriously not just my spending habits but to consider where my money goes, and how my humble funds play a role in either helping people and the planet to flourish, or contribute to the exploitation of both.  It’s an issue I feel more and more strongly about that Christians should be paying far, far more attention too.  Sadly we are not leading the way.  There are however others out who have great passion for these issues and there are resources to guide how we think and act regarding the money God has given us.

I’ve discovered a website that helps to give information about companies that are the “best” in terms of human rights, the environment, animal protection, community involvement and social justice.  There are also top “worst” lists as well.  Check out www.betterworldshopper.org  .

And if you’re really ready to embrace this and make it a lifestyle change, order ‘The Better World Shopping Guide’.  There is a pocket-sized version that easily fits into a small purse and you can take it shopping and before you pull that detergent off the shelf – you can check to see what grade the company that produces it has got and decide if that is where you want your $$ to go.

Just as a teaser, the best company” on the planet” with an A+ grade is ‘Seventh Generation’ (www.seventhgeneration.com ) who supply recycled toilet paper and environmentally friendly cleaning products.  According to this source, they are winners of the sustainability award and the socially responsible business award.  Companies given an ‘A’ grade are those that were often specifically created” to provide socially and environmentally responsible options for consumers”.

Why wouldn’t you want your money to support those efforts?  We may live in an overtly consumeristic society, obsessed with consumption, but in ways that matter, you can determine where your hard-earned dollars go, and you can use them with intention for the flourishing of  people and God’s creation.

The 3 companies at the top of the  ‘F’ list are Exxon-Mobil, Kraft Foods, and Wal-Mart.  Other well-known firms are there too: GM, General Electric, AIG,  Citibank, Pfizer, Microsoft, Verizon, and Bank of America – yikes.  Yes, its sobering stuff.

So from banks, to cars, to airlines, to electronics, to food, to shampoo to supermarkets, find out where your money is going – and then make a committment to be better informed and spend in ways that really count. For your good and for God’s glory.