Planting trees for fuel, shade, and food is not what anyone would imagine as the first step toward winning the Nobel Peace Prize.
But with that simple vision, Kenyan environmentalist and political activist Wangari Maathai turned around 100 years of deforestation in her country and inspired political activism on a scale that ultimately helped bring down the country’s 24-year dictatorship.
As a result, the founder of Africa’s Green Belt Movement became the first African woman to win the Nobel.
In the years since, “Kenya’s Tree Woman” has been busy planting over 3 billion trees - her goal is to reach 9 billion by the end of 2009!
She is also working hard to protect the Congo forest, the world's second largest stand of trees. If the Congo goes, she says, not only will tens of millions of people lose their livelihoods, but the climatic effects would be catastrophic and be felt as far away as Britain and the US.
George Negus spoke with Professor Maathai, as she ramps up her campaign in the lead-up to the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.
Meanwhile the sceptics and economically cautious continue to argue that the scale of the issue is exaggerated and that over-reaction will cost the planet dearly.
So what’s the answer and are we prepared to gamble on it?
On air: 14th June 2009