I am overwhelmed with glee about this story. I've been using the mantra :::want to make a difference? plant a tree::: on my stationary, checks and e-mail signatures for years, so I'm glad to see that someone has won the Nobel Peace Prize for planting trees. See, you can make a difference.
Kenyan In Surprise Nobel Peace Prize Win.
Friday, October 8, 2004 Posted: 9:18 AM EDT (1318 GMT)
Maathai: Wept with delight when told the news.
OSLO, Norway (CNN) -- Kenyan Deputy Environment Minister Wangari Muta Maathai has been named winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize, beating a number of much better known world names to the prestigious award.
"It cannot get any better than this -- maybe in heaven," Maathai said after learning of the award.
She had wept with delight and planted a tree in her home town of Nyeri in the shadow of Mount Kenya, Africa's second highest peak, when she heard the news, Reuters reported.
Maathai, 64, is the first African woman to win the prize. She was cited for her work as leader of the Green Belt Movement that has planted more than 30 million trees across Africa.
Awarded the peace prize "for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace," she has also campaigned for broader women's rights. (Profile)
The award marks a new environmental theme in interpreting the 1895 will of Swedish philanthropist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite who founded the prestigious prize.
Until now it has most usually gone to people seeking to end armed conflicts.
"Peace on earth depends on our ability to secure our living environment," said Ole Danbolt Mjoes, the head of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
The prize is worth 10 million Swedish crowns ($1.36 million) and will be handed out in Oslo on December 10.
"We have emphasised the environment, democracy building and human rights and especially women's rights," Mjoes said of the prize. "We have added a new dimension to the concept of peace."
Maathai's win came as a suprise to most observers. U.N. nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei had been the clear favorite.
A late tip was Russian anti-nuclear activist Alexander Nikitin, a former navy captain who who leaked details of the nuclear fleet and dumping of radioactive waste from 1965 to 1989.
Others said to be in the running were U.S. Senator Richard Lugar and former Senator Sam Nunn for work to dismantle ageing Soviet nuclear warheads and South African AIDS treatment lobbyist, Zackie Achmat.
Internet bookmaker Centrebet, the first to organize betting on the contest, had listed ElBaradei and the IAEA as favorites at 4-1, with Nunn-Lugar at 6-1 while Achmat, Russian human rights activist Sergei Kovalyov and Israeli nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu were all on 7-1.
Centrebet spokesman Mark Worwood told CNN that they had lost money on the contest -- as she was such an outsider, you couldn't bet on Maathai by name, only as "any other" an option which was backed down from 5-1 to 6-4 on the final day.
He added that a significant amount of money had been bet on George W. Bush, forcing the firm to cut their price on the U.S. President from 1000-1 to 25-1.
Norway's NRK public television, which has often predicted the winner, said early Friday -- accurately as it turned out -- the prize might go to an environmentalist.
Along with Baradei it had named as being in the final contenders Maathai and Nikitin.
Maathai, was "going about her business" in a remote area of Kenya when the announcement came from Oslo, her daughter told CNN.
Her family in Nairobi did not wait for her to celebrate, she said. "It's really a great surprise," her daughter said.
With a record 194 nominations, the committee had a broad field to choose from.
"As a country we're greatly honored. This is a great moment in Kenyan history. To us this shows that what Wangari Maathai has been doing here has been recognized. We're very proud of her and she deserves all the credit," government spokesman Alfred Mutua said.
Last year, the Nobel committee also awarded the prize to a woman -- human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi, the first Iranian to receive the honor.
What are you doing to make the world a better place?