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Who inspires you?

The first person outside my family whom I considered a hero was an amazing, courageous woman who mobilised others to call and campaign for change. 

Wangari Muta Maathai was an environmental and political activist and author from Kenya. She was often described as a woman with a green fire on the inside. For me, she was a brilliant and passionate advocate for environmental conservation, someone who went to great lengths to make her voice heard and to effect change. 

I remember watching in awe as images aired in the news showed this seemingly fearless woman relentlessly raising her voice. She stood up and called for change in every way she could, using placards, barricades, hunger strikes and, most powerful of all, the pen. 

"The future of the planet concerns all of us, and all of us should do what we can to protect and embrace it."

Wangari Maathai

Ms Maathai has, for a long time, been my idea of what fighting for change looks like. 

With time, my understanding of how sustainable change happens has shifted. I used to struggle to believe that simple steps could lead to large-scale change. I used to wonder how significant a change I could possibly make, as a movement of one: just one person changing one light bulb or one person changing their electricity supplier. 

But then I realised that, while Ms Maathai was an amazing person, it was the movement she built that helped create the change. She was the one who was most visible, but she was never standing alone. 

And neither am I. This year I’m making a pledge to reduce the impact of my home and lifestyle on climate change. In the spirit of small starting steps, I have started by swapping all the light bulbs at home for more sustainable LED ones. My flatmates are also in on it, and it’s been great making these small lifestyle changes together.

One step at a time, we can all make a difference to those living in poverty who are most affected by climate change. 

We need the Wangari Maathais of this world – but she would need the likes of us to step up too.

Lilian Maingi