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The Center Quarterly
  Fall 2011

working towards realizing the dream of a sustainable and peaceful future through scholarship, education, and action...


A Great Tree has Fallen in the Kenyan Forest: The Passing of Wangari Maathai

It is with deep sadness, that we mark the loss of a great friend of Mother Earth and of the Center for Environmental and Sustainability Education.  On September 25, 2011, Wangari Muta Maathai passed away in Nairobi, Kenya after a courageous battle with cancer.  Wangari is survived by her three children, Waweru, Wanjira, and Muta—and a granddaughter, Ruth Wangari.

Wangari was a brave pioneer for environmental sustainability, the rights of women and girls, and democracy in Africa.  She was the first women in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate, and the first to serve as a professor.  In 1977, she founded the Green Belt Movement which has since planted over 47 million trees in her native Kenya and beyond.  She served on the Earth Charter Drafting Committee and was an ambassador for the Earth Charter movement until her death.  Throughout her adult life she tirelessly advocated for the rights of nature and the empowerment of people.  The slogan of the Green Belt Movement is “Rise up and walk!”

We were blessed at the Center for Environmental and Sustainability Education by her June 2011 agreement to serve as our Distinguished International Advisor.  Recently, she provided advice to Center Director Peter Blaze Corcoran on our strategic planning process.  Corcoran had also been privileged to participate in the strategic planning process for the Wangari Maathai Institute for Peace and Environmental Studies located at the University of Nairobi.  Corcoran affectionately recalls his time spent with Wangari saying, “I was privileged to know Wangari since the launch of the Earth Charter in 2000.  I was always humbled that she took an interest in the Center for Environmental and Sustainability Education.”  Corcoran went on to say, “She was a great inspiration; she taught me that nothing is achieved unless one makes a great effort.  This is the point, I believe of her favorite forest fable, "The Story of the Hummingbird," as she often told it.”

Dr. Corcoran accepted an invitation to attend her state funeral held on Saturday, October 8, 2011.  As part of the funeral, a tree planting ceremony was held in Freedom Corner of Uhuru Park, in the heart of Nairobi, along with a performance of official rites in her honor and inter-faith prayers. The tree planting ceremony launched countrywide tree planting activities jointly sponsored and facilitated by the Green Belt Movement and the Government of Kenya. Five thousand seedlings were planted in her honor.  A memorial service was also held in Maathai's honor on Friday, October 14, 2011.  At the memorial service there was an outpouring of condolences, prayers, and support coming from Kenyans of all walks of life, as well as from friends and well-wishers from around the world.  Dr. Corcoran was invited to compose a prayer for the memorial service which he delivered as part of the solemn requiem mass for the repose of her soul.  Dr. Corcoran's prayer for "Global peace and the Green Belt Movement's work" can be found in its entirety on our website at the end of our story on Maathai's passing.

At the end of her last book, Replenishing the Earth: Spiritual Values for Healing Ourselves and the World (2010), Maathai offers these words:

“My life’s work has evolved into much more than planting trees.  By planting trees, my colleagues and I in the Green Belt Movement planted ideas.  Like trees, these ideas grew.  By providing education, access to water, and equity, the Green Belt Movement empowers people-most of them poor and most of them women-to take action, directly improving the lives of individuals and families.
Our experience of more than thirty years has also shown that simple acts can lead to great change and to respect for the environment, good governance, and cultures of peace.  Such change is not limited to Kenya, or Africa.  The challenges facing Africa, particularly the degradation of the environment, are facing the entire world.  Only by working together can we hope to solve some of the problems of this precious planet.  It is my fervent wish that you will seek to learn more about the work of the Green Belt Movement by visiting our website,  Please share in our message of hope.”

More information on her life and work can be found at the Green Belt Movement’s website where you can read and post testimonials to her. 

 Ocean Conservation and Sustainability:
Terry Tempest Williams Student Dialogue
The Center for Environmental and Sustainability Education is proud to announce that we will again be hosting our annual Terry Tempest Williams Student Dialogue.  The Dialogue is a signature event of the Center that is made for students, by students, and focuses on education for a sustainable future.  This includes our role as stewards of our natural, cultural, and political environments. The event is intended to spark youth action and inspire the intellectual climate among the FGCU and Southwest Florida communities, the initiative fosters an open space for dialogue and student ownership of that dialogue.

This year's Dialogue entitled, "Ocean Conservation and Sustainability,"  will focus on the negative effects that human activities have on marine ecosystems.  In 2003, the Pew Oceans Commission warned that the world's oceans are in a state of “silent collapse,” threatening our food supply, marine economies, recreation and the natural legacy we leave our children. In 2011, that message still rings loud and clear as our marine ecosystems continue to decline.  The Dialogue will look closely at several of the major issues affecting the health of our oceans and determine the best course of action for protecting this precious resource.  Some of the issues that will be addressed are overfishing, aquaculture, pollution, climate change, ocean acidification, the BP Deep Horizon Spill, and the current state of the Gulf.

As we look at the problems that surround the world’s oceans we are reminded of Principle 5 of the Earth Charter that states, “Protect and restore the integrity of Earth’s ecological systems, with special concern for biological diversity and the natural processes that sustain life.”   Earth Charter ethics can help us think critically about our understanding of human effects on the ocean and emphasizes the importance of the marine-ecological system to sustain our lives. We offer this principle of the Earth Charter as a way to frame the discussion for the evening.

In addition to reflecting on our precarious relationship with our world's oceans, we also hope to educate the audience on what can be done to "protect and restore the integrity" of our oceans.

Panelists for this year's event include Vikki Spruill (seen on the left), President and CEO of the Ocean Conservancy from Washington, D.C. and Sheila Bowman (bottom right), Senior Outreach Manager from Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program in California.  The two will be speaking on their areas of expertise and helping to teach the audience more about the oceans and our relationship with them.  Also serving on this year's panel, as co-moderators, will be Center Student Assistants Emily Porter and Jordan Yingling.

The Dialogue will take place on Thursday, October 27, 2011, in the Student Union Ballroom on the FGCU campus. The Center invites stakeholders, community members, students, and campus leaders for conversation and snacks in the Ballroom before the event for a networking session starting at 6:00 p.m. The Dialogue will begin promptly at 7:00 p.m.

For more information on the event please visit our Terry Tempest Williams Student Dialogue page which has been updated with informational materials for this year's dialogue.  You may also contact the Center by email at or by phone at 239-590-7166.

Welcome to New Staff
The Center for Environmental and Sustainability Education would like to welcome back all faculty, staff, and students from what we hope was a relaxing and enjoyable summer.  With the beginning of the new semester, the Center is back into the swing of things and has welcomed back its entire staff to begin the new school year.  This year the Center will be featuring four new student assistants.  The Center would like to welcome Kate Pozeznik, Kersey Voss, Andrew Stansell, and Sabrina Perri into the fold.

Kate Pozeznik is originally from Michigan but claims Southwest Florida as her home.  She graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University with a Bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in Education.  Kate’s passion for the natural world and pedagogy prompted her to continue her education at FGCU by pursuing a Master of Arts degree in Environmental Studies with a focus on environmental education.  In addition to her work at the Center, Kate is a campus naturalist and enjoys sharing her love for—and knowledge of—the unique natural environments of Southwest Florida with fellow FGCU students.  She enjoys snorkeling, reading environmental literature, facilitating connections between children and the ocean, traveling, cooking, collecting rocks and shells, and salvaging undesired furniture.  Her favorite marine animal is currently the sea hare.

Kersey Voss is a junior at Florida Gulf Coast University and a Florida native. Her major is Environmental Studies with a minor in Global Studies and she is planning on working in the conservation field in the future.  Kersey also serves as the secretary of the Dominican Republic Outreach Program and enjoys yoga, reading and traveling. She hopes to teach fellow students more about the environment while working at The Center for Environmental and Sustainability Education.

Andrew Stansell is going on his third year at FGCU as an Environmental Studies major. He has pursued his passion for the environment since his childhood through outdoor recreational activities near his home in Orlando.  Andrew is currently focusing his attention on the field of environmental education and hopes to one day to run his own nature and environmental education center.

Sabrina Perri is in her third year at Florida Gulf Coast University with a major in Environmental Studies and minors of Sociology and Psychology. After moving to Florida from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania she fell in love with the environment and decided to make southwest Florida home. She also works as an intern at Aquatic Systems Mosquito Education Program where she is a classroom assistant. During her free time Sabrina makes purses from recycled fabrics, writes music, plays guitar and aspires to open a local coffee shop after graduation.

We will be looking to our new student assistants to help us duplicate the past.  Last year we were able to hold a number of successful events including our two signature events, The Terry Tempest Williams Student Dialogue and Rachel Carson Distinguished Lecture.  In addition, we also enjoyed our most successful Fundraiser ever!
Save the Date, February 17-18, 2012: The Rachel Carson Distinguished Lecture and Eighth Annual Fundraising Celebration
The Center for Environmental and Sustainability Education would like to announce the dates of this year's Rachel Carson Distinguished Lecture and Eighth Annual Fundraising Celebration.  This year's Lecture will be held at Saint Michael and All Angels Church on Sanibel Island, Friday, February 17, 2012, at 7:30 pm.  Also being held that weekend on Saturday, February 18, 2012, from 5:00-8:00 pm will be our Annual Fundraising Celebration on Sanibel Island at the beachfront home of Peter and Mallory Haffenreffer.  This year's guests can again expect to enjoy great food, drink, and conversation.

Last year's Lecture, entitled "The Africa You Don't Know: A Women's Perspective," featured Akpezi Ogbuigwe of Nigeria and Heila Lotz-Sisitka of South Africa who each gave passionate speeches offering an alternative perspective for Africa.  This year the Center will again be hosting an exciting speaker for the event.  Be sure to visit our website,, for the latest Center news and stories.

This past year's Annual Fundraising Celebration featured African-themed décor, wine from South Africa, and hors d'oeuvres prepared from locally grown produce.  Each year the celebration on Sanibel serves as the major fundraising event for the Center and helps us to further our sustainability initiatives locally and globally. 

For more information on either event, please contact the Center by email at or by phone at 239-590-7166.

We welcome you to visit us as:  


Peter Blaze Corcoran, Director
College of Arts & Sciences 
Florida Gulf Coast University
10501 FGCU Boulevard South
Fort Myers, Florida  33965-6565
Telephone: (239) 590-7166
Facsimile: (239) 590-7200

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