Wangari Maathai makes the relationship between needs and wars so clear that even the Nobel committee (which awarded her the peace prize in ’04) got it. Violent disparities in access to resources, lead to violence. The wars right now destroying people and the planet are wars over the stuff of life: land and water and fuel.

If we can see the link between conflict and resource strain in Kenya and Congo and Brazil, why are we surprised that here at home, anger and tension-in-the-air is rising?

Extreme poverty, bankruptcies, defaults, debt–they’re all on the rise for the majority of Americans, even as a tiny minority grow their share of all wealth, and grab more than their fair share of the scarce resource that is the government’s care and attention.

The system is stressed and so are the people. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey found the average family premium for health insurance rose to $13,375 last year, a jump of 5% even as inflation fell. That makes for an obscene rise of 131% over the past ten years. No wonder, that at the same time the number of Americans without any health coverage rose to 46.3 million.

Healthcare is a scarce resource, and people’s fears for themselves and their kids are very real. 

The Census Bureau shows that the child poverty rate rose to 19.0% last year. That translates to 14.1 million children living in poverty in the richest nation in the world. By some estimates, that could be 26.6% by the end of 2009.

Income inequality is at an all time high. Resources are strapped. Are we really surprised that fear — and gun-sales — are rising?

Maathai’s Green Belt movement believes in better environmental stewardship and better sharing will reduce war. She talks about it on GRITtv this week: "There is no way to have peace without equity."

Her Green Belt movement has planted 40 billion trees since its founding and aims to plant another nine billion trees this year.

What would be the US equivalent of all that tree-planting?

The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv which broadcasts weekdays on satellite TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415 Free Speech TV) on cable, and online at and Follow GRITtv or GritLaura on