Jamaica Gleaner / FROM BOOSTING collaboration among environmental advocates to reframing the conservation message, there is still some way to go to safeguard Jamaica’s natural assets for Jamaicans.
So says Diana McCaulay, who has spent close to 30 years on the front lines of environmental advocacy and who is now only weeks away from relinquishing the reins as head of the Jamaica Environment Trust.
“It is not really true anymore to say we have an environmental movement and all that implies – that we are walking in the same direction and supporting each other in different areas. I think some of that has been lost in my 27 years and it needs to be regained,” she said.
“I know that there are groups concerned about environmental issues, though they may not call themselves that … and we don’t have a really good mechanism for stronger groups like JET to support less organised groups. That is something we have not done well over the years and I would like to see change,” the JET boss added.
Smaller groups, McCaulay maintained, need to find a way to streamline their operations.
“There are now legal requirements and you have to have a very organised and businesslike approach, otherwise people will not support you financially or in other ways. They have to have some confidence in you. You have to have some kind of profile. If people have not heard of you, why would they send money or support you?” she noted.
For this, McCaulay said there is no one model “but there are some basic things that need to be in place.”
Another disappointment over the years has been the lack of effective enforcement of environmental laws.
“JET has done a lot of work and we still see good permits not being enforced, big developments going ahead without the permits issued beforehand. I don’t think we are at all considering climate change in our development decisions. There is a whole piece of work around regulation and enforcement that has not progressed in the way that I would like to have seen,” she noted.
Finally, she said work is also needed to change the way in which the conservation message has for too long been framed.
“The environmental message has been very effectively framed as anti-development, anti-people and anti-job, and this is a messaging problem that has to be overcome,” McCaulay said.
At the same time, she said the coming years will require effort from a variety of actors to secure Jamaica’s resources.
“I would like to see JET and other environmental groups, activists who aren’t associated with any group and concerned Jamaicans get involved in the protection of our island home,” McCaulay said.
“Connection to place is a part of our identity and we cannot say ‘Jamaica, land we love’ and at the same time be polluting rivers, polluting the air, burning the forests, doing development and not taking into the account the threat of climate change – all in the name of short-term gains. If you say you love where you live, then there is something very wrong with how we are treating the place where we live,” she added.