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Earth Today | Diana McCaulay: Never to be silenced on conservation

Jamaica Gleaner / THE VOICE of Diana McCaulay has carried over the years, sometimes the only one, at other times the loudest, but always in advocacy for the conservation of Jamaica’s natural resources, from the Cockpit Country to the Goat Islands.

As age 65 beckons, however, she is retiring as chief executive officer (CEO) of the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), an institution in which she has invested countless woman hours and sacrificed to have it emerge a respected leader in environmental advocacy.

She hands the baton to a younger crop of women headed by Suzanne Stanley, but does not foresee for herself a future of silence on a cause she has championed for close to 30 years while quietly fading into obscurity.

“I don’t feel that you will never hear my voice… I even imagine that there may be situations where I disagree with JET,” she told The Gleaner .

Also, McCaulay said she would continue to serve JET’s board, at least until next March when they will hold their annual general meeting.

“I can’t guarantee what will happen at that stage, but if the members want to have me remain there, I am prepared to do that,” she said.

Nonetheless, McCaulay insisted it was time for her to retire as CEO, giving the next generation of advocates the chance to make their mark.

“I am doing what is best for the organisation; succession planning is good for the organisation. We have a succession plan which is four years old and we have been implementing that,” she said.

To her mind, Stanley, an Oxford University graduate, is more than ready – as is her supporting cast of women who are themselves accomplished.

“I have been working with Suzanne Stanley very closely. She has been at JET since 2010 and I feel that she is ready,” McCaulay said.

 

NEW DIRECTIONS  

“I have full confidence in the young women who are there. Honestly, there are too many older people hanging on to the position they have held on to for a long time and I don’t think it is healthy. Leaders must guide young people who will come after them, mentor them,” she added.

Of course, if at any time Stanley and the team require her support, she is prepared to give it.

“In any way that she sees useful for me to help, I will help. But she and JET have to be given some oxygen to chart their own course and, hopefully, do things differently from how I did them, and be very free to take new directions. If I am a big, looming shadow, that is not going to happen,” McCaulay noted.

Despite her years of advocacy that have yielded more than a few wins – among them protection for the ecologically sensitive Cockpit Country and the Goat Islands now free from consideration for development into a logistics hub – McCaulay admits to a touch of fear as she ponders her next moves.

“How does it feel? Scary, if I am honest. For me personally, I am not sure it is wholly the right decision but I am very sure it is the right decision for the organisation,” said the woman who has also written four novels and an unpublished book-length, non-fiction work on her environmental journey called Loving Jamaica .

“I image my immediate concern will be finding a publisher for Loving Jamaica . I am not sure I will write other novels. But I am not a person to have no purpose in life,” she added.

“I also know that my concerns for the environment, I have experienced as a kind of opening up of your eyes, and I don’t think you can go back to a time when you don’t see them. So the question is what contribution I can make to make sure other people will start to see what I see,” McCaulay said further.

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