If the environmentalists of Jamaica unite...

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

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To the average Jamaican, protection of the environment is of little concern until, of course, nature's fury exposes our vulnerabilities by placing life and property at great risk, or worse, destroying both.

We have no doubt that outside of those episodes triggered by natural disasters, environmental issues take a back seat when people are faced with pressing problems such as unemployment, health care, education, crime, inadequate water supplies, and poor roads.

However, none of us should overlook the fact that the environment is vital to our existence. Therefore, we all have a stake in its protection, even as we accept that the Government has a duty to enact legislation, ensure their enforcement and implement educational programmes to achieve that goal.

But just as important to the preservation of the environment is the role played by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the many lobby groups that have been established over time.

Their members exhibit a passion that, if emulated by state officials in the performance of their duties, would quickly meet the Vision 2030 goal of making Jamaica the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business.

But among the problems many of these NGOs and lobby groups have in common is a lack of funding. Their plight was highlighted in last week's Environment Watch, a monthly publication of this newspaper.

According to the story, many of these groups are gradually being silenced because their inability to raise funds is hampering the work they wish to do.

Ms Wendy Lee, the president of the Northern Jamaica Conservation Association (NJCA), tells us that without adequate funding her organisation encounters difficulties acquiring the resources to mount effective advocacy campaigns.

The upshot, she says, is that the NJCA has "been rather quiet lately". In fact, any project undertaken by her group now is funded by personal resources.

But Ms Lee says something else in that interview that caught our attention: "We can't compete with some of the other organisations. Some of the stronger organisations have the capacity to draw on the people around them and there are lots more resources in Kingston. So the urban NGOs have been more successful in mobilising resources. And they have the staff."

Since it has been her experience that the stronger organisations are able to garner more resources, it makes sense, we believe, for the environmental lobby movement to seriously consider the establishment of a coalition.

Pulling all the 13 lobby groups named in the Environment Watch story under one umbrella would, we believe, give environmentalists a stronger voice and would most likely eliminate the fear of tackling burning issues that, we are told, exists within these small groups.

We would not be surprised, as well, if funding proved a lot less difficult to attract if it is being sought by a strong organisation with the administrative capacity to get things done and ensure accountability.

The environmentalists need to accept that there's strength in unity. The tourism, export and manufacturing sectors have recognised that, and it has been working for them. If the environmentalists find it in themselves to unite, the possibilities are endless.

Related Story:

Local environmental lobby said muzzled by lack of funding and more




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