Style Observer

Cocktails With... Rachel D'Silva July 23

Sunday, July 23, 2017

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Environmental scientist Rachel D'Silva has established herself as a point person on everything coral and reef-related and is passionate and equally pragamatic in her approach to the world around her. We meet midweek for drinks at the JaMexican eatery Chilitos, where refreshing convo ensues over mojitos.

What's your favourite summer cocktail?

A very dirty vodka martini, all the time! If I'm feeling a little bit hot, then a mojito.

Climate change — will we ever find consensus?

I don't think there needs to be a consensus. The planet's changing, we need to live here, so we're going to have to do something about it whether or not you believe it's because of us or natural.

Upcycle or recycle – which utimately makes better sense?

I'm someone who believes in dynamics. One-worded ideals of how to do things are actually wrong. What works is what works for you as a person and what you feel you can do. Honestly, most environemental solutions and practices are inconvenient, so it just depends on the level of inconvenience that you're willing to tolerate and the expense you're willing to put yourself through, because at this point that's what it's going to take.

Is the fear of the unknown a useful emotional driver in fuelling one's work?

Absolutely. The scientific field of marine biology is still brand-new, only gathering ground globally in the 1990s. We know more more about the moon than we do about our oceans. We may not know what we are doing in our long-term quest for discovery but we do know that we need to survive. In the words of the American Indian quote: “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”

How would Jamaica's report card read in terms of our attitudes to the enivronment?

I'd give us a C. On a broad, sliding scale it's not the best but we are not as bad as some, especially in the realm of transparency, and individually, people do care about the environment and they want things to be better. The biggest risk that we all run is the belief that someone else will do something about it.

As self-involved do-gooders, we are more often than not concerned with our role in environmental protection, but does the planet have its own tricks up its sleeve in protecting itself against us?

There are a million experiments that can be conducted in a lab but Mother Nature will always find a way to make things happen, and in ways that may be deleterious to us unless we take that into account and get on board. Climate change is real: ice caps are melting, people are suffering and mosquitos are a huge problem, et cetera, so we have to work with nature to keep things in its right order. We have to take ownership of our footprint and be proactive in our response.

Within the comforts and automation of postmodern life in 2017 is one's survival still self-determined or even a conscious endeavour?

We may not be literally foraging and hunting for food and even if we don't believe in our own survival, we definitely are thinking about how to keep our genes on this planet and how to spread our genes one way or another.

Where do you find your strength?

I really believe that what I do matters in its most basic way. So if by guiding people or making suggestions through meaningful conversation and it affects their behaviour, then that gives me the energy to continue on, as I know I'm making a difference.

Which book are you taking down from your bookshelf this season?

I'm now reading The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

Is an environmental scientist allowed to care about her appearance and the way she presents herself to the world?

Absolutely, and I'm pretty sure that almost everybody in my field is fabulous.

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