Earth Today | Wind of change sweeps JET
AS SHE prepares to take the reins of the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) in the new year, Suzanne Stanley is the first to admit she has a pair of rather large shoes to fill.
But she is ready; after all, she has been groomed by one of the best, an icon in environmental advocacy in Jamaica, Diana McCaulay.
McCaulay officially takes her leave of the more than 25-year-old organisation at the end of next month, leaving it in Stanley's hands.
Stanley, an Oxford University graduate, joined the JET team as programme director in 2010, having served as a volunteer the year before. In 2014, she was promoted to deputy chief executive officer as part of the succession planning for the entity.
"I am excited, but I would be lying if I said I didn't have a little stage fright and some nerves. Diana is leaving very big shoes to fill. She has really set the agenda for the environment in Jamaica through JET," Stanley told The Gleaner.
But "carrying on that work", she said, "is something I am very happy to do".
Preserving the legacy of a woman who has, time and again, stepped out in front to do battle with public and private sector interests in defence of Jamaica's natural environment is as much a motivator for Stanley as her desire to make her own mark in conservation.
For one thing, Stanley who holds a master's in environmental change management is keen on ensuring that the government stands by its decision to protect the Cockpit Country, having recently ended the years-long wait for a boundary declaration.
"We were very happy to hear the announcement last week. It is an important step in the right direction ... But we want to see precisely where the boundaries have been declared. We have requested the maps through the ATI (Access to Information Act)," revealed Stanley.
"Once we have those maps and have an idea what has been left out, we will determine next steps. But just because it has been left out of the cockpit Country boundary area, does not mean it does not deserve protection. And so we will be working with the communities to see what is the best way to advocate for the protection of their areas," she added.
"We will also be monitoring the process by which the area is being closed to mining. The prime minister mentioned that new legislation will be drawn up for the areas; we will be paying very close attention to that," Stanley said further.
At the same time, she noted that JET is looking to expand its reach into community-based conservation.
"We want to do on-the-ground conservation work. We have done it, but we haven't done it on a large scale and there has been this interest expressed by some members of staff in terms of managing an environmental protected area. We also want to do community-based education; I want to really improve the way that this is being delivered by JET," she said.
At the same time, Stanley said JET would remain a force to be reckoned with as it continues work for which it has spent years building a solid reputation.
"JET will continue to be a voice for Jamaica's natural resources ... We will still deliver environmental education through public education campaigns and school-based environmental education projects. Our work with communities through our law and advocacy programme will also continue," she said.
Now, as Stanley takes stock of the years up to now, she said that while she never anticipated rising to the helm of the organisation, she has been prepared to do it justice.
"I have worked extensively on the environmental education projects at JET - 'Nuh Dutty Up Jamaica' and the Schools' Environment programme - International Coastal Clean-up and, more recently, was involved in the advocacy campaigns, 'Save the Goat Islands' and 'Save Cockpit Country'," she said.
"Diana has created a message and agenda that all Jetters can get behind. If you love Jamaica, you care about the environment ... Over the years, I have learned more and more about the environment from Diana and from JET than I could have from a textbook," she said.