Earth Today | Environmental management expert gets national honour
ELEANOR JONES has made it her life's work to make a difference in environmental management in Jamaica and the Caribbean, sometimes with baby steps, at other times in seeming leaps and bounds.
It's never been easy, but it's also never crossed her mind to quit.
Now, after more than 30 years in the field, Jones is being honoured for her service with the Order of Distinction in the Rank of Officer for developing environmental management and civic development.
"I feel very honoured and very humbled. You do a lot of work and you do it because you want to make a difference and then it is just nice to know that it is recognised," Jones told The Gleaner.
Her journey began as an educator in the Department of Geography at the University of Wisconsin - Waukesha and Parkside campuses and the University of the West Indies - having received her tertiary education at Hunter College, City University of New York, University of Wisconsin, Dalhousie University, and University of New Orleans.
The spark that lit the fuse
Then came the '79 New Market Flood, Hurricane Allen and a number of other events that saw her reconsidering - despite her love and passion for teaching - how she was going to make a difference to the lives of people at home and a little further afield.
"When I looked at these things, I realised it was not the events by themselves that were causing the dislocation and damage and loss, but that it was the poor management and degradation of the environment due to where people were living and how people were treating the land on which they were living - whether deliberately or through ignorance," she recalled.
One thing led to another and before long, Jones was integrating environmental management issues into her lectures. She later took the tough decision to leave teaching in favour of taking the leap of faith to form, together with a number of collaborators, Environmental Solutions Limited (ESL), the company she leads today.
From the outset, Jones - now a recognised international environmental risk management and development professional with experience in environmental and social safeguards, disaster risk management, climate resilience building, and sustainable development - said the goal of ESL has always been "to harmonise, to try to find practical solutions to harmonise development and the environment".
"That was the mission," she said, "because you have to have development and you have to have sound environmental management so you try to see how you trade off to minimise loss. That is really what has driven me all of this time."
ESL offers a range of environmental management and environmental health care and analytical services, from environmental risk management and pollution prevention to occupational health and safety, and physical and chemical analysis.
Throughout the years, the ESL boss has found the time to give back to the community - from her early work with Partners of the Americans to her current work with the Kiwanis Club of New Kingston where she has been a member since 1992.
"We had a chapter here in Jamaica, developing community projects and skills training projects across the island. At one time, we had about 40 community development projects," she recalled of her Partners of the Americas volunteer work, adding that she was teaching at UWI at the time.
At Kiwanis, her contribution runs along the same vein, as she is involved with writing proposals and general fundraising to finance their work with children and other groups each year.
Looking back, Jones, also a member of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, has no regrets.
"I never felt like I would pack it in," she said.
"There were some days that were discouraging. You see things happening that need not be so. Poor management and the lack of planning, I find very distressing, and especially now when we look at climate change and see that weather patterns are changing and that we are far more vulnerable," Jones added.
Still she persists and has her sights set on making inroads with her colleagues in the private sector.
"I am committed to really pushing environmental sustainability with the private sector and getting the private sector engaged with what sustainability means to investment and to reducing vulnerability. We want to go beyond corporate social responsibility and look at it as a serious business issue," Jones said.