Green Antilles is starting a series of interviews with environment and nature professionals from around the Caribbean. Our first subject is David A. Simmons, an environmental consultant based in Trinidad and Tobago.
David is the principal of consulting firm Simmons & Associates Inc., providing advice to clients, including governments and private sector organisations throughout the Caribbean, in areas related to environmental policy, planning, management and sustainable development.
Please tell Green Antilles readers a little about yourself, about how you work with the environment, and what that work involves.
Much of my work involves researching environmental and sustainable development issues and practices which affect the environment and consequently result in unsustainable development activities. This allows for interventions and advice concerning policy, legislation, and governance that would enable decision-makers to choose pathways which would minimise environmental impacts and enhance development potential in their respective jurisdictions.
What first sparked your interest in working with the environment?
The nexus between development and the environment and the opportunity to work in a field which was multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary. Poor decisions concerning the use of our natural and environmental resources can have negative impacts on economic growth and development similarlyto financial and economic decisions. Because those connections were not readily obvious or unpopular, the opportunity was provided to contribute to the incorporation and mainstreaming of environmental policy and sustainable development in the development ethos of the region.
What do you find most satisfying about your environment-related work?
Making a contribution, in a small way, to the ongoing sustainable development of the region.
What do you think are some of the biggest challenges these days for the protection and sustainable management of the environment in the Caribbean?
Undoubtedly, climate change is our biggest existential threat. However, unsustainable development decisions and practices made, or not made, on a daily basis by decision-makers in the public and private sectors with little regard for pollution, loss of biodiversity, erosion and degradation of valuable lands have cumulative effects which are hardly being noticed or effectively addressed.
What do you think are some of the bright spots and opportunities for the Caribbean when it comes to the environment?
Our small size, which ironically is usually considered one of our greatest weaknesses because of our vulnerability to external shocks, could be a source of strength. Outside of the external threats, all other problems can be significantly minimised. More importantly, despite flashes of insularity in a few international destinations, principles of equity and justice are becoming core features of international decision making, ensuring that smallness is not necessarily a disadvantage and support for doing the right thing can be rewarding.
What message would you like to leave with Green Antilles readers about why and how everyday people should help to protect the environment in the Caribbean?
People and communities are not sufficiently informed about development decisions which can have a significant impact on their daily lives. We sometimes mistakenly believe that a “like” or “comment” via the various social media platforms will bring about change. Unfortunately, these areas of social engagement are themselves part of the nine-day wonder and lethargy which have long characterised our interactions. Information sharing must also seek to connect and engage in more meaningful ways, especially those which seek to empower the various communities.
[Interview responses have been edited for clarity/readability. Image: courtesy David A. Simmons.]