Green Antilles interview: Karen McDonald Gayle

Karen McDonald Gayle. Image: courtesy Karen McDonald Gayle

The Green Antilles interview today is with Karen McDonald Gayle. Karen works with the Caribbean Biodiversity Fund, helping to establish sustainable financing for biodiversity conservation in the Caribbean.  

Please tell Green Antilles readers about yourself, your work as an environmental professional and what that work involves.

My early work experiences led to my Masters and were all focused on EIAs and Audits.  I moved from the field to project management and worked in development projects and environmental grantmaking in Jamaica and then regionally, with further expansion and interest in environmental fund management and development.  I am currently the Conservation Finance Program Manager with the Caribbean Biodiversity Fund.  My main task is the creation of Environmental Funds in countries throughout the Caribbean.

What first sparked your interest in the environment and environmental issues in the Caribbean?

​This is a a simple consequence of my upbringing. My parents – Trinidadian and Jamaican – are geologists and we were always in the field and being shown rocks and other features.  Then my father went on to a regional post based in Antigua.  So at a young age, I had seen more of Jamaica and the Caribbean than most of my peers. ​ 

What are you most concerned about regarding environmental protection, management, and conservation in the Caribbean?

M​y biggest concern for the Caribbean is that the majority of persons either believe the environment can survive anything so we do not need to change or that the change is someone else’s problem and not each person’s.  Unfortunately, I also feel a lot of the people in the first category are in decision-making positions, being influenced by non-environment wealth arguments. Finally, as much as I love and promote the region, we do not work well together.  We are many countries, many governments and many people who have not demonstrated well the value of joint efforts in any sector including the environment.

On the flip side, what do you think are some of the bright spots and opportunities for the Caribbean when it comes to the environment and environmental issues?

I think the sector is growing and the number Caribbean-based/home-grown ​experts is also growing and we need to become the consultants, the programme designers for our region.

What do you find most satisfying about working as an environmental professional in the Caribbean?

M​y biggest boast as an environmental professional is that we are hardly ever always in the meeting room – we go out in the field and this has been the case for me all over the region and the world.  As a West Indian, being able to play a part in the development of our region in a positive way is most satisfying.

[Interview responses have been edited lightly for clarity/readability. Image: courtesy Karen McDonald Gayle.]

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