The role of citizens in environmental stewardship


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Category: International 03 Mar 11

Today, on Cleaning Up The Mess we present the second and final part of a guest column by her Excellency Beatrice W Welters, US Ambassador to T&T, who, using the American example, urges Trinbagonians to keep our country clean and “sweet” for generations to come.

Beatrice W Welters

US Ambassador to T&T

In a previous commentary, I described how Americans cherish the natural beauty that abounds in our country, and how government at the federal, state, and municipal levels works to protect the natural environment through regulations and effective natural resource management. Another key element of environmental protection is citizen awareness and participation. The United States has a long and storied history of private citizens acting to protect our country’s natural wonders, from John Muir’s efforts to preserve America’s wilderness treasures as national parks, to Frederick Law Olmsted’s designs for urban parks across America, including my favourite, New York City’s Central Park.

Whether someone belongs to an outdoors or hunting club, an environmental NGO, or anonymously picks up litter along the beach, Americans know that each of us has a responsibility to keep America clean.
I consider myself an outdoors person. Raised in the Catskill Mountains in the state of New York, the outdoors was my playground, where I explored and discovered the wonders of nature. As part of our commitment to helping young people reach their fullest potential, my husband and I created Camp Dogwood in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, a place where urban youth from many cities assemble in nature to learn about her beauty and fragility.

Our campers study the natural environment and learn how to preserve natural resources. The camp utilises its own garden not only for food, but as an outdoor classroom. Campers enjoy nature walks while learning about the flora and different types of rocks and animals native to the area. Thus, environmental education is not simply a trendy topic for us, but the overriding culture of Camp Dogwood. Americans have come to understand that they can, and must, protect the environment in their daily lives. When one of my sons attended Maret School in Washington DC, he and his classmates banded together in a concerted effort to ensure that all teachers and students recycled.

The school drastically reduced its waste output, including a 50 per cent reduction in cafeteria waste, and the school saves thousands of dollars each year by using more efficient light bulbs and air-conditioning systems. You see, even secondary students can have a significant impact protecting our planet. When I am not in a business suit attending to ambassadorial duties, you can find me enjoying the many wonders of T&T. And just as it has become second nature for most Americans to avoid littering, starting fires or polluting waterways, I urge Trinbagonians, at every level, to vigilantly protect the natural wonders with which this country has been blessed, from the sea and beaches to the valleys and hills, so that T&T can stay sweet for generations to come. I promise to do the same while I am lucky enough to live here.


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur