This week we caught up with the executive director of St Vincent and the Grenadines Environment Fund, Louise Mitchell. She offered some wonderful insight into their work and her hopes for the future of the magnificent islands.
Is there a specific area of focus in your work that you are most interested in? Why?
I am most interested in working to save vulnerable or endangered species. Saving one species often means saving an entire ecosystem because loss of certain keystone species can weaken the entire ecosystem and even lead to loss of other species. All species are connected in a ‘web of life.’
We at the SVGEF have been lucky to be able to support saving the Union Island Gecko from extinction and even have it listed as a protected species under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). This has led to a major reduction in the illegal poaching and international trade of this unique gecko found only in the Chatham Forest of Union Island, the Grenadines.
We were also successful in encouraging the declaration of the protection of all marine turtles in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which means protection for the leatherbacks, the hawksbill and the green turtles.
More recently, the parrot fish, which we made a part of our logo to demonstrate its importance in the preservation of coral reefs, was recently declared to be a protected species.
What are you most excited about for the future of the SVGEF?
I am fearful that the pace of protection efforts on a national scale are not fast enough and that the urgency of protecting these small islands before more harm is done to them is not appreciated. I am however hopeful that the Environment Fund can play a significant role in ensuring that Vincentians do not take for granted their natural beauty. Through the work of the SVGEF more can be done for us to be better custodians of the beauty bestowed upon ‘St. Vincent land so beautiful.’ The words of our national anthem speak of our beauty, but keeping SVG beautiful is a job that requires all hands on deck.
What are some simple steps people can take to help their local environment either in St Vincent and the Grenadines specifically or around the world?
1 Farmers to stop using pesticides
2. Stop throwing trash into rivers, drains which all end up in the ocean
3. Eat less meat
4. Demand and eat organically produced vegetables
5. Plant a tree on your birthday
6. Give a gift of a seedling instead of cut flowers on Valentine’s Day
7. Reduce your use of plastic
8. Make every beach day a beach clean up day – pick up trash
9. Diversify your diet, eat more plant-based foods
10. Don’t buy products that have heavy plastic packaging