Young winner with a passion for the environment – Jamaica Information Service

The 2021 Premier’s Environmental Protection Award winner, Colleen Dawkins, has always had a passion for the environment.

“I love nature; it calms me down. Even in high school days, I always tried to choose the window seat or the seat by the door, so that I could always look outside and be inspired by the mountains, birds and trees,” Miss Dawkins told JIS News.

She also remembers joining clubs in high school that led her to engage in activities that would deepen her affinity for the environment.

“I was part of the environmental club of Immaculate [Conception High School]and being engaged in environmental activities, like beach cleanups, really helped fuel my passion,” she says.

2021 Prime Minister’s Environmental Protection Laureate, Colleen Dawkins.

Miss Dawkins says it was these clubs that really helped her understand the importance of protecting the environment and standing up for the environment.

“That’s when I realized that this beautiful gem that we have, the earth, we don’t take good care of it and if we don’t we’re going to lose it and we’re going to miss a lot of opportunities in terms of security for things like water and food, because climate change threatens all of that,” she adds.

Miss Dawkins’ love affair with environmental issues continued when she began working with the Jamaica Information Service.

“My appreciation for the environment and my love for it increased even further because I was assigned to the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation (MEGJC), which oversaw the plastic ban,” she notes.

She clarified that at the time, the Minister without Portfolio at the MEGJC, now Minister of Science, Energy and Technology, the Hon. Darryl Vaz, was in charge of the Environmental Affairs portfolio, and Minister without Portfolio at the MEGJC, Senator Hon. Matthew Samuda, had moved the motion to ban single-use plastics.

“I had to work with them and it was then, seeing all the statistics and attending all these meetings at Jamaica House, that I began to realize the real impact of our unconscious lives and selfish… eating a box of food and just throwing the polystyrene box away without any respect for the environment,” she laments.

“Until a natural disaster strikes or there is heavy rain and we have floods, we complain about the need to clean up the ravines not realizing that if we clean up after ourselves it would help. the environment and would help our fate”, nature adds the enthusiast.

She says it was after attending these meetings and working on the public education campaign to ban plastic that she was convinced it was time for Jamaicans to do better and turned into a environmental champion.

“I would tell everyone I know to say no to plastic and encourage them to switch from ‘scandal’ plastic bags to recyclable bags. I would tell them to use wooden forks and metal forks instead,” says Miss Dawkins.

She says the campaign’s resource materials have become very important tools in her arsenal, as they have been very effective in showing the deleterious effects of negative human action on the environment.

“I would show them how the gullies and marine life are affected, how turtles eat plastic bags, which they cannot digest”, notes the young winner.

Prime Minister’s Laureate for Environmental Protection 2021, Colleen Dawkins, receives her award from Minister for Education and Youth, Hon. Fayval Williams, at the recent awards ceremony.

She remembers being very moved by an image of Hope Zoo, which has a rehabilitation program for crocodiles. She vividly recalls photos from an autopsy on a crocodile, which revealed that there were around 20 plastic bags in the reptile’s stomach.

Miss Dawkins points out that while activities such as beach cleanups have their place, it is more effective to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to environmental protection.

“Sending everyone out there to go for a walk on the beach in the hot sun to pick up plastic is just one way to help, but how about recycling those containers when you order takeout . How about instead of taking plastic bags when you go to collect items, you take your own reusable bag. How about collecting the bottles in a bag or bin and once or twice a month, no matter how often you collect them, you take them to the recycling point or station. Simple acts like this add up and can make a difference,” says Ms. Dawkins.

The young laureate is of the opinion that there is still a lot to be done on a global scale and deplores the inaction in this area.

“I feel like we spend too much time talking about climate change instead of taking our adaptation and mitigation efforts seriously. I have the impression that we linger there. Yes, climate change is real, and we’re doing all this research, but we’re not taking action and we’re not encouraging or inspiring people to buy into it,” she says.

According to Ms Dawkins, the issue needs to be tackled at the level of the people on the ground.

“You have to go to the communities, have a discussion with the people, the farmers. I have to congratulate the minister [of Agriculture] Hon. Pearnel Charles Jr. and members of the Ministry, the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) and the Department of Forestry for their programs which include community involvement and social behavior change, for if we want talk about climate change, we need the buy-in from citizens,” she says.

She argues that the next generation needs to be made aware of the challenges as well and urges that education and socialization begin in early childhood.

She highlights the impact of natural disasters on global supply chains and points out that this could affect issues such as obtaining medicines and other essential supplies.

Miss Dawkins intends to use the award as a launch pad to partner with organizations that share her views on the environment and make Jamaica a better place.

“Vision 2030 is not just a vision. I believe this will become a reality, especially when it comes to protecting the environment, if we get everyone on board and continue to inspire our compatriots to do their part,” she says.

Miss Dawkins has teamed up with marketing firm Esirom and will co-host the Earth Hour concert on March 26.

She explains that Earth Hour is an annual event where, on the last Saturday in March, supporters from more than 190 countries and territories come together to take action and raise awareness of the issues facing the earth.

“People around the world are coming together to recognize the impact of climate change and global warming. The hour is marked by the cut of all electricity for one hour around the world to show the importance of the management of our resources”, declared the young winner.

Miss Dawkins recently participated as a guest speaker at the United Nations Development Program Archipelagic and Island States Forum, Caribbean Youth Conference on Resilience to Natural Disasters and how natural disasters affect young people .

It will also partner with the Sandals Foundation to carry out work in the area of ​​environmental protection, which is one of the pillars of the Foundation.

Miss Dawkins thanked the Prime Minister for the recognition through the award and promised to continue to champion the cause.

Prime Minister, Rt Hon. Andrew Holness (centre), with the 2021 Young Winners, at the awards ceremony held recently.

“I am very grateful to the Ministry of Education and Youth, the Secretariat and the Prime Minister, who have seen fit to give national recognition to the work I have done. It’s such a wonderful feeling and a blessing to me. It’s like a magic wand that makes me a protector of the earth and I fiercely guard that responsibility,” she told JIS News.