By Edward Tavanavanua, journalism student of the University of the South Pacific
3 December 2013, Suva Fiji - The need to motivate and educate youth to understand the interconnectedness of nature and human life was key to efforts in conservation and sustainable development, says Professor Randy Thaman.
The University of the South Pacific academic made the statement when he accepted the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Pacific Islands Environment Leadership Awards in Suva last night.
“We need to get our students to get out and realise that we are part of this bigger world of plants and animals,” he said.
Without this knowledge, all attempts in nature conservation and sustainable development would ultimately fail, he added.
Professor Thaman also emphasised the need for balance between modern, scientific and traditional knowledge.
He said he personally believed that traditional knowledge was “more threatened than the plants and animals that we are trying to protect”.
Professor Thaman has long been involved in initiatives to safeguard the traditional knowledge of Oceanians.
Commenting on his success, Professor Thaman thanked his wife, Konai Helu-Thaman, and children for supporting his endeavours over the years.
He dedicated his award to USP, which he joined in 1974. He is the university’s longest-serving staff member, and is a co-founder of the university’s Environmental Science Studies Programme where he teaches.
“We haven’t done the best job in the world, but we’ve done the best job in the Pacific,” Professor Thaman said.
He was also “truly thankful” for the various partnerships he has forged along the way.
He said such partnerships with organisations and communities were crucial and encouraged future environment initiatives to focus on this.
“The partnerships have been very long and very intense, and even though we compete with each other, we have always worked together,” he said.
He added that the efforts of today’s upcoming environment Pacific leaders also deserved applause.
Lifetime Achievement Award presented to Professor Randy Thaman, Fiji
Professor Randy Thaman is The University of the South Pacific’s longest serving academic staff member, joining the University in 1974. Over four decades, Randy has taught, mentored and empowered countless Pacific islanders, many of whom are now regional leaders in natural resource conservation and management throughout the Pacific.
He has conducted research in all the USP member countries, most recently on community-based biodiversity in Fiji, Tonga, Niue Tuvalu and Kiribati, and on the floras of Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru and a number of islands in Fiji. Over the years countless USP students have worked with him on these projects.
Professor Thaman has published widely on a range of topics of importance to the Pacific Islands. His main areas of research include environmentally sustainable development, atoll and small-island ecosystems, biodiversity, agroforestry, Pacific Island food systems, ethnobiology and traditional environmental knowledge, Pacific Island floras, community-based biodiversity conservation, and ecotourism among others.
He is the only Pacific Island member of the newly formed Multidisciplinary Expert Panel of the Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, a member of the Ramsar Convention Scientific and Technical Review Panel. In 2012 Randy was awarded IUCN Honorary Membership Award at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in recognition of his services.
Edward Tavanavanua is a member of the Media Team providing coverage of the 9th Pacific Islands Conference on Nature Conservation and Protected Areas from in Suva, Fiji. This is a partnership between the Fiji National University (FNU), University of the South Pacific (USP), SPREP and Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) whereby a team of 10 journalism students are mentored by senior reporters as they cover the conference. This activity is funded by the Pacific Assistance Media Scheme (PACMAS).