Former Guyana president, Bharrat Jagdeo, has been recognized for his leadership in advocating for environmentally progressive policies with an honorary doctor of laws degree from Trent University.
During his presidency which ended in December 2011, Guyana embarked on one of the world’s most ambitious low carbon development strategies, maintaining 99.5 per cent of its rainforest and is on track to become the world’s number one user of clean energy by 2017.
Nearly three-quarters of Guyana – 15 million hectares – is covered in forest and it’s estimated that the only English-speaking South American country could generate approximately $580 million a year by cutting its forests.
Trent University professor Dr. Suresh Narine, who read the citation, reminded the graduates that the world they are entering faces a nexus of fundamental issues which threaten the existence of the planet’s species.
“We face a series of inter-related challenges, including availability and affordability of energy, availability of clean water, a growing world population and increasing food scarcity, a sustained meltdown of the world’s financial systems, mal-distribution of wealth, resources and opportunities in the developing and developed world and climate change as a result of anthropogenic activities,” said Dr. Narine, who is the director of the university’s Centre for Biomaterials Research.
“These challenges urgently demand global leaders who are transformative thinkers, women and men who are capable of convincing political leaders, the private sector and mass populations alike across borders, cultures and nationalistic interests of the urgent imperative for concerted action. Bharrat Jagdeo is such a leader. His life work presents a most fitting example to our young graduates today.”
Time magazine named Jagdeo a “Hero of the Environment” in 2008 and a year later he addressed environmental issues at a speaking engagement at Trent University during a visit to the Greater Toronto Area.
“I am pleased that Trent is taking leadership in addressing an existential threat to our planet and to life as we know it,” he said in his convocation address. “I hope that you continue to do that because we badly need leadership in this area from academia.”
He congratulated the graduates and urged them not to sleepwalk through life.
“We have too many people doing this without thinking about the changes they can make,” said Jagdeo, who is a founding board member and first president of the Global Green Growth Institute. “These are missed opportunities. There are good and well-intentioned people who got caught up in living and daily lifestyles without seeing the bigger picture and a context in which they can operate.”
Last year, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature appointed Jagdeo a high level envoy for Sustainable Development in Forest Countries and a Patron in Nature. At the request of world leaders, Jagdeo also serves as a roving ambassador for the Amazon, Congo and Borneo-Mekong forest basins.
This is Jagdeo’s fifth honorary doctorate.
Guyana’s High Commissioner, Harry Narine Nawbatt and Honorary Consul General Sattie Sawh attended the outdoor convocation ceremony at the university’s Peterborough campus.