Sustainable Future?

Sir Martin Rees says we have only a 50% chance of seeing out this century as a human species. Can we alter the balance of probabilities by adopting sensible development policies and actions for sustainability?

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Life and Crimes of Pekingman


I have been an avid environmentalist since my undergraduate days and it has remained an abiding passion for 30 years. On graduating from Melbourne University (B. Ag. Sc.) in 1970, I was fortunate to find a position in the Soil Conservation Authority of Victoria, where I worked on soil erosion control, watershed management, and land capability assessment. To continue my education, I joined one of the first multi-disciplinary post-graduate courses in Environmental Science at Monash University, where I graduated with a M. Env. Sc. in 1977. On completion of my Masters degree, I returned to the Victorian Government’s new Conservation Ministry, reaching the position of Land Studies Coordinator. Based on the work that I was involved in regarding watershed management, I was invited to take up a Research Fellowship in the Environment and Policy Institute, East West Center, Hawaii from 1981-82, where I wrote several books and research papers on watershed management.

In 1982, I established my own company, Terra Firma Environmental Consultants, specializing in environmental impact assessment. This company was subsequently merged with ACIL Australia, probably the largest agriculture and natural resources management consultancy, where in short time, I was appointed Director, Overseas Development. As one of six owners of the firm, I was responsible for strategic planning, marketing, and project design and supervision for environmental, natural resources, and agricultural development projects throughout Asia and the Pacific. I had the responsibility of managing a small head office staff, as well as consultants and other project staff in many developing countries, particularly in SE Asia and the Pacific. At various times, I also acted as a Project Leader in country, or an environment specialist for short term inputs. On one particularly difficult ADB project in Thailand, I met my wife and we were married in Kanchanaburi, Thailand.

Following some successful work for the ADB as a consultant in the period 1984-88, I started work with the ADB in March 1991 as an Environment Specialist in the Office of Environment. Once the private sector pressure dissipated, we were blessed with twin girls, now 11 years old. In 1996, I transferred to Agriculture and Social Sectors Department (East), Forestry and Natural Resources Division to gain additional experience in loan processing and administration. In the ADB and throughout Asia, I have established a sound reputation as one of ADB’s natural resources management (“green”) experts. Some of the projects I am pleased to have been associated with are (i) INO – Coral Reef Rehabilitation and Management; (ii) PRC – West Henan Agriculture Development; (iii) PRC – PRC/GEF Partnership on Land Degradation; (iv) PRC – Strategic Options for the Water Sector; and (v) PRC - Comprehensive Toxic and Hazardous Chemicals Transport Management Plan in the Huang Pu River Basin. I have had personal responsibility for over 50 loan and TA projects in ADB. Based on my experience in integrating economic and environmental dimensions of development, I transformed this knowledge into a part-time Doctor of Philosophy (Environmental Science) degree from 1993-98, with a thesis entitled “Integrated Economic and Environmental Planning at the Sub-national Level in Asia”. I can claim to have been involved in some of the most innovative projects in Asia and the Pacific and (occasionally) still enjoy the work. In 2001, I was appointed Manager, and subsequently Director, Pacific Operations. Now ready for early “retirement” I am rejoining the world as a free man and want to contribute my knowledge to the rest of the world, to share my thoughts on sustainable development, and to hear of other views on the human prospect for a sustainable future.


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