Atherton Martin

Atherton Martin

Important figure in the struggle for the protection of Dominica’s natural resources, who was awarded with the Goldman Environmental Prize in 1998.

Atherton Martin is an agronomist and agricultural economist who graduated from Cornell University in New York State in 1970. From then until now he has been involved in a long list of projects aimed at combining economic development with environmental protection. In the 1970s, he served as minister of agriculture for Dominica.

Atherton Martin has been an important figure in the struggle to protect natural resources and the environment, in particular against mining in his native Dominica. In 1996, the Parliament of Dominica approved legislation to promote mining when an Australian company, Broken Hill Proprietary, proposed a huge copper mining project. Although at that time Martin was part of the government as director of the Dominica Planning and Development Corporation, he played an important role in the campaign against the project, expounding the negative implications for the island’s environment, economy and society. Because of that, Martin lost his post in the government and threats were made against his life and his family. Finally, in 1997, the opposition to the project was successful and it was halted. For his work on the campaign to protect the Central and Northern Forest Reserves in Dominica, as well as his history of service in protecting natural resources and supporting sustainable development, Martin was recognized in 1998 with the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in the Islands and Island Nations category.

Forest resources in the Caribbean are known for their value and importance and their biodiversity, both in flora and fauna. A particularly notable example is the landscape of the island of Dominica, which was a colony of Spain (1493-1635), France (1635-1763) and Britain (1763-1978). Located between the islands of Guadeloupe (north) and Martinique (south), with a size of 289.5 square miles and a mountainous topography and tropical jungles, it has become known as an island of singular natural beauty in the Caribbean. Its natural resources have been its economic base (tourism and agriculture) and the Northern and Central Forest Reserves are important both for their size and their cultural significance (the northeastern part of the Northern Forest Reserve is the only existing indigenous reserve in the Caribbean).

Martin returned to public service in 2000 as minister of Agriculture, Planning and Environment while continuing his work to promote and develop cooperatives of farmers and producers. He was also secretary general of the Dominica Farmers Union. Currently, Martin serves as president of the Caribbean Conservation Association and as executive director of the Development Institute, where he has worked as an adviser on many sustainable development initiatives in Dominica and other Caribbean islands.

Author: Harrison Flores Ortiz
Published: May 25, 2012.

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