Influencer Lloyd Narain
Interview August 2022
Lloyd, could you share with us some information about your family life?
I have three sisters and a brother, I’m married and have two sons and three grandchildren. A few years after World War II my parents migrated to Curaçao with me at age one and my recently born sister. My parents, who are of East Indian descent, came from Surinam. My father had spent his school years in a Roman Catholic Boarding School. In those days, the Roman Catholic Church offered free education and accommodation to East Indian children provided that their parents agreed to their all being baptized. My father could not finish his studies as a teacher as the Second World War broke out, and he had to serve in the army. After demobilization, he married but did not succeed in finding a job. Employers told him openly that East Indians had to work the land. Applying for an administrative job was out of the question while he had to provide for his family. Finally, he found an administrative job at Shell Curaçao through the network of churches in Surinam and Curaçao.
We came to live in Ser’i Otrobanda, one of Willemstad’s old neighborhoods.
The family managed well in multicultural Otrobanda with good relationships with our Curaçao-en neighbors. It was an ideal place to live as school, scouting, grocery stores, the Rif swimming pool, and the chapel where I served as an altar boy were all within walking distance. Life was good as we had easy access to all needed basic facilities. On an international level, we see more and more that this principle, that is to have all basic facilities within walking distance, lower energy consumption, and to live in a restful environment, is now considered “best practice”.
Sadly enough, the real estate business also applies this approach in Otrobanda for the well-to-do tourists, in fact banning the original inhabitants to the outskirts of Willemstad.
How supportive were your parents in letting you become who you are right now?
My father was very strict and made it a point that we did well at school. This is understandable because my parents had migrated with high hopes to make it to a foreign country. It worked, as all of us went through the educational system with success. After finalizing my High School at Radulphus College, I went to Holland for my further studies. In a sense, going to Holland for me was liberating, as I was free from the strictness that I was raised with. On the other hand, I experienced my first years in Holland as very confusing. I struggled with an identity problem, being an East Indian from Surinam, having lived and been educated in Curaçao and now being thrown into this strange but at the same time familiar culture because of the Dutch educational system I had enjoyed in Curaçao.
Yvette Raveneau and I became a couple and married later. She brought stability in these confusing years and in fact, this is still the case.
What motivated you to come back to Curaçao?
It had always been in my mind to come back, as I often saw Curaçao in my dreams, especially of the “Mondi” (the Curaçao wilderness) that I knew so well as a scout as we used to camp and hike there often. I learned to appreciate our island nature, and this is the basic consideration in my environmental ideas and actions. After many busy years in Holland, Curaçao was the place to live a more relaxed life, or so I thought.
We were very engaged in the progressive Antillian student life in Leiden and this committed us to the cause of contributing to an independent Antilles.
My wife who studied chemistry in Leiden and being a teacher at two High Schools in The Hague applied successfully for a job at Radulphus College. She went back to Curaçao with our two children, and I joined them later.
Could you share something about your educational background and your experience?
I have studied Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam. Introduction to various studies did not satisfy me intellectually. Following some philosophy lectures, I got passionate about the philosophical way of seeing things. My attention went mainly to social and cultural philosophy. I choose quite an extensive package of non-philosophical minors, like History of Economic Thought, International Economic Relations, Economic Sociology, Theoretical Anthropology, and Caribbean Studies. A preliminary study on World Oil was too huge to continue with, but it still helps me to understand some of the main issues in this field. I chose this broad package with the eye to returning to the island and being of help one way to the other.
We know you to be very active in the ‘Amigu di Tera’ for quite some years in an era where environmental themes were only scarcely addressed. Can you expand a little on this?
As soon as I was back, we started with the environmental movement. There were some young and energetic people, especially in the media and also some of my wife’s ex-students, who inspired me and made me very concerned about our environment as there was a lot of bulldozing going on in nature areas supposedly in anticipation of future construction of tourist facilities. Thirty-three years ago, after monthly meetings, we got convinced that there was a need for one central point where people could send in their environmental complaints to be dealt with by a new organization.
So we started Defensa Ambiental in 1988 consisting of a small number of trustworthy people as we wanted to stay free from political infiltration, as this was happening to some NGOs. As more people wanted to join us and the way Defensa Ambiental had not the right structure for membership, we formally founded an association in 1991 called Amigu di Tera that was already active in the field. We offered nature walks and presentations for schools and others, we gave interviews, did research on what was happening, came up with some publications, and gained more momentum over time.
The big demonstration in 1989 against the air pollution the refinery was causing in certain barrios like Wishi and Marchena, with mass involvement of people from these barrios, broke with the taboo on mentioning the oil refinery as the main polluter on the island.
Kenneth Valpoort and Pasito Stroop, leaders from the barrio Wishi and Marchena invited us to join the protest demonstration. Together we gave presentations about this problem in the neighboring schools and other entities. Pasito used to drive around with a sound car in the barrio calling people up to attend the protest meeting. It was a successful demonstration with a huge turnout. Brass bands were brought in and their sound enhanced a hostile atmosphere of company people and some public servants with fun and energy for the participants.
What is your official role in the environmental movement?
I guide the foundation Defensa Ambiental and Yvette Ravenau is the chair person of the association Amigu diTera.
Can you tell us something about what inspired you to take up this responsibility?
I was still in Holland when I got information that a company was planning to burn waste from the USA in Curaçao, with the supposed intention to generate energy. My wife who then already lived in Curaçao decided to join local colleagues and engineers in a protest meeting against these plans. The two representatives of this company could not convince the full auditorium of the University (UNA now UoC) and their undiplomatic responses did not help their case very much. In Amsterdam, I gathered information together with the anthropologist Jonchi Weber and this resulted in a publication in ‘Vrij Nederland’. This weekly got information from the London Chamber of Commerce that the company was not registered in their books. When this information reached Prime Minister Don Martina he canceled all contacts with this company.
Another example was at Radulphus College where a mix of pesticides was used against a white ants plague. I discovered that the use of these pesticides was forbidden in the USA and Europe, but the industry was allowed to produce and export them abroad! Children started to faint, became sick, and vomited after these pesticides were used at school. The government decided to stop importing these substances as recommended by Yvette. And this is still the government’s policy today.
All these incidents slowly but surely made me aware of what was going on globally. Environmental issues are a problem of the way the industrial economy is organized on a global scale. And this is exactly what needs to be changed fundamentally. An enormous global effort is necessary to achieve a better environment to live in. I decided to be part of this effort.
Have you noticed a change in the mindset of government and the private sector to think more in a more sustainable matter in the way we deal with Mother Earth and animals on Curaçao?
Not really over the 30-plus years that I have been involved. Politicians would attend International Environmental conferences and consider it a nice outing, without any intention to work seriously on environmental policies in Curaçao.
Some ex-politicians told me that the overall sphere in government is that they don’t want to have anything to do with environmental issues and they don’t question the environmental history and plans of any investor, as they don’t consider this as their task.
What is your BIG WHY or driving motivation to be who you are right now?
I was mainly involved in philosophy studies, but the critical comments of young people on the destruction of the environment in Curaçao energized me a lot. The indifferent way we deal with nature and the often irreversible damage this is causing I found unacceptable.
We are living in a historical era, and globally the destruction of the environment has an impact on almost every aspect of our life. We need to change our paradigm of seeing nature as an unlimited material resource and replace it with one in which we find ways to live in harmony with nature. We have no choice if humanity wants to survive together with other living creatures. This is my BIG WHY. We, Amigu di Tera, are a member of Friends of Earth International, the world’s biggest citizen’s NGO on environmental issues. At its international and regional conferences every so many year we meet like-minded colleagues from all over the world who are fighting for an improvement of their natural environment and lifeworld.
At times some suffer dramatic situations in Latin America and some are being persecuted by hired guns working for landlords. Compared to those situations, we are blessed that we still live in a relatively democratic society where the rule of law really counts. In these circumstances, we must achieve a higher awareness of the social and environmental problems in Curaçao. Dealing with environmental issues goes beyond keeping your street clean and proper.
Our thinking has evolved, nowadays we use a widened principle of environmental work: Not just a usual NGO approach but a combined social and environmental one. As a part of Civil Society, we jointly address certain themes like keeping our coastal strips and sea freely accessible to the general public. We have taken some eye-catching actions when Jeremy beach was sold to a developer and closed for the local public. After a massive turnout, the government bought back the entrance to this beach guaranteeing free access for the general public. The principle of free access to the beach is now broadly accepted and the government’s coastal policies cannot be hidden anymore and are frequently commented on by the public.
The sea surrounds this small island, so for human beings, the connection with the sea is nothing but normal. If this is cut off, it would be hard to work on awareness of ocean environmental issues as people will lack any experience with this part of nature. Another civil society experience is the Rif Mangrove City Park project that we proposed and worked out in a report by experts. Together with the Rif neighborhood organization, we lobbied the government to realize this plan. We succeeded, but as happens so many times government hijacked the project, never mentioning the civil society input.
The geographical space of the island is small and everything is connected with everything. Disruptions in one place will easily create disruptions in another place. We have seen projects causing damage or hindrance (water discharge, groundwater) for their neighbors and nature. So appropriate planning is necessary. This is one of the reasons that you cannot permit tourism development just anywhere on the island. You cannot prevent its impacts on land and sea. There will be a point of irreversible saturation. Economically the costs for the overall population will then rise and development will stagnate. The existing physical space planning of the island (EilandelijkOntwikkelingsplan EOP) needs to be revised based on these considerations and a system of connecting all nature areas (Ecologische Hoofdstructuur) needs to be introduced to guarantee the survival of the original biodiversity.
What are your plans for the coming years, let us say 5 years from now?
I think my task is to inform people about the worsening global environmental condition and the need to prepare for the worst.
The point is that due to global climate change, we will face increasingly challenging times. Higher temperatures will cause more drought, and heavier rainfalls within a short time (the so-called flash flows) will erode fertile soil and drag debris into the sea destroying coral reefs. The rise of the sea level is affecting the quality of the groundwater and so biodiversity and agricultural land will be affected in its turn. Low-lying areas like the city of Willemstad can be expected to inundate.
What needs to be done? The almost impossible task to keep our planet habitable requires more social cohesion and improved social intercourse among the different groups in our society. It needs to become much better than now. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen a lot of examples of empathy. The more cultures are involved, the more difficult the task will be, but inevitable in my view. The pandemic showed us a few problems that will also be seen during the global climate crisis, for instance, the stagnation of food imports and the decline of international traffic.
What are the challenges that you are dealing with?
We have done a lot with the challenges we confront. We have worked with neighborhoods and people in the educational sector. But the changes in awareness happen at a slow pace. There is of late some indignation because of the growing number of offenses against our local nature by some well-to-do citizens, but the root cause is not yet being dealt with. This is among others related to the indifference of the government towards our environment, as it doesn’t lead to a new approach to environmental issues. For example, the way government is working on plans to transform conservation areas as designated by law, into economic development areas. They say that they only want to take a small piece of land, but we all know that it will not stop there, as mainstream economics is inherently about expansion. We will do our utmost to stop this, of course.
By the way, it has been known for quite some time that Curaçao needs to focus on other economic activities instead of only tourism. The Thierry Apoteker Consultant Report (TAC report) that cost us one million mentioned this in 2013. It was suggested that the island could play an important role as a logistical center for the region and beyond.
I have met Apoteker who informed me that Villa parks are in the interest of the project developer but they don’t mean much for the common good and that one has to be diplomatic when communicating this with politicians as they wander in the world of project developers. The biggest theme our politicians need to grasp is how to put our country on the rails towards a more sustainable society. We need to have enough resilience to be able to deal with the big climate changes that are underway and how to be helpful to the other islands and countries in the region. We need to change our mindset of “what can they do for us?” into “how can we contribute to their transition, which in fact is ours also in the process.”
Do you use your inner voice to evaluate when dilemmas show up? How does that work for you?
The thing to know is that my knowledge is something of this world, my inner voice is from this world and that is what I work with. I have my family and friends who support me in difficult hours. I don’t need a walking stick of religion to help me out. I can wake up at 3 in the morning with ideas that I need to put in writing. I have dreams that show me the way out or warn me not to take a certain route because of a danger or a workload too heavy to carry. That is how it works for me.
How are you trying also to keep up with your knowledge and skill levels?
I read a lot of philosophical literature. My daily portfolio also consists of social, cultural, and environmental literature. At times people invite me to deliver a lecture. People visit me just to talk about the main issues of society.
For years I was a lecturer at UNA dealing with the subject matter: “Technology and Society”. The technology students had to get an idea of certain basic themes like how mining minerals is taking place, how the raw material is processed and transported to somewhere else where it can be used to create industrial products and consumer items, creating enormous waste problems, using lots of energy, and how humans are used and even exploited along that whole route. If the waste in certain parts along the way is recyclable, then less mining for a new supply of raw materials is needed. Not everything is recyclable, though. If lots of metals are melted together in production, it will be difficult to untangle them later on, costing lots of energy and money. So for the industry recycling is not an issue and it will continue to choose the cheaper mining for raw materials, destroying larger surfaces and volumes of land and water. For the time being, Nature will still be the big loser.
What are your strengths?
I guess some persistence and patience. It takes time to achieve environmental and social goals. It takes generations to understand how to live with nature.
I trust that the new generation will take the lead and continue with the cause as climate change is knocking on our doors every time louder and louder.
Do you have hobbies or interests that you are also passionate about?
- Reading novels
- Reading detectives and watching British detective series on tv
- Swimming and hiking long distances
If you as Lloyd would meet a stranger on the bus (let’s say in New York or Bogota Columbia) and they would ask you to introduce yourself, what would you answer?
I come from a small island in the Caribbean close to the Nothern coast of the mainland of South America. Usually, that is enough to start with.
How would you describe Lloyd in one word or one sentence?
Goal-oriented and making haste slowly.
Philosophy is thinking slowly, as professor Theo de Boer reminded us during a workshop on Philosophy of Technology. I fully agree with this.
Who are the persons that have inspired you the most in your career?
Yvette Ravenau, almost every morning we listen to or watch the daily news while discussing and analyzing cultural, social, economic, and environmental issues when they arise.
Professor Otto Duintjer lectured on Rational Empirical Consciousness in Western Thought.
Professor Hans Achterhuis, for years The National Philosopher in Holland, taught me to think critically about cultural and social utopia mostly as a companion to economic and political systems.
Some quotes from people also inspired me:
During a kaminata (nature walk) in Malpais I met Frank Martinus Arion. After mentioning the difficulties and even hostilities we encountered as an environmental group he simply responded: “There is a point of no return”.
Another one was from trade unionist Oscal Semerel, he told me: “Mi ta defende hende vulnerabel” and made me realize not to think frivolously about the social issues concerning common people.
John Daal, is a retired teacher and unionist, and the best nature guide on the island. We learned from him to stay calm during what we felt was a crisis.
And so many friends in the social and cultural sector who contribute to a new discourse on a better future life in our country.
What is a trait that is still a work in progress?
My ideal contribution to Civil Society is to expand and deepen this dimension of society. Many people don’t see this yet, but our life is much more important than the fundamental institutes of State and Market, as life in the lifeworld is represented by Civil Society organizations as a direct opposite of these institutes.
What was a defining moment in your life?
When I left for Holland and became a student, I underwent many changes in life. The protest against the war in Vietnam and the reasons for the protest influenced my world outlook enormously.
The moment my mother passed away I felt empty for a long time. When a friend asked me to teach Philosophy for Pedagogy students, I finally cheered up and for years enjoyed teaching adult students. This transition I feel is a real defining moment in my life.
During a serious health crisis, I came to realize that I have to keep my eyes on the main issues while not being distracted by day-to-day occurrences.
What would you want your Loved Ones, family, friends, and others to say about you let’s say 20 years from now?
His silent whispering was not in vain.
What makes you stay optimistic about the future of Curaçao as we are in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, and recession, and in the middle of growing environmental challenges because of the global warming consequences?
Empathy towards others. We all have experienced this during the height of the Covid pandemic. This ability is necessary because of the climate change challenges and other challenges that are underway that we have to deal with.
Meeting young people that already are on their way to doing some research on environmental issues makes me feel confident that the next generations will take up their responsibilities to work in a liveable world.
Furthermore, I do believe that certain groups of professionals will find their way as important change agents in our society and will develop the norms and practices needed for sustainable life forms. We have to elaborate much more on this normative professionalism issue.
The Corporate Social Responsibility (Maatschappelijk Verantwoord Ondernemen) ideas for entrepreneurship still need to be introduced in our country. With the expected future climate and economic shocks, CSR could be part of the resilience needed to absorb these shocks.
Also, so-called environmental NGOs are not well prepared to address the ongoing and future challenges because they have no idea of how things really go in our society and the world. There is no reflection on their position as an active colonial remainder. Besides, we do not see real results of many years of environmental education By researching these fundamental issues we hopefully will find ways to overcome the obstacles.
Looking at the huge environmental disasters that are taking place on a world scale and the forecasts for this century easily evokes fears and anxiety. We have to take precautions to avoid social upheavals. We must put much attention to social cohesion, peace, and cooperation in society. We see how in the USA and Europe radical groups making use of the fears of the people and little is needed for groups to fight each other.
Finally, I mention a few circumstances and pressures that make our political and economic systems unable to deal with the Climate Crisis.
- First of all, the French philosopher Bruno Latour after studying the environmental issue globally observed that there is environment without society and society without the environment. Meaning that those involved live in two separate worlds. Now how will they come together to manage the global climate crisis?
- Secondly, apart from the different views on politics and economic power and the neoliberal market ideology, we have to deal with a world economic system that has proven to create more inequality between and within nations.
- Thirdly, we have to realize that big international corporations and institutes do not allow alternative ways of developing your country other than those they prescribe. They are interested in a growing world market and not in building up the country on its own terms.
- Fourthly in government, there is a lack of research on the credentials of investors regarding their past and future environmental track records.
- We need to decolonize the environment as part of the overall cultural and social decolonization that still must take place. If we keep neglecting this basic issue we cannot hope to escape from the current societal stagnation.
One of the 250 Influencers of Curaçao
Lloyd Narain has spent 30 plus years of his life with his wife Yvette Raveneau, consistently creating awareness, educating people, keeping himself up to date through continuous studying, networking internationally (Amigu di Tera is a full member of Friends of Earth International), mobilizing people sometimes from the barrio, and taking actions directed toward a predominantly careless approach of government and companies towards the environment in Curaçao. Nowadays still engaged and sharing his knowledge with those people that are aware of the upcoming challenges due to the Global Climate changes, his message has evolved over the years and this makes him stand out. He is cautiously optimistic about our ability, through empathy, as he says was shown during the Covid pandemic, and collaboration, to deal with the effects of climate change and other related challenges. He meets some youth that has already done some research and they keep showing up time and time again and talking with him. Lloyd believes that groups of professionals should play an important role in the transition that is underway, as they play a vital role in how our society functions. Companies need to learn to apply Corporate Social Responsibility, but this time that it will require a combined social and environmental approach, to connect with Civil Society and jointly address certain themes. “The environment can’t survive without the involvement of society and society can’t survive without environmental care. We have to be open to the ideas of society and environmental knowledge”. For all these reasons and his consistency over the years, we consider Lloyd one of the 250 influencers of the island, representing the “Sustainable Development”-sector.
Look at the list of the Influencers we have interviewed or reported on, up to now.
The goal of the Share2Uplift movement is to: “Identify 250 leaders from all walks of life to connect, align and create impactful changes in all walks of life, which includes intergenerational collaboration by the end of 2022.” We will use interviewing Influencers, meet-and-greet events, “train-the-trainers”-programs on “Emotional Mastery” and “Intentionality “as national intervention strategies, to reach this goal on top of our goal to scale up the possibilities to connect, align and create impact via a virtual platform. We believe that by collaborating with Miguel Goede on the virtual Vision 2030 platform, we will accelerate the possibilities to connect the diaspora and others elsewhere in the world and on the island willing to constructively create impactful changes in Curaçao, to join.
As Share2Uplift, we are fully trying to align with this thinking of Center for Curriculum Redesign to promote this agenda in our educational systems and workplace. So, in that sense, we fully support any initiative to make our educational system 21st-century proof.
Share2Uplift aligners are those that: – Create an inspiring vision of the future; – Motivate and inspire people to engage with that vision; – Manage the delivery of the vision; – Coach and build a team, so that it is more effective at achieving the vision. These criteria are now being polished.
We also consider these 5 values the most important ones for Share2Uplift aligners. They are:
• Peace from within;
As we will progress towards this goal, we will update you on the progress.
In this week’s personal tips, we will share some short videos on “Climate change”. We will upload one of these videos every day on our facebook.com/share2uplift page.
Climate Change: How We’re Accelerating Towards The Perilous 2 Degree Milestone | NBC News NOW – YouTube
Europe’s rivers are running dry as the climate crisis worsens | DW News – YouTube
China faces severe drought amid a record-breaking heatwave – BBC News – YouTube
World In The Grip Of A Severe Drought, Rivers Running Dry Around The Globe – YouTube
Scenes of drought around the world – YouTube
Drought crisis: The situation worldwide – YouTube