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Dr. Janette Bulkan (PhD) has academic publications a mile long but those who follow her non-academic public life know she is a fearless activist for the protection of the environment, proper use of the forest, and ensuring the indigenous people are not cheated from what’s rightly theirs. She said she was born in the compound of her grandparents’ sawmill in Essequibo and has a lifelong affinity for forests.
Her activism has clashed with the government. And while many have relied on said activism to be au fait with what’s happening and act accordingly, she was accused by her detractors of wanting to take bread out of the mouth of others (Guyana Chronicle, October 7, 2016). Unbothered, unbossed and determined, Janette has used mainstream media to get her views out, fearlessly speaking her mind, and holding the powers that be accountable to international best practices.
Jeanette has placed under the public microscope the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS), which was piloted by then President Bharrat Jagdeo, to secure money from the World Bank-administered Forest Carbon Partnership Fund and Norway. In a series of articles, published by Stabroek News (2009), she played no small role in raising national consciousness on the environment and forestry/timber management.
Scrutinizing the LCDS, she took Guyanese through the paces-using layman language and analogies- about the government’s readiness, the role of the people in knowledge-sharing and involvement, managing expectations, and understanding the possible consequences and benefits. Beyond the series in Stabroek, Janette has kept up a steady stream of writing in the press and interviews to the chagrin of the government.
She has professed “interest in new forms of enclosures, both de jure and de facto, often mediated by the power of the State and its allies. Those enclosures are often not about the territory itself but about ensuring continuing access to the timber or minerals or associated intangible products and services that are often incorporated into complex anastomosing supply chains” (https://pif.forestry.ubc.ca/people/janette-bulkan/)
In 2010, Robert Persaud, then Minister of Agriculture lodged a complaint against Janette to the Work Bank and sought to have her removed as expert on the World Bank’s Technical Advisory Panel for its carbon partnership facility. Persaud accused her of unethical professional conduct, writing false articles on the LCDS and the environment, and being critical of President Jagdeo. Organisations and individuals-including the Alliance for Change- fired back, pointing to Janette’s credentials in the field and chided the government’s “attempt to discredit [her] and sully her reputation.”
Janette has sought to influence policies that would not only respect the environment, safeguard the forest and ensure legitimating felling and recording, but has spoken up for the rights of the Amerindian community, who primarily resident in the hinterland and likely to be affected by government’s policies in the forestry sector.
Her voice has been added to Guyana’s management and risks of oil extraction. She has expressed reservation about further offshore drilling until local laws are updated consistent with international best practices, and appropriate resources are allocated to function independently. In her letter to Kaieteur News (Nov 3, 2021) she expressed being “very concerned that the EPA, GGMC and GRA appear to have little or no independent capacities to monitor and measure what is happening at the Liza-1 wells and on the Liza Destiny FPSO; they are wholly dependent on what the contractors and EEPGL/XOM are telling them. [And that] this is not responsible governance.”
Janette is presently an Assistant Professor at the University of British Columbia, Canada, in the Department of Forestry Management. Prior to the present position she lectured at the University of Guyana and worked at the Iwokrama Rainforest Project as a Senior Social Scientist. Jeanette has earned her doctorate from Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
Additional to receiving prestigious awards, she is an editor of the Journal of Sustainable Forestry and Associate Editor of Frontiers in Forests and Global Change; Coordinator of the International Union of Forest Research Organisations (IUFRO) Working Party 9.03.07 on Indigenous Peoples and Forest Landscapes; serve on the Governing Council of the Commonwealth Forestry Association; and on the Advisory Boards of the GREEN Institute, University of Guyana and the journal Archaeology and Anthropology.
Jeanette’s activism is refreshing. She stands out in a world that still views women as lesser than their male counterparts, where women’s reproductive rights are under threat, and in a major industrialised nation (USA) women are paid 83 cents for every dollar men earn inspite of equal pay law. She exemplifies United Nations’ recognition that “Women are often dynamic leaders of change, galvanizing men and women to get involved, claim their rights, strengthen their communities and protect their planet.” (Source:- the internet).