Rueben Thompson has worked as an environmentalist on his native St. Maarten for over a decade. “I decided when I was 16, that I wanted to be an environmentalist,” explains Rueben. “It’s not just a job, it’s a passion.” What that goal in mind, he attended university in the Netherlands majoring in environmental science and management.
Presently, Rueben works for three organisations: the Emilio Wilson Estate Foundation where the goal is to establish the area as a national park; the St. Maarten Pride Foundation, an environmental watchdog group; and EPIC, Environmental Protection in the Caribbean, where Rueben works as a project manager for the “Love the Lagoon” programme. “St. Maarten is in my blood. My father’s roots go back about 200 years, back to African-Caribbean slave days.” Thompson’s ancestors worked at the island’s Great Salt Pond, the same pond that he and others are trying to save today from urban encroachment.
Thompson’s dedication to the cause garnered Thompson the Euan P. McFarlane Award for Outstanding Environmental Leadership in the Insular Caribbean in 2009. He is the first person from the Dutch Caribbean to receive this prestigious prize. It is symbolic of Rueben’s determination to save his home island. “It hurts to see what’s going on in St. Maarten. The rate of development here is just tremendous. We need to hold on to what we have. I don’t give up hope that we can still save it.”