This past Tuesday, August 9, Trinidad and Tobago lost a patriot. Julian Kenny, retired Professor of Zoology at the St. Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies, naturalist, former Independent Senator in the fifth and sixth Parliaments of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, author, columnist, photographer and holder of the prestigious Chaconia Medal (Gold) for environmental conservation, died at the age of 81. The sad news immediately spread through social media, with former students posting fond tributes about his legacy and colleagues and admirers paying their respects via Facebook.
Twitter was the platform through which many Trinbagonian netizens expressed their shock and grief at the news. Even mainstream media personnel used the site to tweet about Kenny's passing, but the most compelling tweets came from people who either knew him or had a great respect for his contributions to Trinidad and Tobago, which, among other things, included the underwater survey and mapping of Tobago's Buccoo Reef and championing the creation of the Marine Areas Preservation and Enhancement Act, under which the reef is scheduled as a protected area.
…while @macmark said:
Bloggers also had a lot to say. FURTHER THOUGHTS recalled:
He was a major inspiration for the foundation of the UWI Biological Society around 1987, a movement that not only launched many a career among environmental professionals in Trinidad and Tobago, but which also helped transform conservation from a ‘French creole’ hobby into a serious national concern. It’s an unusual legacy for someone who was not only born to the ‘local white’ elite, but also someone who seemed profoundly skeptical about whether there was any point whatsoever in trying to conserve anything at all. Still, he taught people to value nature, to love it. And even if he had little faith in their ability to stem the tide of destruction, the love of nature he instilled in his students made them care enough to try.
While Kenny may be best known for his environmental work, gspottt acknowledged his immeasurable contribution “as a senator, a journalist and a scientist”:
[Kenny] repeatedly stood up for the humanity of GLBT people…he spoke out in the Senate about the exclusion of sexual orientation from the Equal Opportunity Act. Most recently, from October 18 to November 8 of last year, he authored an important four-part series of newspaper columns on the natural science of sexual orientation.
Finally, B.C. Pires shared his thoughts:
Every man’s diminishes me, of course, because I’m involved in mankind, as John Donne observed, but some men’s deaths diminish me more than others. Professor Julian Kenny died yesterday, aged 80 or 81, and there may be a quarrel, today, over who the brightest man in Trinidad is. Any extra time we got from him was a huge benefit to us all. Spare a thought for his widow, who survives alone, now, in a marriage that lasted longer than many lives. Some people leave bigger gaps than others; there’s a crevasse in Trinidad.
Professor Kenny's funeral is expected to take place early next week.