Ambassador Van Vranken’s Remarks at the Doreen McColaugh Prize-giving Ceremony for Environmental Conservation Ceremony

December 2, 2023

As prepared for delivery

  • [Opening acknowledgements:]
    • Mr. Bob McColaugh
    • Leon and Elmari Marnewick, from Mokolodi Nature Reserve
    • Mr. Ian White, the Chairman of Birdlife Botswana
    • Mr. Harold Hester, affectionately called monna mogolo (mona mo-ho-lo) or the “old man” from Birdlife Botswana
    • Mr. Puso Dimapo, the Birdlife Botswana Environmental Education Officer
    • Ladies and gentlemen, all protocol observed.
  • It is indeed an honor to be here today. Thank you all. I am grateful for the opportunity to honor Doreen McColaugh, the “godmother of environmental education” in Botswana.
  • I am also pleased to acknowledge the awardees of this year’s Doreen McColaugh Annual Environmental Competition, the Mogaka Wa Tikologo (mo-ha-ka wa ti-ki-low-ho), the current Heroes of the Environment.
  • As world leaders meet at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Dubai, also known as COP 28, this small gathering reminds us that local action is critical to preserving our fragile environmental resources.
  • Botswana has shown the local approach to conserving the environment and natural resources is profitable through management of wildlife and natural settings, promotion of tourism, and creation of sustainable jobs, maybe even jobs for some of the award winners today.
  • The Iroquois people, an indigenous group in North America, talk about the Seventh Generation Principle, meaning consider how an action made today will affect people seven generations in the future.
  • While this principle is generally applied to energy, a natural resource, or the environment, it can also apply to relationships.
  • I think the Seventh Generation Principle applies to our relationships. The people of Botswana and the United States have long lasting relationships, between our governments and just as importantly, between our people.
  • The U.S. government works closely with the government of Botswana and civil society to protect Botswana’s valuable natural resources, including its wildlife and endangered ecosystems, such as the Okavango Delta. Sustainable management of Botswana’s natural resources is not only a critical conservation goal but is also vital for Botswana’s long-term economic health. I am humbled to know that a member of our USAID Foreign Service family has been able to provide such enduring service to the people of Botswana, supporting environmental education as Doreen did during her life.
  • This award will continue Doreen’s efforts to inspire, motivate, and encourage young people to participate in environmental conservation in Botswana.
  • While the focus is often on preservation for future generations, the awards presented today acknowledge the environmental conservationists among us, who are making an impact today.
  • Today we honor six awardees, five students from four Botswana schools (Kgafela Primary School, Bothale International School, Morula High School, and Pioneer Academy) and one adult. Congratulations to the awardees and, for the students, to their teachers and schools. For our adult awardee, our thanks for your work as a community conservation activist, preserving the local dam for others’ use and enjoyment.
  • We look forward to the continuation of this award to the Seventh Generation with the support of Birdlife Botswana.
  • I am grateful to Birdlife Botswana and Mokolodi Nature Reserve for honoring Doreen today.
  • Again, congratulations to the awardees.