REFLECTIONS BY...

Marion Cheatle, former Deputy Director of the Division of Early Warning and Assessment

Marion Cheatle is a specialist in environmental assessment, monitoring and reporting, and is the chief of the Early Warning Branch and Deputy Director, Division of Early Warning and Assessment, UNEP, Nairobi, Kenya. Cheatle has played a key role in establishment of a global participatory assessment process, capacity building of collaborating institutions, coordination of UNEP’s contributions to the World Resources Report. She has also contributed immensely to the planning and establishment of the Global Terrestrial Observing System (GTOS), in collaboration with partner organizations and development of assessment frameworks, methodologies and tools. Cheatle has conducted courses in soil and water management for sustainable smallholder development, Geographic Information Systems(GIS) and remote sensing; tropical forest resources impact assessment; national data base compilation; development of water quality monitoring and assessment programmes. Cheatle’s carried out a PhD thesis on assessment of deforestation and woodfuel production. In addition to the PhD, she holds a Masters degree in Ecology from University of Aberdeen, U.K.

Early GEO Anecdotes and Reminiscences
In the beginning we had to think of a name for the new environment outlook report. It was nearly called “WEO” but someone had a better suggestion and it became “GEO”. By replacing the W (World) with G (Global) the acronym itself became intuitive –with ‘geo’ being the ancient Greek word for the Earth. We thought about trying to copyright the name, but with ‘geo’ being such a common prefix that idea was a non-starter. However, we were somewhat alarmed and affronted when another GEO was coined almost 10 years later. As it happens, the Group on Earth Observations has happily thrived in its own right and, as far as I am aware, there hasn’tbeen too much confusion between the GEO's!

The first GEO was started in 1995 – the brainchild of VeerleVandeweerd, who was previously heading up GEMS-Water before she became GEO Team leader. I must say that the other Team members co-opted onto this exciting new project were woefully apathetic to start with.Alreadyfully engrossed in various other tasks and responsibilities we rather kept our heads down and hoped this additional work would go away until the Division Director made our priorities crystal clear!

From that time on it was all go! As this new initiative was intended to be a participatory assessment process (unlike the decadal tomes prepared by a handful of consultants that had fulfilled UNEP’s mandate for keeping the world environment under review during the Programme’s first 20 years) we rushed to get an initial group of instituteson board and engaged. Our first expectations were not always realistic–for instance TERI (known then the Tata Energy Research Institute)in New Delhi, was initially tasked with describing and analyzing the major environmental concerns for ALL regions of the world! By the end of the process, we had sorted the respective responsibilities of the 20 pioneer GEO collaborating centresreasonably rationally and equably!

As GEO-1 neared completion our thoughts turned rather late to packaging the end product. The internal colour scheme and layout were agreed but we had an impasse over the cover design for the report. With several alternatives on the table attempting to capture the “for life on Earth” subtitle someone had a brainwave – give the final decision to the ED. MsDowdeswell accepted with good grace – and,over a very subtle world image background,GEO-1 was adorned in a leafy collage, including a conspicuous Canadian maple!