Joseph Brider, In celebration of a life well lived
Such a sad time for us to hear of the sudden passing of Joseph Brider. He was a well-known and respected person within our community and had worked alongside so many of us. Te Ipukarea Society was fortunate to have worked with Jo over the past 15 years. During these years, Jo had progressed through the ranks at a young age to become Deputy Director and then Director at the National Environment Service. We especially appreciated the fact that he was aware of the role environmental NGOs play in looking after our natural resources. He made sure we were involved as key stakeholders by including Te Ipukarea Society as co-chair of the various GEF project steering committees and national biodiversity committee. He also made sure we had a role on the Rarotonga Environment Authority
After 15 years or more of working for the National Environment Service, Joe accepted the fact that bureaucracy was not for him. He escaped back to his true passion, in the field of biodiversity, spending the last 3 years with the Cook Islands Natural Heritage Trust. To quote his own advice to the young people who joined our ridge to reef Earth Day adventure 2 weeks ago, “...I don’t think there is any better way of getting a real deep appreciation of the Earth than being out there in it. You would struggle to feel attached to the Earth if you were sitting in your office or sitting in front of a TV ….”
Our latest cooperative effort was just 2 weeks ago, working with our youth on our Earth Day tour from the Avana water intake all the way down to our salt marsh and makatea at Avana Point. Jo was always a busy man, but he saw great merit in sharing his knowledge with our grassroots community and explaining our natural world to our young ones. You could see sparks light up in their eyes as Jo was able to make the world of science easy to understand. We have high hopes that Jo has inspired young Cook Islanders to follow his footsteps.
Memories from our executive board include those from June Hosking who remembers Joe with his pare kikau presenting on our rare salt marsh ecosystems at lagoon day in 2011 “so good with the students”. Sabine Janneck recalled the day when Jo dropped off two huge cartons of plastic floaties to be upcycled.
Kelvin Passfield recalls the time that he and Joe were at a workshop in Fiji to identify Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas (EBSAS). One area stood out in particular from the satellite images of the Cook Islands they were analysing. They conspired together to come up with an appropriate name for the site. In the publication of that workshop it bears the name Joe suggested, the Ua Puakaoa seamount.
Long time colleague and environmentalist Ana Tiraa said that Joe was a font of knowledge on our natural resources, especially the plants, and was always willing to share in a way that was easily understood.
Tributes have also been pouring in from Jo’s colleagues from overseas. Nunia Thomas-Moko from Nature Fiji was “devastated” by the news. She was one of a tight knit cohort of biology students that included Jo at USP, where he was also known as “the real Slim Shady”. Professor Randy Thaman, one of their USP lecturers, was also devastated to hear the news, and described Jo as “So young, so vibrant, so loving, so environmentally caring!!”
Sefanaia Nawadra, the recently appointed Director General of the Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP) based in Samoa and former head of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) in the region, said of Jo, “Our Pacific Island family has lost a great environmental warrior. We send our deepest condolences to Jo’s partner, his family and all who were fortunate to have called him a friend. It was an honour for us to work with Joe - his passion and commitment towards protecting our biodiversity, and our environment overall, was inspiring. Joe was our dear SPREP friend and a wonderful colleague. His deeds are a legacy that will follow him, as an inspiration for all of us.”
Etika Rupeni from the International Union for Nature (IUCN) regional office in Suva called Jo “a great warrior champion of biodiversity conservation in the region”.
Such a huge loss for the Cook Islands, and the region. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. We look forward to the day we meet again to discuss heaven’s botanical inventory. From every one of us, rest in love and peace Jo.