A regular Source column, Undercurrents explores issues, ideas and events developing beneath the surface in the Virgin Islands community.
The U.S. Interior Department’s Office of Insular Affairs recently hired John Magistro to fill the newly created position of climate change coordinator for a number of U.S. territories, including the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Although there has not yet been an announcement of the appointment, Interior officials confirmed Monday that Magistro has been on the job since May 5. According to information available online, Magistro has extensive global experience in various fields but has concentrated on climate change initiatives the last several years.
He is expected to work with pertinent federal agencies and also to coordinate with local government representatives. In the Virgin Islands, those would include officials at the V.I. Energy Office and the Department of Planning and Natural Resources as well as the federal affairs coordinator, Shawn Michael Malone, who has been charged with managing federal funding for climate change efforts.
Magistro is the first person to fill the federal position, which was established as part of President Barak Obama’s efforts to integrate climate change policies and planning throughout government and the private sector.
In a press release last winter, Esther Kia’iana, assistant secretary for Insular Areas, said the job of the coordinator would be “to help the insular areas develop robust responses to the effects of climate change.”
Both in the Caribbean and in the Pacific insular areas those include rising sea levels, invasion of seawater into fresh water and coral bleaching.
Magistro has 20 years’ worth of experience in international environmental development, according to his professional biography online. It also says he has expertise in climate change adaptation, food security assessment, vulnerability and livelihoods analysis, natural resource management, agricultural production and smallholder market development.
His undergraduate degree from Miami University was in history and Italian. His doctorate, from State University New York-Binghamton in 1994, is in anthropology, according to his profile.
Subsequently he was a Science, Engineering and Diplomacy Fellow with the American Association for the Advancement of Science and an Advanced Studies Program Fellow at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.
Much of his consulting work has been done in Asia and Africa, according to his profile. Among his staff and consulting credits are USAID, the Peace Corps, the World Wildlife Fund, the University of Arizona, Catholic Relief Services, International Development Enterprises and Marketing and Agriculture for Jamaican Improved Competitiveness.
Reached at his office in Washington, D.C., Magistro said he has already met some V.I. officials who attended Interior’s environmental conference in Guam this spring.
“We’re in the process of developing next steps,” he said.
More information will come soon from the assistant secretary, according to a spokeswoman for the Office of Insular Affairs.
Besides the Virgin Islands, the federal climate change coordinator will have responsibilities in American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau, according to an Interior Department release when the position opening was announced.