However well-intentioned, initiatives which impose change on coastal communities are always fraught with difficulty. The marine environment is one of the more hostile places in which people work, and requires a huge range of patiently acquired skills and expertise. It is no wonder that imposed solutions often face grass roots criticism. But it is obvious from the work of marine scientists like BLUE’s Professor Callum Roberts that something must be done to reverse decline in fish stocks, on which those rural communities depend. Community-led change is vital to the mix, but finding a community voice is never easy.
Damage to the marine environment was as much a problem of lack of effective civil engagement as it was an environmental one. There is still a huge way to travel and deep flaws in the system to be mended, but the well-deserved international acclaim from the Goldman Environmental Prize has given Howard Wood, COAST, and coastal communities a chance to have their voices heard.
Government in Edinburgh, London and Brussels is waking up to the prospect that for many years it has been engaging with the wrong people. It is now up to us to make sure that it does not go back to sleep.
That is why BLUE has part funded a Community Support Officer to help coastal communities who want to engage in marine protection have their voices heard by the Scottish government.
Click here for a short film of Howard Wood’s story narrated by Robert Redford.
And click here for his speech.
Howard Wood he was not the only marine campaigner to win an award. There are six given out annually for grass-roots campaigners from different geographical regions around the world.
Jean Weiner also won an award for setting up marine protected areas in Haiti, one of the poorest countries in the Western hemisphere.
Information on his work is contained here.
The Goldman Environment Prize team has given Howard Wood and Jean Weiner a voice. It is now up to us to make sure their voice, and the voices of others like them around the coast are heard.