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Guest Blog: Prize Tour Reflections from Lesley Wood

June 17, 2015

2015 Goldman Prize winner Howard Wood spearheaded a campaign that established the first community-developed Marine Protected Area in Scotland. Just last week, Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, announced that a Marine Conservation Order (MCO) will be put before Scottish parliament setting out conservation measures that include banning the highly destructive practice of scallop dredging within the South Arran Marine Protected Area and other west coast MPAs. Wood and his organization COAST have campaigned hard to end this damaging activity in Arran’s MPA. He congratulated the Minister on listening to coastal communities, marine scientists and economists on this issue.

In the guest blog below, we hear from Howard’s wife Lesley Wood about her experience during the 2015 Goldman Prize tour. Congratulations once again to Howard and the team at COAST and thank you to Lesley for these heartfelt words:

“In 1989 as I listened to my husband, Howard, discuss with Don MacNeish what they could do about the worsening condition of the marine environment, I would not have believed that 26 years later I would be in the San Francisco Opera House, watching Howard receive the Goldman Environmental Prize for Europe.  It was the most amazing experience, made all the more special as our two children, Martin and Jenna and their respective partners Kate and Ian were able to join us for the second ceremony in Washington.

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Howard and Lesley Wood with their children at the Washington, DC ceremony.

The prize is an Ouroboros, an ancient symbol depicting a serpent biting its own tail. This symbolizes the cyclic nature of the universe: creation out of destruction, life out of death.

Although Howard was the recipient, the award would not have been possible without the incredible hard work and achievements of all the many volunteers who have given of their time and effort, all the staff and students who have worked so enthusiastically for COAST and all the supporters within the local community of Arran and further afield who have put their faith in COAST over the last two decades. Thank you to all of them and to everyone who has sent good wishes. Thanks also to our family and friends for their unstinting support and for listening to Howard for hours on end!

From my perspective as we got to know the other prize winners and learn more about the Goldman Environmental Foundation it made me realise that the world is actually quite a small place and that the basic environmental and human rights issues are the same wherever you go. Power, greed and the quest for short-term profit override the need for sustainable goals and practices and respect for the rights of others.

The Goldman family established the Environmental Prize to recognise ordinary people, who became activists and who with the support of colleagues and their community made a difference. Their hope is that they will inspire others, all over the world, especially young people, that change from the grassroots is possible. The incredible stories of the other prize winners can be found HERE.

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The 2015 Goldman Prize winners Phyllis Omido, Howard Wood, Berta Caceres, Marilyn Baptiste, Myint Zaw and Jean Wiener.

They are all individuals, who when they became aware of an environmental issue thought “If I don’t do something, who will?” And then they did not give up despite in some cases the threat of intimidation, violence and the possibility of being sent to jail or even being killed. It was humbling. We are so fortunate that we live in a democracy, which while never perfect does allow freedom of speech. As my new very brave friend Phyllis Omido from Kenya said to Howard “We have been given this prize because we are stubborn!” I can agree with that!

I have been joking that I ran out of “superlatives” but we met so many wonderful people and had so many fantastic experiences that I really did! The Goldman family themselves could not have been more interested, friendly, generous and passionate about what they do. They already knew Scotland quite well and have now added Arran Malt Whisky to their list of favourite things about our country! The Goldman staff were warm, professional, dedicated people who could not have done more to ensure everything was well organised and ran smoothly. Lindsay Freedman who had the task of keeping Howard under control was fantastic. I’ve being trying for years!

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Howard and Lesley Wood with Program Associate Lindsey Freedman at the Golden Gate Bridge.

The opportunity and privilege to forge friendships and associations not only with the other prize recipients and their families but with so many other likeminded people – from the President’s advisers in the White House to young environmental leaders – was incredible.  We hope that many will come to Arran and that we may visit them in their home countries or return one day to America. In any case we will keep in touch.

It will take a long time to fully reflect on what was an experience of a lifetime but I am sure that the consequences and benefits from this extraordinary prize will continue for many years to come and help the cause for a healthier marine environment.”

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