Scottish activists gain places on ground-breaking educational project

tliouk office at
Tue Jun 10 17:21:06 BST 2003

Scottish activists gain places on ground-breaking educational project

The UK's first Higher Education Certificate in Environmental Justice 
has been unveiled. The certificated course, to be run jointly by 
Friends of the Earth Scotland and Queen Margaret University College, 
Edinburgh, represents the "final piece in the jigsaw" of Friends of 
the Earth's three-year, ground breaking 'Agents for Environmental 
Justice' project.

The project aims to enable communities to undertake local action on 
sustainable development and environmental justice in a systematic 
way, by training and supporting 16 part-time community agents in 
different parts of Scotland. Agents who complete the project will be 
awarded a Higher Education Certificate in Environmental Justice, from 
Queen Margaret University College - the first qualification of its 
kind in the UK!

At the weekend the 16 'Agents' met one another for the first time as 
they matriculated at the University College [2]. While most are 
already seasoned environmental campaigners many are without formal 
training in environmental science or law or indeed previous 
experience of higher education. 

George Wilson, course lecturer at Queen Margaret University College, 
Edinburgh said:

"We are delighted to be involved in this project which is the first 
of its kind in the UK. One of the most important aspects of this 
innovative course is that people who are active in their communities, 
will be provided at last with formal recognition of their 
contributions to the community. For those course participants who 
have not yet pursued higher education, this is an ideal opportunity 
to further develop their knowledge and skills. Queen Margaret 
University College is committed to widening access and promoting 
community involvement. Eight of the agents have no previous 
experience of further or higher education and all of the agents are 
from communities which are themselves under-represented in 
universities such as rural areas. 

George added "This partnership with Friends of the Earth brings 
together organisations whose objectives are complementary and 
reflects the University College's mission to improve people's quality 
of life."

Kevin Dunion, Chief Executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland said:

"Communities living next to polluting industries, landfills and 
opencast mines, or exposed to ill health through air pollution and 
cold damp homes often suffer from environmental injustice. That is 
they are exposed to more risks than the rest of us, have little say 
in decisions which affect their quality of life and may feel let down 
by the authorities. We are delighted that The Community Fund has 
backed a really innovative approach to tackling this problem which 
invests in communities setting their own agenda and priorities for 
action supported by Friends of the Earth. This project confirms that 
our agenda is as much about social justice as it is about protecting 
the environment."

Project Co-ordinator with FoE, Tara O'Leary said:

"The quality of applicants for these places was very high. They had 
to convince us that their community could benefit from an Agent for 
Environmental Justice, and that they were the people who could make 
the project work. All impressed the selection panel with their track 
record. They are already an asset to their communities and we hope 
that we can help them be more effective in their work.


For further media information contact Lynne Russell on tel 0131 317 
3652, mobile 07803 618092. 

Reference 0121 22 April 02


[1] Agents for Environmental Justice - PROJECT SUMMARY:

Agents for Environmental Justice (AEJ) is a 30-month project 
developed by Friends of the Earth Scotland and made possible with a 
£298,553 grant by The Community Fund. 

The activists will continue to be volunteers in their community, but 
will receive some of the support that community activists everywhere 
struggle with, from technical information on pollutants through to 
basic expenses with childcare. Friends of the Earth hopes that 
through this project, value will be added to what the activists are 
already doing and new projects will be set up to benefit the whole 
community. They are not FoE employees, but will be receiving a small 
grant to cover the kinds of expenses which activists normally have to 
find from their own pockets. 

16 Agents for Environmental Justice were selected from over 60 
applicants throughout Scotland, from South Lanarkshire to Shetland, 
Ellon to Coatbridge. The communities all experience some form of 
environmental injustice because of poverty, isolation, racism or 
social exclusion. A common experience is not being listened to by the 
companies and authorities who are responsible for damaging their 
communities' environment.

[2] The 16 Agents are:

Joan Higginson (Penicuik); Ann Coleman (Greengairs); Lisa Leith 
(Foveran, Ellon); Anna Novack (Scoraig); Sonia McLay (Falkirk); Terry 
Hegarty (Isle of Mull); Andy Robinson (Douglas, South Lanarkshire); 
Vic Thomas (Shetland); Kirstein Marshall (Coatbridge); Rod Lovie 
(Keith, Banffshire); Aaron Forsyth (Scoraig); Sue Fenton (Invernarie, 
Farr); Pam Bochell (Nairn); Amadu Khan (Edinburgh); Nahid Aslam 
(Edinburgh) and Ian Gentle (Edinburgh).

*PHOTO: Pictures of all the Agents are available from Colin 
Hattersley on 07974 957388

[3] Environmental Justice - the term originates from the black 
community in the USA to describe the struggle against the dumping of 
polluting sites next to poor, black and native American communities. 
Friends of the Earth campaigns for environmental justice: No less 
than a decent environment for all; no more than a fair share of the 
Earth's resources.


You are free to contact the agents directly about their local 
community activities. However, please note that since those selected 
are not employees of Friends of the Earth Scotland they cannot be 
expected to speak on behalf of FoE and its campaigns. Their views 
continue to be their own views as community activists unless they are 
particularly speaking about work related directly to the Agents 

Enquiries about this project can be directed to Eurig Scandrett and 
Tara O'Leary on 0131 554 9977. All other enquiries about the work and 
campaigns of FoE should be directed to FoE's national press officer: 
Lang Banks on 0131 554 9977.


For more information (Friends of the Earth): Lang Banks on 0131 554 
9977 or (pager) 07654 200937 

For more information about QMUC please contact: Lynne Russell on 0131 
317 3652

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>MORE ON THE PROJECT<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Agents for Environmental Justice Project

Eurig Scandrett explains what this ground-breaking project aims to do 
and why.

The Agents for Environmental Justice project was devised as a way of 
supporting and validating the struggles, campaigns and projects which 
many activists are carrying out in their communities. The model of 
the 'community agent' originates in the grassroots development work 
carried out in many of the poorest countries in the world, where 
local activists are trained and supported to develop projects and 
enterprises amongst the rural poor. This lesson has been learned in 
Scotland where community agents have become an important part of the 
community development process in rural and isolated areas. We have 
taken this model and applied it to any community - rural and urban, 
minority ethnic communities and workplaces. 

The core of the project are the Agents themselves, with whom we will 
be working intensively over the next two years. Agents will undertake 
a sustainability audit of their community, identify with their 
community the sustainability gaps, and initiate new projects which 
will improve environmental justice in their community. They will also 
study at residential courses and in their community, for a 
Certificate in Environmental Justice that is being validated by Queen 
Margaret University College, Edinburgh. This course covers subjects 
as wide as environmental justice, science of the environment, using 
the media, planning and environmental law, and the social economy.

The agents were recruited through widespread and targeted publicity, 
which attracted over 60 applicants from the length and breadth of 
Scotland. The quality of applicants was outstanding and it can fairly 
be said that nearly all of these would have made very good agents. 
There is clearly a strong current of environmental justice activism 
in Scotland. More than half of the applicants were interviewed, and 
the difficult selection process culminated in the recruitment 16 
individuals. Agents were selected on the basis of their communities 
as well as themselves and the value to them of the education which 
will be provided.

The work of the Agents is the core of the project, however the 
project is more than this. We will be supporting a much wider network 
of communities who are taking action for environmental justice. We 
will provide handbooks, put on training, circulate a newsletter, 
organise activists gatherings and hopefully, run the Certificate in 
Environmental Justice Programme again in the future. We are setting 
up a Scottish Network of Environmental Justice Activists within 
Friends of the Earth Scotland, to co-ordinate this. There is no extra 
charge for membership of the Environmental Justice Network but all 
those joining are expected to be members of Friends of the Earth. 

To find out more about the Network, please contact Scottish 
Environmental Justice Network in writing, c/o The Community Action 
Team in Edinburgh, or by email us at: ejnetwork at

More about the Agents:

Joan Higginson, Penicuik

Joan has campaigned on a range of local community initiatives 
including the A701, landfill sites, greenbelt and other planning 
issues, and street work encouraging young people's involvement in 
community activities. Through these campaigns she has experienced the 
lack of local government democracy in Midlothian. 

Ann M Coleman, Greengairs

Greengairs is well known to FoE members for the communityÕs battles 
with companies operating opencast mines and landfill sites 
surrounding the village. Ann has been involved in these campaigns for 
five years and is secretary to Greengairs Action Group.

Lisa Leith Foveran, Ellon 

Lisa is active in initiatives to regenerate her local town of Ellon, 
which suffers from the problems of many rural areas. Work for many 
requires commuting to Aberdeen, local businesses and services have 
closed, and poor public transport leads to car dependence and social 
isolation. She runs a Local Exchange Trading System and has set up a 
community vegetable garden.

Anna Novack, Scoraig

Scoraig was repopulated in the 1960s, and now has an almost self-
sufficient community of about 100. The community depends upon the sea 
and coast around the Annat peninsula which is threatened by the 
proliferation of fin fish farms. Anna is administrator for Scoraig 
school, runs an organic herb business, and is fighting the expansion 
of fin fish farms.

Sonia McLay, Falkirk

The Falkirk area suffers the environmental injustices associated with 
industrial pollution from the petrochemical and plastics industries, 
inappropriate developments and an inadequate public transport system. 
Sonia is co-ordinator of the Forth Valley FoE Local group and an 
activist on sustainable development and environmental issues. 

Terry Hegarty, Kintra, Fionnphort, Isle of Mull

Mull faces underemployment and fragile economies based on seasonal 
tourism, fishing and farming. During his 15 years there, Terry has 
worked on community based waste minimisation, waste management and 
recycling and has been involved in establishing community projects 
including Mull and Iona Waste Watchers. 

Andy Robinson, Douglas, S.Lanarkshire

Andy is active in Clydesdale Opencast Action Group, fighting against 
mining in communities in South Lanarkshire including the communities 
of Glespin, Douglas, Rigside and Lanark which he describes as 'rural, 
isolated, and vulnerable to multi-national company power'.

Vic Thomas, Sandwick, Shetland

Vic has been an environmental activist for many years, particularly 
on issues of rural / island waste, incineration, recycling and 
sustainable development. Lack of economies of scale, distance from 
markets and very high transport costs sometimes exert pressure to 
proceed with economic activity without the same checks and balances 
one might expect on the mainland. 

Kirsten Marshall, Coatbridge

Kirsten lives in Dunduvan, a former mining and ironworking town, 
which is now an overcrowded estate of unsatisfactory high rise flats 
and tenements. The community suffers high unemployment, fuel poverty 
and drug and drink problems. With a group of women in the community, 
she set up a Health and Housing group to tackle the poor housing and 
local environment.

Rod Lovie, Keith, Banffshire

Rod grew up in the North East fishing village of Macduff. He has been 
active for ten years in environmental, social and cultural campaigns 
and is a passionate advocate of Scots language. He works with the 
Rural Environmental Action Project in rural Aberdeenshire and 

Aaron Forsyth, Scoraig

Aaron is a second generation crofter, born and bred in Scoraig, 
Wester Ross. He says: "the Highlands have been exploited for 
centuries by wealthy land owners and multi national organisations. 
Our once famed clean coastal waters are now under serious threat of 
pollution from intensive finned fish farming."

Sue Fenton, Invernarnie, Farr

Sue lives in a Highland village 8 miles from Inverness, and is active 
in her community council and action group. She says her community, 
next to two large quarries, is particularly vulnerable. One has 
applied for planning permission to extend and the worked out part of 
the quarry is the subject of an application for a landfill site. The 
community recently lost a Public Local Inquiry concerning another new 

Pam Bochell, Nairn

Pam was born in Nairn, which with the surrounding inner Moray Firth 
has suffered from the economic decline of unsustainable fishing, 
agriculture and oil fabrication. She is active in promoting 
sustainable agriculture and local food production through a community 
supported agriculture scheme and anti-GM campaign.

Amadu Khan, West Edinburgh

Amadu works as a black community development worker in Wester Hailes, 
encouraging black communities to tackle injustices. He is concerned 
about the institutional racism which leads many black people to live 
in poor environments and be excluded from environmental activities 
and organisations. He is active in Global Concern Trust which works 
on social and environmental justice in Scotland and in the South. 

Nahid Aslam, Edinburgh 

Nahid is a member of the Edinburgh Pakistani community and active in 
a range of Black and Minority Ethnic community initiatives. She is 
keen to build on connections developed through her recent work in the 
Indian subcontinent to tackle environmental injustices in both her 
native Scotland and in communities in the South. 

Ian Gentle, Edinburgh 

Ian has a long history of involvement in social and political 
activism, and in Health and Safety issues through his work with 
Edinburgh & PROSPECT trade union. He lives in a housing association 
development, in a community that suffers injustices associated with 
poverty, unemployment, age and disability.

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