Top environmental experts 'would welcome tram network through all of Edinburgh'

One of the Capital's top environmental experts who has had an illustrious career in the United States has said he would welcome a tram network to be introduced through all of Edinburgh.

Tuesday, 8th May 2018, 8:47 am
Updated Tuesday, 8th May 2018, 8:55 am
Former Scotland's Rural College (SRUC) student Jake Mackenzie who grew up in Edinburgh but emigrated to the USA in 1962 comes back to visit King's Buildings campus for the first time since he graduated in 1961. Also pictured is Professor Fiona Burnett and Senior Technical Advisor Robert Redpath

Jake Mackenzie graduated from Edinburgh and East of Scotland College of Agriculture in 1961 with a degree in farm management.

Leaping at the chance to further his education, Jake got a post-graduate job in the private sector on the west coast of America.

He then went on to become a pesticide regulator at the Environment Protection Agency for 30 years.

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The now 78-year-old returned to his old stomping ground at the Kings Buildings, which now forms part of Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), and enjoyed a reunion with the Class of 1961 after having a distinguished career in the environment industry.

On his return to the Capital he has identified a number of parallel issues in Edinburgh and his adopted home of Rohnert Park – a city in California approximately 50 miles north of San Francisco.

He said: “Coming back, I’ve noticed people are still commuting long distance due to the price of buying in Edinburgh. It reminds me of a similar position in the San Francisco Bay area. Locating housing is difficult and the price has sky-rocketed, meaning people cannot afford to live in the city centre.

“The issue on the west coast is worse, with people having to commute around two hours to get to work due to the soaring price of housing.

“One way of changing is to update the transportation system. I know the bus system in Edinburgh is excellent but I would be all for the tram network to go through the whole city. When you arrive into Edinburgh you maybe don’t want to go to the centre of city.

“It would be great for the environment in the city centre. It is a long-term problem around the amount of cars coming into the city and polluting the environment.

“I am a huge believer of public transport and that’s what I’m trying to push as my role as councillor in the States.”

City councillors have agreed in principle to a three-mile extension from York Place to Newhaven and a final decision on whether to go ahead is
due to be taken in the autumn.After growing up in Liberton, Jake attended George Watson’s College before beginning his degree.

After graduating in 1961 he went on to study a masters and PhD at Oregon State University, where he earned a doctorate in pesticide research and development. He was also the captain of the university’s rugby team. Jake spent five years in his role at the private sector before working at the Environment Protection Agency for three decades.

His job was focused on improving the status of the way pesticides were used in the country and he wanted to control their long-term impact on the environment on the west coast.

He said: “I was always interested in the concept of America and being in San Francisco. It was something I wanted to do and when the post-graduate opportunity arose in the private sector I jumped at it.”

Mr Mackenzie took up a political path and has spent more than 20 years on the Rohnert Park City Council and been mayor for five terms.

Mr Mackenzie still dons a kilt for public gatherings and on occasion recites Scottish poetry. He said he relishes another go at shepherding the city he and his wife, Barbara, have called home since 1985.

The Hibee still has his brother and two nieces living in the Capital and still keeps an eye on the environmental news within his homeland.

He added: “Scotland has made great efforts to invest in renewable energy resources. I have noticed the high increase in wind farms here too.”

During his recent visit to Edinburgh, Jake enjoyed a tour of the SRUC facilities and spoke with Professor Fiona Burnett, who is in charge of our crop and soils team.

He also attended a meal in the city to meet up with former friends who he hadn’t seen since leaving for America in 1962.

He added: “I’ve enjoyed meeting up with my old classmates and it was fantastic to see the campus again.”