Remediator #7, July 2016: globalCARE
On the move
I’m delighted to report substantial progress in our plans to build a globalCARE™ as a worldwide scientific and industry alliance which aims to cleanse the planet from the estimated 250Gt of human emissions produced each year (see item 7, below).
Following a successful launch of globalCARE at the CleanUp 2015 Conference in Melbourne last September, our alliance has now grown to embrace four continents. Major participants have joined globalCARE from China, India, Europe and Canada as well as the United States and Australasia.
In China, very strong support has been expressed by leading scientists and universities for the goals of globalCARE. With 4400 people now dying daily from air pollution alone, China is facing a massive task to clean up its air, water, food, soils and cities – a task it is tackling with immense energy and commitment. The Government clearly recognises that economic and social sustainability, as well as population health, depend on this issue, and endorses the importance of building both the human and technological capacity to defeat widespread contamination. We held meetings in Beijing in October 2015 at which we introduced globalCARE, staged an exhibition showcasing clean-up companies and technologies, and conducted workshops on contamination and the latest ways of dealing with it. To build on these efforts, CRC CARE will be hosting the first CleanUp China Conference in October this year.
Likewise, in India, there is surging public awareness of the problems posed by industrial and agricultural pollution of air, water, soil and food – and an emerging strong determination by state and federal governments to tackle it. Reports that snow on Mt Everest is now too contaminated to drink due to industrial heavy metal fallout and 1.4 million deaths a year from air pollution put the challenges facing India in perspective. In October 2015 and March 2016, globalCARE met with Indian scientific, government and industry leaders and non-government organisations at meetings hosted by Tamil Nadu Agricultural University where we introduced international contamination experts and consultants.
The first CleanUp India, a major conference focussing on key contamination threats in the subcontinent and their potential solutions, is scheduled for December 2016.
2017 is earmarked for a major CleanUp Conference in Thailand, where we will introduce the concept of globalCARE and focus on Thai contamination issues and their solutions.
Australasia and the world
CleanUp 2017, the 7th International Contaminated Site Remediation Conference, will take place in Melbourne, Australia, in September 2017.
These conferences have now been running since 2005 and have attracted progressively larger audiences of international scientists, industry leaders and clean-up companies. At CleanUp 2015, 700 people registered and attended. The conference covered 43 themes across 66 sessions. A total of 356 papers were received, of which 241 were presented in oral sessions and 64 in the poster session. The official proceedings are publicly available for free.
Capacity is key
Contamination problems are largest and most serious for newly industrialised and developing countries, which often lack the skills and technologies required to prevent contamination at source or clean it up as it occurs. As a result, the ‘dirty model’ of national development has come to be accepted as the international norm, and citizens of countries who are rapidly growing their economies, cities and industries often pay a high price in health and wellbeing for the flood of toxic contaminants that results from ill-planned industrial expansion.
globalCARE argues that the dirty model of development ought to be as much a thing of the past as the industrial horrors of 19th century Europe and America, especially as we now have extensive, advanced science and technologies at our fingertips to prevent them. We propose that the world instead adopts a ‘clean model’ of development, whereby contaminants are anticipated and dealt with at source, materials recycled and waste is minimised.
A key part of this strategy will involve our speaking to the governments around the world about the issue, assisting them to develop better policies and access better technologies and advice, and above all to grow their local capacity to beat contamination by training the coming generation of clean-up specialists.
globalCARE sees as a primary role for itself and its members as being the development of worldwide capacity and technical skills to prevent and eliminate contamination of all types.
Why we're here...
While climate change continues to dominate the media headlines, most people (and governments) fail to realise that carbon contamination is only a smallish fraction – about 20 per cent – of total human chemical emissions, intentional and unintended. These emissions amount to in excess of 250 billion tonnes a year – possibly far more. This vast outpouring of potentially toxic substances is still the unseen part of the iceberg of human impacts on the plane. globalCARE aspires to awaken the world to its risks, as well as the opportunities for new industries, enterprises and jobs.
The impacts of climate change – floods, droughts, fires and food price spikes – tend to be episodic. They afflict part of the population at infrequent intervals.
Toxic contamination is different. Pollutants like heavy metals, and durable chemicals (such as the organophosphates) tend to build up in the environment in which we live, year by year. This happens so slowly that we hardly notice their impact until there is a major disease outbreak – such as the current pandemic in childhood developmental and brain disorders (e.g. autism and ADHD), which many researchers now link to factors such as endocrine-disrupting substances and air pollution. This cumulative ‘planetary loading’ by contaminants is of the highest concern.
The World Health Organization estimates that around 12.6 million people now die annually from contaminants in their living environment – almost one human in every four – and this may already be the largest cause of premature death and disability worldwide. Since these chemicals disperse globally in air, water, food, soil, wildlife, people and traded goods, it is probable that no person on the planet is unaffected. This is an issue deserving of at least the same urgency and priority as climate change, and of summits like the recent Paris climate talks.
The mission of globalCARE is to contain and ultimately defeat the risk that contaminants pose to the future of humanity, the Earth, its systems and all life on it.
Please join us.
With best wishes,
Professor Ravi Naidu
CEO and Managing Director CRC CARE
Global Innovation Chair, Global Centre for Environmental Remediation, University of Newcastle