Event Report: Geology and International Development Interdisciplinary Work Across 3 Continents

22nd February 2017

Dr Joel Gill, Project Development Scientist with the British Geological Survey and Founder and Director of Geology for Global Development.

He has a background in engineering and geology and worked in Tanzania, India and Guatemala, advising on water resources, geology and geo-education.

His talk was based on the GfGD principles of trying to ‘mobilise and equip the geological community to prevent and relieve poverty, in all its forms everywhere’. This was illustrated by reference to 3 UN initiatives. (See www.gfgd.org for more details).

The international framework for tackling this global challenge crystallised in 2015 with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals:- a set of 17 goals with 169 targets, aiming to eradicate poverty and unsustainable consumption, facilitate growth and social development, etc.within a 15 year time frame.

Here, Geological Sciences with their knowledge of Earth Materials, Resources and Management are essential to, for instance, effective clean water systems and energy supply and management (www.un.org has more detail).

There has been some progress – e.g. extreme poverty has fallen by 50%; access to an improved source of drinking water has increased from 76% in 1990 to 91% of the global population in 2015.However, in sub Saharan Africa sanitation facilities and access to clean water are still poor. An example was given in Tanzania of little improvement over 15 years to water access. 35-50% of water projects failed due to poor siting of wells, lack of understanding of the culture, and the training needed for water management.

In March 2015, at a UN world conference, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction was adopted. It has 7 targets, including increasing access to Multi-Hazard Warning systems, and 4 priorities e.g., Risk Resilience (see Sendai website for more details). An example was given of Multi-Hazard Research in Guatemala and the role Geoscientists can play e.g. integrating research into the impacts of landslides, flooding and ground subsidence.

Finally, the 2015 Paris Accord on Climate Change was briefly mentioned and the role geoscientists can play researching new minerals needed for the new generation of solar panels to meet alternative/renewable energy targets.

Dr Gill concluded by referring to work with Professor Ian Stewart. This had indicated more of a need for geoscience courses to promote the ‘hard’, ‘soft’ and interdisciplinary skills needed to connect effectively with global humanitarian issues.

The meeting ended with a request for Dr Gill to identify a project to which CGS could contribute.

A paper by Dr. Gill is due to be published in Spring 2017 in the IUGS journal

Editions (link on IUGS website)