Geology for Global Development

Dr Joel C. Gill

Joel is the Founder/Director of Geology for Global Development (@Geo_Dev) an organisation working to support geologists to make a sustainable contribution to the fight against global poverty. He is an interdisciplinary researcher, with a PhD in geography (natural hazards), and research interests in multi-hazard frameworks, disaster risk reduction, rural water projects, and sustainable development. This work has taken him to Chile, China, Guatemala, India, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda. Joel is currently based at the British Geological Survey, and tweets at @JoelCGill.

New Paper: Geoscience Engagement in Global Development Frameworks

We have recently contributed to a new open access article included in a special volume coordinated by the International Association for Promoting Geoethics (IAPG)This article, synthesises the role of geoscientists in the delivery of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, and the Paris Climate Change Agreement, and discusses ways in which we can increase our engagement in the promotion, implementation and monitoring of these key global frameworks.

Abstract: During 2015, the international community agreed three socio-environmental global development frameworks, the: (i) Sustainable Development Goals; (ii) Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, and (iii) Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Each corresponds to important interactions between environmental processes and society. Here we synthesise the role of geoscientists in the delivery of each framework, and explore the meaning of and justification for increased geoscience engagement (active participation). We first demonstrate that geoscience is fundamental to successfully achieving the objectives of each framework. We characterise four types of geoscience engagement (framework design, promotion, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation), with examples within the scope of the geoscience community. In the context of this characterisation, we discuss: (i) our ethical responsibility to engage with these frameworks, noting the emphasis on societal cooperation within the Cape Town Statement on Geoethics; and (ii) the need for increased and higher quality engagement, including an improved understanding of the science-policy-practice interface. Facilitating increased engagement is necessary if we are to maximise geoscience’s positive impact on global development.

PDF (open access) here: http://www.annalsofgeophysics.eu/index.php/annals/article/view/7460/ 

Geoscience and Sustainable Cities (SDG 11) in Eastern Africa

Kampala (Uganda) – March 2017

Over the past seven months I’ve had the opportunity to visit four growing cities in eastern Africa: Kampala (Uganda), Nairobi (Kenya), Lusaka (Zambia) and Dar es Salaam (Tanzania). The importance of geoscience in delivering SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) was evident.

“More than half of the world’s population now live in urban areas. By 2050, that figure will have risen to 6.5 billion people – two-thirds of all humanity. Sustainable development cannot be achieved without significantly transforming the way we build and manage our urban spaces.” (United Nations Development Programme – UNDP)

Around the world cities are expanding, and that is no different in eastern Africa. Based on statistics from the United Nations and CityPopulation.de, between 2014 and 2017…

  • Kampala: The population of the metropolitan area has increased from 1.936 million people to 3.125 million people (an increase of 61%).
  • Nairobi: The population of the metropolitan area has increased from 3.915 million people to 5.350 million people (an increase of 37%).
  • Lusaka: The population of the metropolitan area has increased from 2.179 million people to 2.375 million people (an increase of 9%).
  • Dar es Salaam: The population of the metropolitan area has increased from 5.116 million people to 5.550 million people (an increase of 8%).

These figures and sources come with associated uncertainties and limitations, however the trend towards increasing urban populations is consistent with both longer term United Nations and national census data. Growing urbanisation is a development mega-trend, associated with both major challenges and significant opportunities for delivering all 17 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. For example, while the concentration of people in cities may increase exposure to natural hazards (i.e., a challenge), it could also make it easier to provide basic services to a greater proportion of the population (i.e., an opportunity).  Cities support social and economic development, by bringing people together from diverse backgrounds, enabling commerce and innovation, and facilitating the pursuit of the sciences and arts [UN].

What role for geoscientists?

Growing cities need a secure supply of resources – water, energy and food, but also the raw materials used in the construction of new buildings – from sand and aggregates, to metals and other minerals. Cities also need good planning to ensure they grow in a safe and sustainable manner. This planning includes both surface and subsurface infrastructure, where understanding of ground conditions, geotechnical properties of materials, and potential natural hazards are of critical importance. Cities also need resilience. Large concentrations of people in urban areas could result in catastrophic disasters if both physical and social vulnerabilities to environmental shocks remain high. For example, the integration of seismic history into building design, and environmental science into school education could help to reduce vulnerabilities.

Dar es Salaam (Tanzania)

Diverse geoscience expertise is therefore critical to ensuring sustainable cities… hydrogeologists, engineering geologists, survey and resource geologists, geomorphologists, geohazard specialists, and geochemists can all use their expertise to ensure cities have the resources they need, the integrated planning, and measures to strengthen resilience to environmental stresses, shocks and change.

Example: Transport Infrastructure

Take the example of urban transportation networks. Talk to anybody in Kampala, Nairobi or Dar es Salaam about the challenges of their growing cities and they’ll mention traffic congestion. One review placed Nairobi as second in the world with regards to traffic congestion. Growing populations will exacerbate this problem, having an impact on health, the economy (employment, trade and tourism), and the natural environment. Cities may decide that one way to tackle this congestion is to develop and enhance public transport infrastructure (e.g., metro systems, overland trains and trams). Such approaches would reduce the number of cars on the road, reduce pollution and increase opportunities for employment and trade. For example, journeys from the airport in Dar es Salaam to the city centre and business port could be significantly reduced.  Enhanced transport infrastructure could be of great benefit to a city such as Nairobi or Dar es Salaam, but would need to be built with a thorough understanding of the local geology and environmental dynamics. Alongside urban planners and engineers, geoscientists would be instrumental in tackling this challenge and turning it into an opportunity for sustainable development.

Urban Geoscience

Given the growth or urban areas, and the role of geoscience in ensuring these cities are resourced, well planned, and resilient, there is a growing need for geoscientists to engage in the global urban agenda. The next GfGD Annual Conference is a great opportunity to do that, and learn more about the response needed by geoscientists if we are to play an effective role in ensuring urban spaces are safe and secure. Registration for the 5th GfGD Annual Conference is now open (Friday 3 November, Geological Society of London)! Aimed at geoscientists at all stages of their career, the theme this year is “Cities: Opportunities and Challenges for Sustainable Development”.  This conference will explore themes such as the sustainable resourcing of cities and resilient cities, with a particular focus on the Global South.

Visit our website for further information about the programme and confirmed speakers. Get your ticket here >> https://gfgd-cities.eventbrite.co.uk

Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) – September 2017

GfGD 5th Annual Conference: Cities, Geoscience, and Sustainable Development

Registration for the 5th GfGD Annual Conference is now open! Aimed at geoscientists at all stages of their career, the theme this year is “Cities: Opportunities and Challenges for Sustainable Development”. Urbanisation is a development mega-trend, associated with both major challenges but also significant opportunities for delivering the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals.

“More than half of the world’s population now live in urban areas. By 2050, that figure will have risen to 6.5 billion people – two-thirds of all humanity. Sustainable development cannot be achieved without significantly transforming the way we build and manage our urban spaces.” (United Nations Development Programme – UNDP)

This conference will explore themes such as the sustainable resourcing of cities and resilient cities, with a particular focus on the Global South. We’ll be releasing a programme and announcing speaker details later this summer.

When: Friday 3 November
Where: Geological Society of London

Get your ticket here >> https://gfgd-cities.eventbrite.co.uk

GfGD Strategy 2017-2021: Championing Sustainable Development

Today we publish the GfGD Strategy (2017-2021), outlining our vision and the key objectives that will shape our work over the next 5-years.

In 2015, the international community agreed the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These goals aim to eradicate global poverty, promote sustainable consumption patterns, and facilitate sustained and inclusive economic growth, social development and environmental protection. Geology can play a vital role in addressing these challenges, but that requires enhanced knowledge, new skills, and strengthened links across charities, governmental bodies, and the academic and industrial geology community.

In this context, we seek to mobilise and equip the geology community to engage in a full, positive and effective manner, preventing and relieving poverty, and encouraging sustainable development.

We see a world where:

  • Every geologist is equipped with the skills and understanding required to make a positive contribution to sustainable development.
  • The geology community is actively engaged in the design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of international development activities.
  • Organisations, governments and individuals have equal access to, and an understanding of, the geological science required to ensure sustainable development.

We have agreed four strategic objectives to help deliver this vision:

1. [INSPIRATION] Promote the value of geology in supporting sustainable development. Many people are unaware of the role geology can play in supporting sustainable development. We will work towards greater recognition for, and understanding of, the role of geology in tackling significant global challenges (e.g., water security, food security, resilience to natural hazards, natural resource management, urbanisation, and climate change).

2. [EDUCATION] Equip geologists to engage positively in sustainable development. The skills and knowledge required to make an effective and positive contribution to sustainable development are often missing from the traditional education and continued professional development of geologists. We will provide opportunities for geologists to develop these essential skills to best serve the communities that we engage with.

3. [ACTION] Enhance the application of geology to international development. We will make a high-quality contribution to practical development projects. We will develop and support poverty-fighting programmes in collaboration with other UK-based and international organisations. By the end of 2021 we envisage our work having helped to address six of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, across five different countries.

GfGD 3rd Annual Conference (Geology and the Global Goals for Sustainable Development)

4. [LEADERSHIP] Exercise international leadership on matters relating to geology and sustainable development. We seek to be a recognised and trusted voice on ‘geology and sustainable development’, helping to reshape the global geology community to better serve society. We will grow in our international influence, and reputation for excellence in all we do.

Over the next five years we’ll be working to implement this strategy, striving towards our vision, and supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goals. We believe that our work can help to reshape the geology community, building a sector equipped to serve communities around the world.

We’d love your support.

If our vision and strategy excites you, please join us.

  • Share: We would like the global geology community to be aware of our work. Please share this strategy and our work with your colleagues, students, and friends.
  • Donate: Whether you’re an individual who can sign up to give £5/month, or you would like to find out more about corporate sponsorship opportunities, please do get in touch. Find out more on our website (www.gfgd.org/donate).
  • Join In: You can get involved in our work by going to University Group events, our conferences and workshops, or supporting our ongoing practical projects. Keep an eye on our social media for new opportunities in the coming months.

Together we can build a geology sector with sustainable development at its heart, equipped to make a positive difference and better serve society.

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