Geology for Global Development

Capacity Building

When are Californian earthquakes coming back with vengeance? How does climate-change-induced flooding increase inequality? Lessons from Cyclone Idai; that and more in Jesse Zondervan’s April 2019 #GfGDpicks #SciComm

Aftermath damage of the San Francisco earthquake of 1906

Each month, Jesse Zondervan picks his favourite posts from geoscience and development blogs/news which cover the geology for global development interest. Here’s a round-up of Jesse’s selections for the last month:

California seems to be overdue for earthquakes, meaning there has been a so-called earthquake ‘drought’ in the last century. Paleoseismic studies show that this hiatus is unprecedented in the last ten centuries. This means we might see a high frequency of earthquakes coming this century, while a generation who hasn’t experienced any major earthquake has passed.

Furthermore, a related article in the San Francisco Chronicle reports the US Geological Survey projects a major quake along the San Andreas Fault would cause more than 98 billion in building damage and kill up to 7,800 people. The main threat, however, is the aftermath with loss of power for at least three days and half of households without water for at least a month. The study highlights the importance of preparing the population for a quake and its aftermath.

Fortunately, this month also saw the publication of a Californian record of two million tiny earthquakes detected by Caltech scientists. This tenfold increase in the earthquake catalogue tells them more about how faults and earthquakes work and get triggered. Greg Beroza, a Stanford University seismologist says “It’s just like if a new telescope comes along and its magnification is 10 times greater”.

Can climate-change induced flooding increase inequality?

The answer seems to be yes, in fact it does. A report published by the Urban Institute in the US showed that people with poor credit scores suffered bigger drops in scores than those starting with high scores. While home-owners receive insurance pay-outs, costs to renters only increase due to increased demand after major storms.

Similarly the New York City Panel on Climate Change reports climate change is affecting everyday life in New York today, and will hit the poorest neighbourhoods in the future.

Consequently, social vulnerability should be considered when risk is modelled and funding allocated, according to RMS flood specialist Nicole Howe.

 

More perspectives this month on the aftermath and lessons from Cyclone Idai which struck southern Africa in March; the challenge of religious resignation to building resilience against natural hazards in Indonesia and what the new bill on the US National Volcano Warning System means to disaster risk reduction.

Go ahead and look through this month’s picks!

Aftermath and Response to Cyclone Idai

Cyclone Idai shows why long-term disaster resilience is so crucial by Channing Arndt and Claudia Ringler at The Conversation

Cyclone Idai is over – but its health effects will be felt for a long time by Kerrigan McCarthy and Lucille Blumberg at The Conversation

Responding To Cyclone Idai requires a more robust approach by Peter Kamalingin at Oxfam International

Earthquake risk in California

Reassessing California’s Overdue Earthquake Tab by Mary Caperton Morton at Eos Earth & Space Science News

What a major earthquake would do to San Francisco by Kimberley Veklerov at the San Francisco Chronicle

Scientists Uncover California’s Hidden Earthquakes by Shannon Hall at Scientific American

Flooding and inequality

How natural disasters can increase inequality by Gretchen Frazee at PBS

States are turning to data and interactive maps to help residents confront and manage flood risks by Shannon Cunniff at the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)

Disaster Risk Reduction: Avoiding the Inevitable by Nicola Howe at RMS

New York’s Poor and Ethnic Minority Neighbourhoods to be hit hardest by Climate Change finds NYC Panel on Climate Change by Will Bugler at Acclimatise

Climate Adaptation

7 American cities that could disappear by 2100 by Aria Bendix at Business Insider

Improving Water Resources Management with Satellite Data by Aaron Sidder at EOS Earth and Space Science News

Central America: Climate, Drought, Migration and the Border by Lieutenant Commander Oliver-Leighton Barrett at The Center for Climate & Security

Disaster Risk Reduction

Living with natural disasters – how to change Indonesia’s culture of passive resignation by Juliana Wijaya at The Conversation

Major geological survey hopes to make Indonesia more resistant to deadly tsunamis by Tim Pilgrim at Brunel University London

Hurricane Harvey provides lessons learned for flood resiliency plans at ScienceDaily

US National Volcano Warning System Gains Steam by Forrest Lewis at Eos Earth & Space Science News

External Opportunities

Register for Science and Policy Forum of 2019 Global Platform for DRR at Integrated Research on Disaster Risk (IRDR)

The Art of Resilience – Call for art helping build society’s resilience to natural hazards at GFDRR

Register to attend or watch online – Disasters: impact on child poverty and development at the Overseas Development Institute

Teaching Assistantship Applications Open for Sustainable Development Undergraduate Courses at the Earth Institute, Columbia University

Summer 2019 Teaching Assistantship Available in Environmental Science and Policy Program at the Earth Institute, Columbia University

 

Check back next month for more picks!

Follow Jesse Zondervan @JesseZondervan. Follow us @Geo_Dev & Facebook.

Water and Sustainable Development – 6th GfGD Annual Conference Event Report

Water and Sustainable Development – 6th GfGD Annual Conference Event Report

Understanding, managing and protecting water resources is critical to the delivery of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (e.g., education, water and sanitation, healthy oceans, zero hunger, good health, gender equality, energy, industry, and biodiversity). Increasing urbanisation, industrialisation, and climate change, however, are increasing pressure on water supplies and reducing water quality. Our 6th Annual Conference explored the role of geoscientists in managing conflicting demands for water, ensuring that the needs of the poorest are met while enhancing the health of ecosystems. We recently published a full event report online, and here we share some of the highlights.

Our Annual Conference is a highlight for many involved in the work of Geology for Global Development, bringing together people from across the UK and beyond to explore how geoscientists can contribute to sustainable development. This year approximately 120 attendees gathered at the Geological Society of London to talk about all things water, Sustainable Development Goals and geoscience.

The conference was opened by Lord Duncan of Springbank (UK Government Minister for Scotland and Northern Ireland, and a fellow geoscientist). Lord Duncan gave a passionate description of the important links between politics, geology and sustainable development. Another distinguished guest was Benedicto Hosea, visiting the UK from Tanzania and working closely with the Tanzania Development Trust. Benedicto gave us an insight into water resources in Tanzania, and the realities of implementing projects and taking practical action to improve water provision.

Our keynote lecture was delivered by Professor Bob Kalin from the University of Strathclyde, who gave us an overview of the interactions between water, geoscience and human impacts – and why it is important that geoscientists engage in the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals. You can find a recording of a similar talk Professor Kalin presented at a TedX event.

The first panel discussion of the day focused on management, with insight from industry, academia and the Overseas Development Institute. We discussed the challenges involved in listening to and considering many stakeholders, the management of transnational aquifers and how best to enforce policy – then attempted to come with some solutions to these challenges. Our event report includes links to key reading suggested by our panellists.

Water contamination is a significant environmental issue in many countries at all stages of development.  We heard about research into salinization and arsenic contamination of groundwater in Bangladesh. Mike Webster, head of WasteAid (check them out here) gave a different perspective on water contamination, talking about the work the charity has done in improving solid waste collection, thereby improving drainage and water quality.

Probably the most hectic, yet fun part of the conference was the UN style activity – we split up into groups representing different stakeholders and came up with a research and innovation statement relating to water and the SDGs.

We were also joined by The Eleanor Foundation, a charity working in Tanzania to provide access to safe, clean water provision to communities through pump installation and education programmes. It was so inspiring to hear about a charity that has undertaken effective work in ensuring the sustainable supply of water to communities, and made a real difference in improving lives – it is estimated that the Eleanor Foundation has improved access to water to over 250,000 people. In 2019, GfGD will be supporting the work of The Eleanor Foundation, helping to deliver SDG 6 in Tanzania. We will be using surplus income from our conference, together with other funds, to facilitate an evaluation of The Eleanor Foundation’s water programme. This will generate recommendations for The Eleanor Foundation team to ensure long-term impact and sustainability.

In true GSL conference style, we finished the conference with a reception in the library, giving us all the chance to chat about the conference and meet people sharing an interest in geoscience and development (of course admiring William Smith’s geological map!). I think it would be fair to say that a fun and interesting day was had by all, and I left feeling excited by the number of geoscientists I met that all share enthusiasm for the role that geoscientists have in helping to achieve the SDGs.

The 7th GfGD Annual Conference will be on Friday 15th November 2019, hosted again by the Geological Society of London. Please do save the date, and we hope to see you there!

Laura Hunt is a member of the GfGD Executive Team, and a PhD Student at the University of Nottingham and the British Geological Survey.

Putting Science at the Heart of Development

Putting Science at the Heart of Development
Sue Desmond-Hellman (CEO of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) and Nick Hurd (Minister for International Development, DFID – UK Department for International Development) have written a joint article on putting science at the heart of development.
“If we are going to end extreme poverty, it’s going to take more than additional funds or deeper commitment, however. We are going to have to put science at the heart of international development…… We believe that science should go not only to improving the lives of those who can afford it, but also to those with the greatest need, regardless of where they are.”
We would add the following short reflections to this article:
 
(1) Putting science at the heart of development means greater recognition of the role that ALL the sciences can play, ensuring that all the sciences are playing their role in ending poverty. For many of those reading this post, that means working hard to put geoscience at the heart of development (including natural resource management, agriculture, water and sanitation, disaster risk reduction, climate change, health…). Geology has a significant role to play in many of the Sustainable Development Goals.
 
(2) Putting science at the heart of development means greater integration of scientists within the development sector. We need to see more effective, meaningful partnerships between scientific organisations and those delivering development support. Having scientists embedded within development organisations (including international NGOs) helps increase understanding of the benefits and limitations of science, together with supplying specialist technical knowledge to inform policy, programmes, and campaigning.
 
(3) Putting science at the heart of development means strong technical capacity strengthening. It’s great to see the article emphasise the importance of developing scientific knowledge in Africa and, we would add, other low income countries. Scientific and development organisations should be actively engaged in strengthening the technical capacity of institutions such as universities, research institutes and public-sector geological surveys. This requires meaningful consultation, with all relevant groups represented and working together as equals. This demands a wide range of supporting skills, including cultural understanding, effective communication, diplomacy and knowledge exchange (read more).

Guest Blog: Micronutrients, Hidden Hunger and Geology

DSC_0494In January 2015, GfGD took a small group of members to a discussion event hosted by the British Geological Survey, on best practice in international development. Ben Clarke and Eleri Simpson, then final year undergraduates at the University of Leicester (UK) joined the event to share about their fantastic work in Vanuatu. Here they write a guest blog about one presentation that caught their interest… 

Mélanges, magmas and micrites are all familiar terms in geology, but what have micronutrients got do with anything? Quite a lot it appears. This is one of the least known aspects of study that the British Geological Survey (BGS) undertakes, and formed one of many fascinating discussions held between BGS and GfGD on a rainy day in January.

Micronutrients are the substances we all need, in small amounts, to develop properly; from Vitamin A to Zinc they decide whether we develop and maintain an immune system, a fully functioning brain and even whether we can see or not. It seems imperative therefore, that we get enough of them. This isn’t the always the case, in fact it’s estimated that in excess of two billion people on Earth don’t receive enough 1. What’s more is the effect can be measured economically: economic loss associated with micronutrient deficiency (or hidden hunger) is thought to amount to 2.5% of India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) 2; to bring this into perspective this amounts to about £15 billion in 2007. But why? If children don’t receive enough Iron or Iodine, their cognitive development is impaired, they don’t achieve academically at school and they don’t become the scientists, doctors and business-people that the country needs to flourish. If adults don’t get enough Iron or Vitamin A, they become tired and are ill more regularly, straining any medical system that may exist and reducing productivity. It seems not just because of the day-to-day effects of such ‘hidden hunger’ on humans, but also the economic effects on entire countries to be in everyone’s interest to tackle the problem.

Picture5So where do we get these substances from? This is where geology comes in. We receive micronutrients from the foods we eat, but the concentration of them in food depends on the soil it’s grown in. If you want to understand the soil, speak to a soil scientist. Dr Michael Watts, a geochemist at the BGS works in partnership with scientists from universities in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe to study the problem and to find simple solutions that can be easily implemented on a local level. Methods such as using enriched fertilizers and planting crops that more readily absorb micronutrients in the soil have the potential to vastly change lives on a local level, and if scaled up may produce enormous regional impacts. But for such schemes to be sustainable, it requires local initiative, and because of this the BGS aims to fund doctoral training programmes and PhD exchange schemes for African students so that in time these countries have the expertise to tackle the problems themselves.

It’s great to see that research like this is being so thoughtfully and effectively undertaken by the BGS but we can’t sit on our laurels, micronutrient deficiency isn’t just a problem in Africa: Bangladesh, Honduras, India and many other countries also suffer. Far more work is still required by the next generation of geologists, biologists, chemists and anthropologists to enrich our diets. It’s surprising what you might learn on a rainy day in January.

1 Kennedy, G., Nantel, G., Shetty, P. 2003. The scourge of “hidden hunger”: global dimensions of micronutrient deficiencies. Food, Nutrition and Agriculture (FAO). 1014-806X, (no.32) p. 8-16.

2 Stein, A., Qaim, M. 2007. The human and economic cost of hidden hunger. Food and Nutrition Bulletin, vol. 28, no. 2, p. 125-134

Dr Michael Watts will be joining the 3rd GfGD Annual Conference (Friday 30th October 2015, The Geological Society, Burlington House, London). He will be joining a panel discussion on geology and the Sustainable Development Goals. Information and registration details here.


Editors Note (3:10pm, 4th Sept 2015): There is an excellent blog on the BGS website also discussing this theme.