It is a question a chemist gets to hear a lot. When I was still synthesizing pharmaceuticals and plastics it was asked with an accusing undertone, now that I prevent these entering the environment with a demanding one. And running danger of being branded something between evil scientist and too weak to fight the establishment I want to share one chemists brutally honest, yet in the end optimistic opinion on man-made pollution in the next three blog entries.
Before I started this PhD, I read countless forums and blogs, trying to figure out what the live of a PhD student was like. It was, of course, useless. No two PhD projects are alike, there are just too many variables. I knew one thing though, my next three years were going to be busy ones.
Dear diary, it has been a long time since I last opened your cover! If I described April as a busy month, I do not know which adjective I should give for July (laughing). During this month, I have taken part in a summer course, in a conference, in a workshop, I have celebrated my farewell party (3 times) and I find myself right now in the middle of my move to Belgium, in a hotel close to Paris, writing my next blog entry and sitting next to wife. I would like to say that I have learnt a lot from all these events and I just loved it.
Last week I went for dinner with a colleague who has returned to what is supposed to be his home country and me and a fellow local had a lot of fun noticing the cultural shockwaves he went through. He commented on the late hour for dining, worried we would not get up in time to work the next day and was concerned about the late hours we worked. I was quite amazed how much he had lost touch with his home country during just one year abroad.
The surface of our planet is dominated by water, but only a tiny percentage of that can be used by humans to sustain societies. Moreover, the usable water resources are not deposited equally over our planet. Put scarcity and unequal distribution together and what you tend to get is the human conflict. Yet, what is the real impact of water scarcity on the clash of people? For our species, which is caught between the Global Weirding and an overwhelming pollution of water bodies, that is a question worth asking.
On the occasion of the world environment day (5th of June), I could attend a very interesting conference on environment and society in Barcelona. It was organized by Dones D’avui.Cat (Catalan association aimed to ensure equal opportunities for woman in all spheres), Catalan Society of Chemistry and CETAQUA (water technology centre). As expected, every talk was given by women and it took place in a beautiful Gothic building from the 15th century, behind the popular Boqueria market.
First of June marked my one year anniversary as a PhD student. If you had asked me six months before coming to Girona what I would do the coming year I would never have guessed that I would be a Marie Skłodowska-Curie early stage researcher, but these things happen.
There is one World where people starve, literally, to death, where many countries are facing dramatic problems of water scarcity, a world in which the living conditions of millions of people are seriously threatened by climate changes. With this regard it is worth quoting a spokesperson of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Clare Nullis, who has said : ” Another month, another global temperature record has been set. So, surprise, surprise, April set new records for record high temperatures both on land and the ocean. This is the 12th straight month that we’ve seen temperatures records broken. What’s particularly concerning is the margin at which these records are being broken. They’re not being broken; they’re being smashed, and on a fairly consistent basis”. At the same time, on a parallel universe, there is another World where as much as 2 billion tons of food are wasted every year - equivalent to 50% of all food produced - according to a report published today by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IME). To produce food, we need water. In numbers, approximately 3.8 trillion cubic metres of water is used by humans annually with 70% being consumed by the global agriculture sector. The amount of water wasted globally in growing crops that never reach the consumer is estimated at 550bn cubic metres. These facts could look like a paradox, BUT they are not! To me, it seems quite clear that we are moving in the wrong direction, and we must stop immediately.