In the United States, everyone talks about going green, but in other places around the world, sites exist where green is a fantasy. First you have to deal with the brown problem. You have to deal with the dirty, filthy trouble — man-made environmental catastrophes that kill several million people a year, and which, if left unmitigated, will only kill more as years go by.
Damon wrote about this dire situation in his essay Brown is Just as Important as Green, which won the 2012 Web of Life Foundation Award. In the summer of 2013, he traveled to Indonesia to survey various brown sites on the islands of Java and Kalimantan (Borneo). Now, he’s writing a book on the subject, co-authored with Richard Fuller, the environmental expert who founded the world-renowned Blacksmith Institute.
Santa Monica Press purchased Pure Earth: One Man’s Mission to Clean up the World’s Most Polluted Places … And How You Can Help Him Do It, which Damon will write with Richard Fuller, founder of Blacksmith Institute.
What’s the Book About?
Pure Earth recounts how Fuller, a self-made entrepreneur, got involved in combating the brown problem. It also explores the Top Ten Toxins Threatening Planet Earth, and offers readers simple ways that they, too, can contribute.
What’s the Brown Problem?
Did you know that the number of people poisoned or killed by man-made pollutants each year is comparable to the number of people affected by HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria combined? Potential health problems people suffer in brown zones include reduced neurological development, mental retardation, damaged immune systems, and cancer to name just a few.
Where Do These Toxic Sites Come From?
They’re usually the detritus left by overthrown regimes, thugocracy industrialists, and colonialism. Regardless of their origins, in every case, they constitute humanitarian crises which are either too ugly or too embarrassing for struggling administrations to associate themselves with.
How About An Example?
In the Zambian Copperbelt, for instance, a plot of land the size of two hundred football fields stretches beside the town of Kabwe (population 200,000). Nearly every inch of the plot is lead by-product from the ancient smelter nearby, and nearly every person in Kabwe suffers from lead poisoning. It’s in the water, it’s in the soil. Worst of all, it’s in the children, many of whom are born mentally retarded.
How About Another?
In Gorlovka, Ukraine, former Soviet apparatchiks cannily stockpiled tons of degrading TNT next to several thousand gallons of highly-flammable mononitrochlorobenzene deposited from a local dye factory (aka: a former Soviet chemical weapons plant). This place is so volatile that a carelessly-dropped cigarette butt could make the whole place go up, causing what experts call a disaster that would dwarf Chernobyl and Bhopal combined. You can read about this in a recent Huffington Post article.
In cases like Gorlovka, Kabwe, and hundreds more like them, Blacksmith Institute has dispatched experts to implement its Pure Earth groundbreaking Pure Earth program.
What is Blacksmith Institute?
Blacksmith is the NGO that Rich Fuller founded to combat the proliferation of brown sites worldwide. The Institute works under grants from foreign nations, and global entities like the EU and IMF. In just a few years, Blacksmith has become the world’s leading solution provider for pollution problems in low and middle-income countries where human health is at risk.
Put more bluntly, Blacksmith tackles the worlds most toxic places: man-made samples of hell on earth in countries as far-flung as China, India, Senegal, Nigeria, Ukraine, Mozambique, Cambodia, and the Dominican Republic.
Tell Me About the Pure Earth Program.
Through it’s Pure Earth program, the Institute practices real boots-on-the-ground style remediation. They don’t sit around writing inconsequential white papers, they dispatch experts who assess the situation, figure out how best to clean up the mess, empower local champions, and get to work saving people’s lives.
When Will the Book Be Available?
Slated release cycle: Spring, 2015.