Friday, June 29, 2012

Environmental Health for Environmental Advocates Workshop

I conducted a workshop entitled “Environmental Health for Environmental Advocates” in association with the Tom Farrell Institute for the Environment on May 29th, 2012.  The purpose of the workshop was to provide a forum in which an extended dialogue around environmental health science and risk assessment, primarily focusing on air pollution and health in the Hunter, could occur.
The first questions put to me in the opening minutes of the workshop were :  “Do you receive and funding from the coal industry?” and “Is this workshop subsidised by the coal industry?”.   The answers were fortunately “no” and “no”, however, it was a stark reminder of the importance of trust in any public process and I recalled Ralph Waldo Emerson’s lament that “Our distrust is very expensive”.   The workshop was intended to assist environmental advocates to navigate through the wide range of information sources available.  Participants were guided through local resources on air quality and human health data and a website: was developed to assist attendees find relevant and reliable local, national and international information through the use of information mapping and custom google searches.  A collection of research papers on particulates and health impact were published in a Mendeley Group for the use of community members interested in published research. The systemic vision for this initiative is to develop a more trusting relationship between scientists and community groups so that scientists can support community groups in joint fact finding endeavours and enable fuller participation in environmental decision making at a societal level. 

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