Restore our earth. These three powerful words are the theme of this year’s Earth Day on April 22. More than ever, I think this is a compelling call to action that everyone across the globe can appreciate and support.
We have all experienced the global pandemic over the past year and are united like never before to emerge from this epic crisis. There are no borders with COVID-19 and it has served as a grave reminder that we’re not invincible. This Earth Day, we need a global movement to collectively take care of our planet and our long-term well-being. And while this sounds daunting, I’m filled with hope.
As a social anthropologist, I see the correlation between the health of our planet and the health of our citizens. It’s what inspired me to create Metals for Humanity, a social enterprise that bridges natural resources and rural communities.
Metals for Humanity believes in a world where everyone has access to safe drinking water, reliable food sources, clean energy and financial security – reflecting the UN 2030 Global Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals.
We also believe every person and organization has an important role to play, including mining companies. That’s right, mining companies. Minerals and metals are vital to a low-carbon future. And, surprisingly, mining organizations are uniquely positioned to do more for our planet and people.
My colleagues and I are helping to realize mining’s potential to improve the health, equity and prosperities of communities that need it most. Our first step is helping to tackle the global water crisis by leveraging silver’s potent disinfectant properties. Working with Fresnillo plc and social development organizations in Mexico, we’re using silver-based technologies to kill bacteria and help deliver clean water to 16 communities in the states of Durango, Chihuahua and Estado de México. Our efforts are paying off. More than 3,500 rural Mexicans are now enjoying the benefits of clean water; and we’ve only just begun.
In a new program called Clean Hands Against COVID, we’re building on a UNICEF program and collaborating with community partners to establish hand-washing stations in 60 underfunded schools across Mexico City.
At the same time, we want to engage copper, zinc and gold mining companies to spearhead our other three initiatives focused on food (leveraging zinc for crop nutrition), energy (using copper to generate power from solar, hydro, thermal and wind energy) and prosperity (introducing financial literacy training programs through the symbolism of gold).
It’s in the integration of these four initiatives that systemic change can be realized fully. And while we began our efforts in Mexico, I see tremendous potential for our approach in Canada’s remote regions – especially hard-to-reach Indigenous communities. I’m hopeful we can find a way to partner with regional companies, community leaders and local governments to make this a reality.
Indeed, we can’t achieve progress alone. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals has 17 goals, and it’s the last one that inspires me most. It’s about partnerships and collaboration. In this complex world where we live, we can only overcome our planet’s biggest challenges when we work together – leaving no one behind. COVID-19 has taught us that much.