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  • Responsible Raw Materials

Joel Gill - Responsibility-driven Earth scientists: initiatives from the classroom to the UN

Updated: May 31, 2020

Implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has the potential to transform society, giving human beings everywhere dignity and equality, meeting the needs of present and future generations in a responsible manner, and ensuring a healthy planet where environmental protection is valued and prioritised.

Earth scientists possess skills and understanding that support the transition to sustainability, as expressed in the SDGs [1]. Their understanding of Earth systems and resources can help (in partnership with others) to tackle major social challenges, the provision of essential services, the growth of green and diverse economies, the development of sustainable and resilient cities and infrastructure, and effective protection of local, national and global environmental systems.

‘Business as usual’ is not enough to realise the ambitions of the SDGs, and therefore the Earth science community needs to evolve and adapt to enhance the relevance and impact of its contribution [2]. Integrating perspectives from the work of Geology for Global Development (a UK-based development charity), this talk will set out a vision for an Earth science community that is mobilised to strive for responsible extraction and use of raw materials, and equipped to do this effectively. 

We focus on two themes, setting out challenges and opportunities within each:

  1. Education, and the need for sustainability concepts to be embedded into the training of Earth scientists pursuing careers in the raw materials sector, together with a greater emphasis on the soft skills for effective international working

  2. Global Influencing, the urgent need for Earth scientists to ‘show up’, being present and active in global sustainability discourses so as to increase understanding of the raw materials required for a sustainable future, and the steps that can be taken to improve their responsible management.

With examples of ongoing initiatives related to these themes, we hope to provoke discussion around the steps required at a grassroots level to ensure the sustained engagement of Earth scientists in the responsible management and extraction of raw materials.

[1] Gill, J. C. (2017). Geology and the sustainable development goals. Episodes, 40(1), 70-76.

[2] Stewart, I. S., & Gill, J. C. (2017). Social geology—integrating sustainability concepts into Earth sciences. Proceedings of the Geologists' Association, 128(2), 165-172.


Joel Gill is Founder/Executive Director of the not-for-profit organisation Geology for Global Development. Joel has a degree in Natural Sciences (Cambridge, UK), a Masters degree in Engineering Geology (Leeds, UK), and a PhD focused on multi-hazards and disaster risk reduction (King’s College London, UK). For the last decade, Joel has worked at the interface of Earth science and international development and plays a leading role internationally in championing the role of geoscience in delivering the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Joel is a Fellow and Trustee of the Geological Society of London, and an Associate Fellow of the Royal Commonwealth Society.

Geology for Global Development, Loughborough,

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