Solve pollution. Save lives. Protect the planet.

April 18, 2012

This July, we are returning to the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center in Italy to convene a third meeting of world leaders and experts on pollution, this time to create a global alliance to deal with legacy pollution at scale.

Our previous two meetings at the Bellagio Center, held in 2007 and 2012, were instrumental in bringing the issue of pollution to the world stage.  The Bellagio Center has incubated some of the most innovative ideas and has had a record of major impact, including meetings that led to the Green Revolution and the Global AIDS vaccine initiative.

As we get ready to take the fight against pollution to the next level, here is a look back at my statement about participating in that first conference as recounted in  Voices and Visions from Bellagio, which also includes contributions from other Bellagio Center participants such as Maya Angelou, Joseph Heller and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Creating change is difficult. Especially global change. Inspiration is one thing, but, as we have heard so often, 99 percent of work is really perspiration.

When we decided to tackle pollution at a global level, we knew we had an idea that was extremely important, that would save lives. But the problem is new to most people. The problem of pollution in developing countries has no think tanks, no networked conferences, no guest appearance presentations at Davos. But it kills millions, most of them children, and is inherently solvable.

To tackle this problem help is needed on all fronts. One organization cannot solve this on its own. Instead, we need to convince others that they can make a difference, and show them how. This has been Blacksmith’s strategy from the beginning, reaching out to decision-makers, showing them the problem and the solution, and coaxing them into action. Starting from zero, it’s a daunting process.

The Bellagio Center has been the most welcome partner in that process! We were fortunate to host the inaugural conference for the Health and Pollution Fund at the Center, which kicked off the process for dealing with global pollution. And because we had the resources of the Bellagio Center, we were able to attract the top people from many international agencies and governments to the conference, and gain their concurrence that this problem needs to be addressed. Our participants came from 12 countries, all at a senior level, and it was partly the thrill of visiting this beautiful and renowned place that brought them all together.

We are now well on the way to implementing a global strategy for dealing with pollution around the world. We could not have begun this process without Bellagio.

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