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2008 Earth Day Event

Claudia McMurray, Assistant Secretary for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
Remarks to...
Washington, DC
April 22, 2008

Good morning, and welcome to the Department of State. We are very pleased that all of you could join us today as we celebrate Earth Day 2008.

We are especially pleased to see so many colleagues from diplomatic missions here in Washington, and we are thrilled to have a sizeable student delegation from Thomas Jefferson High School – the “science high school” – in Virginia here with us.

Before introducing our speakers, I would like to give you a little background on how we came up with today’s topic, “Science and Technology working for the Environment”.

It is very clear that our planet faces an array of daunting environmental problems. In many cases, it is difficult to find easy or quick solutions to them.

In some cases, environmental challenges are likely to become even more difficult to solve in the future, as more and more people place greater and greater demands on the Earth and its ecosystems – ecosystems that support all living things.

Every day, you see on the Internet, on television, or in the newspapers some new report on the environment. Sometimes the news can be very discouraging.

We all know that the Earth is a fragile place. We are increasingly aware that the things we do and the things we don’t do will affect it – not only today but tomorrow, for our children and their children.

At the same time, we have a lot to be optimistic about. Human beings – especially Americans – are innovative and can adapt quickly to change.

Increasingly, we are finding ways to apply our talents and knowledge to address environmental problems.

In many areas, scientists of all stripes are making strong contributions and finding solutions to some of the most serious challenges before us. So rather than dwell on the challenges, we thought it appropriate this year to focus on some of the solutions.

To that end, we have four speakers this morning who will show you what science and technology are doing to help solve environmental problems.

First, Dr. Fernando Echavarria will discuss how we are using technologies to address the infrastructure needs that rapidly growing urban areas are facing.

Second, William Gibbons-Fly will demonstrate how technology has been used to reduce the threat to endangered sea turtles from shrimp fishing.

Third, Dr. Compton Tucker of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration will talk about how remote sensing is helping to fight a killer infectious disease – Rift Valley fever in East Africa.

And finally, Dr. Robert Rudnitsky will discuss some of the environmental benefits from nanotechnology, particularly with regard to clean water and energy.

Robert will be making a video presentation today because he had to be in Paris where he chairs the Nanotechnology Working Group of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development – the OECD.

With the exception of Dr. Tucker, all of today’s presenters work in my bureau – the Bureau of Oceans, Environment and Science or OES as it is known here in the State Department.

We in OES are acutely aware of the important role that science and technology plays addressing environmental problems – and of the growing need for scientific and technological expertise in diplomacy.

A significant number of our staff are current or former fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. As we celebrate Earth Day today, we also celebrate the strong partnership that we have built with the AAAS and the science community.

And now for our first speaker – Fernando…the floor is yours!

Thank you all for contributing to this robust discussion. U.S. science and technology capability remains one of the most admired aspects of American society around the world.

We recognize the promise science and technology offers to advance American national interests, protect the global environment, and promote the freedom and dignity of others.

Science and technology empowers everyone to raise themselves up by developing their own human and intellectual capacity. Science and science education can play an important role in fostering dialogue, increasing innovation, and addressing global needs.



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