One of the great things about being in DC now is that I really am in the heart of where public policy is made! But the downside is that I feel that I have left chemistry except for when I flip through C&EN and scroll through my twitter feed. #ChemCoach! Therefore, I feel like I am still trying to find where chemistry fits in to public policy.
Nonetheless, being in DC allows for me to attend a large number of talks and events centered around science policy. Early October, I attended a talk by Dr. Kerri-Ann Jones, the Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs. It was a great overview of where science fits into diplomacy at the State Department. For example, I did not realize that Wildlife Trafficking is not just a trade concern, but also a public health issue due to diseases being transmitted through unconventional pathways. Dr. Jones mentioned a lab in Ashland, Oregon that is taking the basic science of understanding the baseline animal migration patterns to better distinguish where a pelt could have originated and the path it took as a result of humans.
The State Department also participates in partnerships that can help countries like Indonesia lower their greenhouse gas emissions. Along the lines of environmental diplomacy, Dr. Jones spoke of talks within the UN to develop a Mercury Treaty to reduce the use of mercury globally. I wished that Dr. Jones would have talked more about the process for the development of a practical guide of non-mercury alternatives for the mining of artisanal gold. The mining of artisanal gold employs 12 to 15 million people in 70 countries.  How are the guides being distributed? Are these alternatives as economically viable? However, it was great to hear about policy solutions that science can help solve to ensure the safety and health of these miners and their economic livelihood.