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“Geoscience made me think beyond my human experience”

Sade Agard is a graduate geologist, Chair of the not-for-profit organisation Area Code Foundation and member of the Geoscientist Contributors Team

16 May 2022

Pictured, above: Sade is building awareness in developing countries about the importance of geology

Tell us about your work
I work in sustainable geoscience, which integrates the unique skills of geoscientists in a way that contributes to positive sustainable development. Geoscientists are well placed to identify opportunities to alleviate issues such as global poverty and inequality.

What drew you to geoscience?
I studied geology because of a love for nature, but brought a background in Modern World History, a curiosity for human affairs and a desire to play a role in civic life. Studying geoscience helped me gain a sense of the beauty and yet vulnerability of life on Earth, and made me think beyond my own individual human experience. It also gave me a more comprehensive understanding of the impacts of climate change.

What are you currently working on?
Whilst studying and working in petroleum geoscience and engineering geology, I gained insights into the links between social and economic development, and the management of natural resources. However, all the projects I worked on were based in developed communities. Rather than providing geotechnical information for say, a luxurious basement, I wanted to use my expertise to improve the lives of those in more vulnerable situations. So, I set up the Area Code Foundation – a Registered Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. My role is to integrate geological knowledge into our projects to help drive social and economic growth, and ultimately alleviate poverty in developing communities.

Tell us about the Area Code Foundation
Learning about carbon capture and storage technologies challenged me to think about the ethics of aiming for net-zero carbon emissions for developing communities. Senegal, for example, relies on fossil fuels for economic and social growth, and it may not be practical or ethical for Senegal to aim for net zero in the same timeframe as developed nations. The Area Code Foundation aims to support developing communities through the energy transition.

Currently, we are working in Bambilor, a village near Dakar, Senegal. Their biggest issue is climate change-induced drought. The Sahara Desert is expanding at an unprecedented rate, threatening the security of people in Bambilor, whose livelihoods depend on agriculture. We take a community-led approach, for example, helping to connect community leaders with geophysicists who can carry out groundwater surveys, or with local university geoscience departments that can supply data on the regional geology.

Last year, we began regeneration of a local school, Gorom 3, installing electricity and toilets, and creating a garden. Many people do not appreciate how geology underpins much of what they rely on in their everyday lives or for their country’s economic development. We’re helping to build awareness by introducing a geology course to the curriculum at Gorom 3.

Our long-term vision is to connect with more developing communities. For example, sea-level rise and coastal erosion in Dakar threatens nearby homes, and we aim to provide geotechnical advice that can help create more resilient infrastructure.

What advice would you give to someone hoping to work in your field?
Philanthropic work requires cross-cultural awareness and communication skills that are rarely taught in geoscientific courses. Collaboration with a range of industry professionals is key. Geoscientists are vital to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and it is important that we clearly express our role and value for reaching these targets.

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