Richard Fuller (environmentalist)

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Richard Fuller
Born 1960
Residence New York
Citizenship U.S. and Australian
Occupation Founder, Blacksmith Institute/Pure Earth
Known for global pollution remediation efforts

Richard Fuller OAM (born 1960) is an Australian-born, U.S.-based engineer, entrepreneur and environmentalist best known for his work in global pollution remediation. In June 2018, he was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in recognition of his service to conservation and the environment.[1]

He is founder and president of the nonprofit Blacksmith Institute[2] (renamed Pure Earth in 2015[3]) dedicated to solving pollution problems in low and middle-income countries, where human health is at risk. He is also founder of the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution, and Co-Chair of the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health, an initiative of The Lancet, the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution, and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, with additional coordination and input from United Nations Environment, United Nations Industrial Development Organization, and the World Bank. Early in his career he established Great Forest, Inc.,[4] a sustainability consultancy in the U.S., which he continues to serve as President.

In 2017, Fuller issued an open letter to mark the release of the report from The Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health.[5] The report revealed that pollution is the largest environmental cause of death in the world, killing over 9 million people worldwide, threatening the "continuing survival of human societies."[6] The report generated immense global interest, with news coverage worldwide including the Guardian[7] and PBS Newshour.[8] Fuller presented the report [9] at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos in February 2018.

In 2010, he was profiled in Time magazine's Power of One column[10] about his efforts fighting global pollution. In 2014, Bloomberg Businessweek chronicled the growth of Pure Earth and Fuller's work on toxic pollution problems around the world, including a dangerous cleanup of a secret former Soviet arms site in the Ukraine.[11]

In 2014, the UN Dispatch profiled Fuller's work[12] helping to shape the Sustainable Development Goals. Working with Pure Earth and the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution, Fuller was part of a global team that successfully worked to broaden the scope of toxic pollution addressed in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).[13]

In 2015, Santa Monica Press published "The Brown Agenda: My Mission To Clean Up The World's Most Life-Threatening Pollution", written by Fuller and Damon DiMarco. The book documents his adventures at some of the world's most toxic locations, and introduces readers to the plight of the poisoned poor, suggesting specific ways in which anyone can help combat brown sites all over the world.[14]

"We've already solved most of the pollution problems in the West. There aren't people dying in droves in the U.S. or in England - they're all dying overseas, in low- and middle-income countries," the author of "The Brown Agenda" told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.[15]

In a 2015 interview with John Hockenberry on The Takeaway on NPR, Fuller noted the differences in approaches to climate change and pollution: "... over the last couple of decades, climate change has taken over as the key environmental issue. So now we find that the agenda of these countries is biodiversity and climate change, and pollution has simply dropped off the map. This is an extraordinary result and one we really need to turn around."[16]

Early career[edit]

After a stint in IBM, Fuller headed to the Amazon rainforest to work on global environmental issues with the United Nations Environmental Programme. He then brought his experience to New York, establishing Great Forest Inc. to work on greening commercial buildings and corporations in the pioneering days of corporate social responsibility. Realizing that enhancing sustainability practices to corporations alone would not have enough impact on global environmental issues, Fuller started Blacksmith Institute to tackle the problem on a larger scale.[17]

Advocacy against Life-Threatening Pollution[edit]

Fuller believes that pollution is one of the most serious problems facing the earth.[18] "The health of roughly 100 million people is at risk from pollution in developing countries."[19]

"A particular the accumulating and long-lasting burden (of pollution) building up in the environment and in the bodies of the people most directly affected."[20]

In 2010, Fuller was profiled in Time magazine’s Power of One column[10] for the impact he has made in fighting life-threatening pollution worldwide.[21] The article pointed to Fuller’s success in raising awareness about the issue of toxic pollution in low and middle- income countries - one of the most underreported and underfunded global problems.[22]

In 2014, Bloomberg Businessweek chronicled Blacksmith/Pure Earth's growth, led by Fuller's global work against toxic pollution. The article offers a behind-the-scenes look at how Fuller came upon a secret abandoned chemicals weapons factory site in the Ukraine that was sitting on top of a forgotten "bomb", and worked to make the site safe before the onset of hostilities in the area.[11] The article also explains: "Fuller’s mission is to help kids play safely on the beach or bathe in a river, not save spotted owls and polar bears. He also knew he wanted to serve the poor, because “the U.S. has the resources to clean up its own Superfund sites.” Mostly, he didn’t want to be another nongovernmental organization dedicated merely to raising awareness."[11]

Although toxic pollution is widespread, Fuller believes that it is one global problem that can be solved. “There’s a finite number of polluted sites out there, and you can fix them for relatively little.”[23] "The good news is we have known technologies and proven strategies for eliminating a lot of this pollution."[24]

Blacksmith Institute (now Pure Earth)[edit]

In 1999, Fuller established Blacksmith Institute to focus on pollution remediation. Over the years, Blacksmith has completed over 50 pollution cleanup projects around the world.[25]

In 2011, he received the UN-backed Green Star Award on behalf of Blacksmith.[26] The award recognized Blacksmith's work in environmental emergencies, particularly for its response efforts during the 2010 Nigeria lead poisoning crisis, which killed hundreds of children.[27]

Fuller created a number of initiatives that established a model for global pollution cleanup. They include the Blacksmith Index, developed with Johns Hopkins University and used around the world to rate levels of health risk from pollution; and the Blacksmith database, now known as The Toxic Sites Identification Program (TSIP), which endeavours to identify and screen contaminated sites in low- and middle-income countries where public health is at risk. The TSIP has identified more than 3,100 polluted sites, and screened more than 1,800 sites, representing a potential health risk to more than 80 million poor people.[25] Under Fuller, Blacksmith also began the Global Inventory Project, sending researchers out across 80 countries to hunt out and access highly polluted hotspots.[28]

Fuller is also responsible for the creation and launch of the annual World's Worst Polluted Places Reports;[29] and the publication of the Blacksmith Journal of Health and Pollution,[30] which promotes and brings together academic research on the health effects of life-threatening toxic pollution. He also contributes to The Pollution Blog.

In 2008, Fuller began efforts to create the global Health and Pollution Fund, a superfund-inspired initiative to finance the cleanup and elimination of legacy pollution in the low and middle-income countries. This effort eventually led to the formation of the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (GAHP),[31] the first coordinated international effort to tackle pollution on a global scale.[32]


  1. ^ "2018 Recipients Medal of Order of Australia, Queen's Birthday Honours". The Australian. June 11, 2018.
  2. ^ "Pollution l Blacksmith Institute l Solving Pollution Problems. Saving Lives".
  3. ^ "Press Release: Blacksmith Institute Announces Name Change". Pure Earth. March 10, 2015. Retrieved 2018-01-02.
  4. ^ "Home - Great Forest". Great Forest.
  5. ^ "The Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health". The Lancet. 391. October 19, 2017.
  6. ^ "The Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health". The Lancet. 391: Introduction. October 19, 2017.
  7. ^ "Global pollution kills 9m a year and threatens 'survival of human societies'". The Guardian. October 20, 2017.
  8. ^ "Pollution causes one in six deaths worldwide". PBS NewsHour. Oct 21, 2017.
  9. ^ "The Big Picture on Pollution | Richard Fuller & Jeffrey Drazen". YouTube. April 2018.
  10. ^ a b Walsh, Bryan (18 October 2010). "Power of One" – via
  11. ^ a b c "The Chemical Weapons Ukrainian Separatists Didn't Get". 15 September 2014 – via
  12. ^ "Meet a 2015-er: Richard Fuller". UN Dispatch. United Nations. April 8, 2015.
  13. ^ "Meet a 2015-er: Richard Fuller - UN Dispatch". 8 April 2015.
  14. ^ Fuller, Richard. "The poisoned poor: In poor countries man-made toxic pollutants spread like cancer. Here's why you should care". Salon.
  15. ^ Foundation, Thomson Reuters. "Tackle pollution to stop biggest killer of poor - author".
  16. ^ "The Takeaway" (Pollution: The Deadliest Killer in the Developing World). Retrieved 14 December 2015.
  17. ^ Bumgarner, Alice (Jan 27, 2009). "Breakthrough Solutions For One Of Earth's Biggest Challenges". Idea Connection. Retrieved Sep 7, 2011.
  18. ^ "Board of Directors". Archived from the original on 2012-07-29. Retrieved 9 September 2011.
  19. ^ Beth, Buczynski. "Top Six Toxic Threats Revealed in New Report". EcoSpheric. Retrieved 9 September 2011.
  20. ^ "World's Pollution Hotspots Mapped". BBC News. Oct 18, 2006. Retrieved 9 September 2011.
  21. ^ Walsh, Bryan (18 October 2010). "Power of One" – via
  22. ^ Walsh, Bryan (Oct 18, 2010). "Power of One". Time. Retrieved Sep 7, 2011.
  23. ^ walsh, Bryan (Oct 18, 2010). "Power of One". Time magazine. Retrieved 7 September 2011.
  24. ^ Herbauch, Tracee (Oct 18, 2006). "10 Million People At Risk From Pollution". Washington Post/AP. Retrieved 9 September 2011.
  25. ^ a b "Fact Sheet". Archived from the original on 2010-10-30. Retrieved 9 September 2011.
  26. ^ "Green Star Award".
  27. ^ "The Green Star Awards Recognize Planet's Heroes". Treehugger. May 25, 2011. Retrieved 9 September 2011.
  28. ^ Gardner, Timothy (Feb 19, 2009). "Hunt Begins for World's Most Polluted Places". Reuters. Retrieved 9 September 2011.
  29. ^ ":: : Reports".
  30. ^ "Journal of Health and Pollution".
  31. ^ "Home - GAHP". GAHP.
  32. ^ ": Blacksmith Institute : Dynpages".

External links[edit]