Going to chemical-industry events can sometimes be predictable, especially the run-of-the-mill financial results events where you can usually guess in advance which executives, public-relations people and journalists will be tagging along.
But just now and again
an event takes you by surprise. I attended the Helsinki Stakeholders' Day and
Chemicals Forum in
In the Commentary Blog you'll find my impressions of the main event, which will definitely stay with me for a long time.
But outside of the main hall it was some of the people I met from all walks of life who fascinated me.
We all know the
chemical industry is international, so we are accustomed to meeting different
nationalities when networking round an event. But can you beat this? On my
table at the gala dinner were people from
The stories they had to tell were also compelling. The Nicaraguan worked for an agency which tested for pesticide residues in agricultural workers there. "Now, I grow my own food and only eat organic," he declared.
The Kenyan worked for
a government ministry which attempts to control and monitor the import of
pharmaceuticals. He described the constant battle to stem the flow of
potentially unsafe generics from
My Ethiopian friend
described in great detail the country's religious history. Christianity
flourished there before it hit
Perhaps the most
interesting, though slightly depressing tale came from Mr
Cases of poisoning had arisen in people living in villages downriver of a mine. The ministry investigated and found the mining company had allowed toxic residues to leach into the groundwater and river.
Next, proceedings were begun against the company concerned and a case for prosecution organised. The case was proceeding well until word came "from upstairs" that the case must be dropped immediately. People at the highest level in government were protecting this company and the judiciary were not independent.
Despite this, the Zambian was proud of his country, especially of its free press though he added: "It's a shame they're not interested in environmental issues."
Chemicals journalism is truly a fascinating job.