SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
  21 June 2012
Volume 13 Issue 6

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Teamwork Will Move Mountains: A Tale from SETAC Asia/Pacific

Kenny Leung, SETAC Asia/Pacific President

There is a Chinese folktale called "The Foolish Old Man Removes Mountains." In this story, an old man called Yu Kung (i.e., a foolish old man) was determined to remove a mountain that was blocking the path from his home to the market. No one believed that he could achieve his goal. However, when his family members saw that he went on and on digging ground and removing soils and rocks every day, they were moved by his passion and joined him in action. The old man also noticed that he might not be able to see the completion of the project, and thus he instructed his children and relatives to be persistent in removing the mountain through generations. Of course, the story had a happy ending that the mountain was eventually removed and village people could enjoy the fast route to the market.

I like this story very much as I think I am only one of many SETAC family members who contribute to "removing the mountain" and building SETAC Asia/Pacific (SAP). Our first old but very wise man would be Graeme Batley, who took the initiative to establish SAP in 1996 and serve as our founding president (1996-2003). Subsequently, we had more "wise old men" serve as SAP presidents, including Chris Hickey (2003-2004), Young-Hwa Kim (2004-2006), Shu Tao (2006-2008), Mike McLaughlin (2008-2010) and myself (2010-2012). Most importantly, we have many other dedicated SETAC family members who have served on the SAP board of directors over the past 17 years. Without their contributions, the growth of SAP would not have been possible. SAP now has more than 500 members and has been developing its Australasian, Japanese and Chinese regional chapters. Yu Kung’s story illustrates the saying, "where there's a will, there's a way"; however the goal cannot be achieved without persistent and continuous teamwork and succession through generations. I believe that all past SAP presidents and members are very pleased to witness the expansion and formalisation of our geographic unit.

During the past two years, our board of directors has revised and updated our SAP constitution and by-laws while establishing guidelines for sustaining members, guidelines for conference support and awards for members and students. We have also formalised the election procedure for selecting directors to the SAP board and started regular international conference call meetings amongst the directors. These little steps have gradually shaped up our geographic unit which will become more accountable, efficient and transparent in its operation.

Group photo
A group photo taken at the very successful EQSPAE 2011 conference held at the University of Hong Kong during December 2011.

SAP continuously puts emphasis on its core mission to promote the advancement and application of scientific research related to environmental toxicology and chemistry, foster research collaboration among members from different countries within the Asia/Pacific region, provide training to people in developing nations and research postgraduate students, and encourage the use of science in environmental policy and decision-making. To achieve these goals, both SAP and our Australasian chapter have proactively organised international conferences and regional training workshops over the past two years. For instance, just last year we successfully organised two international conferences – Envirotox 2011 in Darwin, Australia (April) and the International Conference on Deriving Environmental Quality Standards for the Protection of Aquatic Ecosystems (EQSPAE-2011) in Hong Kong, China (December) – and two workshops – (a workshop on a risk-based approach for minimizing off-site impacts of pesticides held in New Delhi, India in January 2011 and a workshop on setting research priorities for pharmaceuticals and personal care products in the environment, held in Adelaide in October 2011). This year the Australasian annual meeting will be held in Brisbane, Australia from 4-6 July.

Most excitingly, there will be the biannual SAP meeting in Kumamoto, Japan, 24-27 September 2012. So far, we have already received more than 390 abstracts for the Kumamoto meeting. In April, I visited Kumamoto and had a meeting with the conference chairman, Prof. Koji Arizono (the current Vice President of SAP), and his conference organising team at the conference venue. Koji and his team have already made wonderful arrangements for the conference delegates. For example, if the weather allows, we will have the rare opportunity to host our conference dinner at the Kumamoto Castle, which is a magnificent historically handcrafted building. To make such a special arrangement, Koji untiringly had a number of meetings with various government officials to obtain an exceptional approval. I would also like to mention that the natural scenery in Kumamoto is highly spectacular; for example, you will enjoy taking an old train through the beautiful countryside to reach the famous Aso volcanic mountain, where you can see the mouth of an active volcano and its surrounding natural beauty. After the SAP meeting, there will be a two-day free workshop on recent advances in mercury toxicology and human health that will be held in the Minimata Disease Archives, Minamata City, Kumamoto. All workshop participants will have a chance to follow a guided tour to visit the old Minamata City and learn more about the historical mercury poisoning events.

Kumamoto Meeting Organizers
From left to right: Kenny Leung, Prof. Koji Arizono, Kumiko Sekiguchi and Meiko Shioya having a conference organisation meeting at the SAP Kumamoto Meeting venue (i.e., ANA Kumamoto Newsky Hotel) in April 2012. The meeting has been well organised by Koji and his team in Japan.

It is still possible to submit late abstracts for the Kumamoto meeting, and early bird registration will remain open until 24 August 2012. I sincerely hope you will not miss these two special, unforgettable events: Kumamoto SAP meeting and Minamata workshop.

In 2013, SAP will co-organise the 2nd International Conference on Environmental Pollution, Restoration and Management in Hanoi, Vietnam, from 4-8 March 2013. We also intend to organise more training workshops in developing nations such as India, Sri Lanka and Thailand. To enable succession of our membership, we also provide free SETAC memberships to students from developing nations within the region. The SAP board of directors is also considering setting up a postgraduate members’ committee that will organise social activities, meetings and training events for our younger generation.

Time passes very quickly, and I am going to step down this coming September at the Kumamoto meeting. After that, I will still be removing the mountain with other SETAC members by playing a different role, and I will still be eager to jointly make our world a better, more sustainable place for mankind and other living organisms.

All in all, being a foolish "old" man is not a bad idea.

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