Q&A with “Slumdog Millionaire”: Dev Patel on his Belated Birthday Present – A Pure Earth

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Dev Patel with Freida Pinto at the inaugural PURE EARTH benefit gala in NYC on April 26, 2014.

Happy Birthday Dev Patel!

Just three days after Patel’s 24th birthday on April 23, the young actor/activist helped Blacksmith launch a new campaign called Pure Earth at the inaugural Pure Earth benefit gala in NYC. Patel called Pure Earth “the single greatest present!”

With Patel’s help, we raised crucial money needed for cleaning up contaminated children’s play spaces and for conducting other life-saving remediation around the world.

We are grateful for his commitment and look forward to working with Patel on raising awareness about the threat toxic pollution poses to poor children who live in some of the world’s worst polluted places.

Why is he passionate about this crucial issue?  Patel tells us:

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Dev Patel speaks to the crowd at the inaugural PURE EARTH benefit gala in NYC on April 26, 2014. telling them about this “eye-opening experience” in India.

Why is this issue important to you? Why did you choose to get involved?

First of all I believe that toxic pollution is an extremely underreported issue. Even I wasn’t aware of how big the problem was until a couple of years ago when I went on a research trip for a film project to Bhopal India. I witnessed first-hand the appalling conditions the poor families had to face every day who live near the Union Carbide factory, which is now an abandoned toxic hotspot. I was deeply moved by the struggles of these people and began to understand how industrial pollution in the soil and water can lead to birth defects, wide spread disease, high cancer rates, and low life expectancy. When Richard Fuller approached me to get involved with Blacksmith and their worldwide cleanup, I jumped at the opportunity.

Did your experience starring in SlumDog Millionaire motivate you to advocate for the “Poisoned Poor”?

At 17 years old, shooting in India was a very eye-opening experience. We shot in many slums in the city. Most of the families living in these slums are just trying to survive and don’t know the work they are doing is slowing killing them. It’s not as simple as going into these areas and shouting “Stop what you’re doing, it’s killing you”! In many cases they have no option but to continue, otherwise they won’t be able to feed their families, and they’ll die of starvation. The great strategy about Pure Earth is that they go in and educate these local communities and provide them with healthier alternatives. For instance, gold mining is a very big source of income in India. Richard and the team have found that using borax, which is found in regular household cleaners and detergents, can be used in gold extraction instead of mercury which is highly poisonous.

E-waste scavenging, car battery breaking and small-scale gold mining appeal to families without economic alternatives. Most often, they do not know the work is toxic and don’t understand why their children are dying. And other times, when they do know, they say they would rather die of lead or mercury poisoning than starvation. We need to provide healthier alternatives and hope for these poor families who don’t have many options.”

We understand you helped Richard Fuller select the name Pure Earth and helped design the new logo. How did you come up with the name?

I thought the charity could have a more positive name with a global appeal that defines the good Blacksmith is doing around the world. They are literally “purifying the earth!” Pure Earth reminds me of people, communities, positivity and well-being. Richard is an extremely open and receptive leader, so when I brought the idea to him, he loved it and got the team working on rebranding the logo and website.

Why Pure Earth/Blacksmith Institute? 

Richard and the team at Pure Earth know how to get this work done and how to bring together powerful groups of collaborators to work with the local communities to solve these problems. When a cleanup is finished and deadly chemicals are removed, the local community immediately sees the benefits; health and life expectancy improves dramatically and the environment is restored. This will help the economic structure of these communities too.

You recently completed filming Chappie with director Neill Blomkamp, due out March 2015. Does Chappie address themes of environmental destruction and social breakdown similar to Elysium?

This movie doesn’t, but Neill is a very environmentally conscious filmmaker, and I can’t wait for the world to see CHAPPIE.

What impact do you hope to make with your involvement in Pure Earth?

I hope to open eyes and save lives.

How can others get involved and help?

Visit the website and see how you can be a part of the amazing work Pure Earth is doing.

Read the press release.  See more PHOTOS.

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