In Memoriam: Kirk R. Smith, Environmental Champion for the Poor

June 22, 2020
Kirk R. Smith, a pioneering researcher in the deadly risks of indoor air pollution in the developing world and an early voice raising concern about the health consequences of climate change, died June 15 at the age of 73 at his Berkeley home, following a stroke and subsequent cardiac arrest.

Smith was a professor of global environmental health at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health and director of the Collaborative Clean Air Policy Centre in New Delhi. He was an environmental titan who championed the poor and disenfranchised, especially rural women and children in the developing world.

“Kirk showed an overwhelming commitment to the poor and the planet, and in fact showed us how we were failing both,” said Professor Justin Remais, head of the Division of Environmental Health Sciences at Berkeley Public Health, who first met Professor Smith as a Berkeley undergraduate in 1998.

“He had an eye for identifying in plain sight neglected public health crises both contemporary and looming,” said Remais. “Kirk was the kind of scholar who, where there is tremendous societal suffering and need, doesn’t just contribute to a field but creates new ones to address them.”