True interdisciplinary approaches to improve the role of geosciences in sustainability issues

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The geosciences have a substantial contribution to make for society on the issue of sustainability, however, very often that contribution is not effectively heard.  This stems from both a communication issue and a failure to be visible in its engagement of contributing to the betterment of humanity as we intensify our demands on natural resources and encroach on zones of higher risk.  In building out various communication and interdisciplinary efforts at AGI, much can be said for how the geosciences are perceived and why it is often the quietest voice in an the effort for which it often isn’t even recognized as a participant.

The geosciences need to frame its mission squarely to society in the context of human needs and economic reality, and build effective partnerships with other disciplines that are affecting measurable change.  The geosciences need to improve its collaboration across societal sectors, partnering with other disciplines, such as economics, public health, and policy in an effort to work to address what are collective needs and issues.

Too often in science, fear is used to stimulate responses from public officials and the public, but this approach is a core driver of the negative view of science taken by many quarters.  Rather, substantial opportunities exist for the geosciences to join solution building efforts and to establish itself as the logic broker of earth-related issues for sustainability in the global society in which we live.  The engineering community is well-established in these efforts where societal and environmental impacts are well measured against the local and whole economic benefits.  But with the rising issue of water, both as a resource and a hazard, the geosciences have an opportunity to be solution builders, working intensely with other disciplines to provide realistic and achievable results that in the end improve the human condition today, and thus provides us a clear place in the communication of sustainability issues to the public and media.

  • Christopher Keane*
  • Geological Society of America Annual Meeting 2006