Family trips, liberation from lists and other musings from 2014

by Christopher Keane
Thursday, October 30, 2014

Editor’s Note: We asked our staff and some frequent contributors to write a short commentary on something that they had been thinking about in 2014. We gave everyone carte blanche. What follows is a collection of extremely varied, often very personal insights into how the planet impacted each individual.

Credit: Kathleen Cantner, AGI.

For our 2014 year-end issue, we decided to continue a new tradition begun last year, once again asking the EARTH editorial team and several of our regular contributors to offer short commentaries on topics that caught their fancy or ideas they’ve been mulling over the course of the year. Last year, we saw a wide diversity of pieces both by topic and approach, covering everything from the severe Colorado Front Range floods to the connection between zombies and energy.

This year we see some of that same diversity, although most of the contributions seem to tie into one of two themes: lists and family. Of course, lists at the end of the year are fairly typical, but these lists aren’t your usual “best of” and “worst of” lists. Instead, they’re lists of ways that the earth sciences have caused self-reflection and recognition of not only our physical place in the world, but also our contextual place in the world.

Chris' kids at the Very Large Array in New Mexico. Credit: Christopher M. Keane.

The theme of family loops through many of this year’s reflections as well, tying outdoor experiences together with the ever-evolving relationship between parents and children. This link also impacted me this year, as I had the chance to take my children to some favorite field areas in New Mexico, such as experiencing geologic time while hiking in the Quebradas Backcountry, exploring various Malpa√≠s, and even getting exposed to the universe’s immensity by stopping at the Very Large Array in the Plains of San Agustin over the summer. The boys found themselves immersed in many new natural and cultural settings, and they thoroughly enjoyed themselves. As a parent, I see the profound, character-building effect that experiential learning has on them, and I recognize the importance of providing opportunities for kids to learn the context of their place in the broader world. Doing so with the help of our wonderful planet and through an understanding of its processes, to me, is most satisfying.

What have you been mulling over this year? What’s been your favorite experience of the last year? Share with us at, or on Facebook ( or Twitter (@earthmagazine).

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