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Voices

Energy 360: Leaving our corners for the radical middle: New Zealand sets an example

Energy underpins every aspect of modern life, yet it is often a source of conflict in society. Thus, considering the political ramifications of energy policies is both inevitable and important. But separating politics from science and economics can be difficult, in part because everyone, including me, has biases. Bias in and of itself is not bad; some might even consider it an unavoidable byproduct of knowledge (or the lack thereof). The challenge with energy policy discussions is to manage bias and potential conflicts of interest and conscience.

13 Sep 2013

Rescuing geologic maps during a coup

The author shows a map of the geomorphology of northern Afghanistan to Afghan President Hamid Karzai and others at the University of Nebraska in Omaha in 2005.

02 Sep 2013

Geologic Column: Assessing energy and mining workforce needs

In his 1971 book, “Encounters with the Archdruid,” John McPhee quoted Charles Park, an economic geologist who worked at the U.S. Geological Survey and then Stanford University, who said, “People seldom stop to think that all these things — planes in the air, cars on the road, Sierra Club cups — once, somewhere, were rock. Our whole economy — our way of doing things, most of what we have, even our culture — rests on these things.” Although McPhee’s emphasis was on the balance between environmental protection and our societal need for raw materials, the book highlighted the fundamental importance of energy exploration and mining, an idea that implies still another significant message: Our society needs scientists, engineers and skilled laborers who can locate and extract raw materials and energy sources from the rocks beneath our feet in order to power our economy and our way of life.

16 Aug 2013

Core skills in the geosciences: The geoblogosphere chimes in on what students need to know

Last April, I had a discussion with some of my fellow graduate students in the geology department at the University at Buffalo, the State University of New York (SUNY Buffalo) about teaching. One topic raised by those of us working with senior undergraduates was the skills our students would need to have by the time they left the department.

13 Aug 2013

Blogging on EARTH: A letter from field camp

Bryce Mitsunaga, a recent graduate of Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., is currently attending field camp at the Yellowstone-Bighorn Research Association camp located in the Beartooth Mountain Range outside of Red Lodge, Mont. In honor of EARTH's August feature on field camps, Bryce wrote in with some reflections on his experiences so far.

24 Jul 2013

Geologic Column: Sometimes, the sky really is falling

Airplane pilots have a long history of using euphemisms to minimize the sense of risk in their work. Pilot-speak for crashing an airplane, for example, is “ruining your entire day.” In the same parlance, encountering an asteroid could cause all of us to have a very, very bad day. But maybe our close calls — such as the fireball that flew over Russia in February — can serve as reminders to renew our focus on searching for and understanding objects that could, literally, impact our planet.

12 May 2013

How the NC-20 Succeeded

The basic motivation of the NC-20 is financial; the group is withholding information about coastal hazards from the public in order to keep area real estate and tourist markets up and running. None of the NC-20 leadership is qualified in any aspect of climate change science, but they certainly are savvy in the ways of public relations and information spinning. They are quite capable of reading the literature and exaggerating the uncertainties inherent to good science.

21 Apr 2013

Blogging on EARTH: Spring has sprung, at least in some places

Spring was nowhere to be found during my recent three weeks of travel through Europe; not in the olive orchards of southern Italy, the cobbled streets of Copenhagen, or the banks of the Danube as it winds through central Vienna. Instead, winter has dragged on stubbornly — the worst in 43 years — leaving behind relict patches of snow in shadowy alleys and warning new leaves not to adorn the bare branches of trees with vernal green.

19 Apr 2013

Geologic Column: You gotta have a plan

Early in the 1990 film “Tremors,” the character Earl criticizes his colleague, played by Kevin Bacon, for not having a plan. “Valentine, you never plan ahead. You never take the long view. I mean, here it is Monday, and I’m already thinking of Wednesday,” Earl says. “It is Monday, right?”
 
Of course, “Tremors” has a lot going for it: funny dialog, great scenery, monster subterranean worms, a female seismologist, and, of course, Kevin Bacon. But the messages about planning ahead whenever possible and improvising when necessary are ones that every earth scientist will appreciate.
17 Mar 2013

Highlights of 2012: Climate 2012 - A window into what to expect for 2013 and beyond?

July 2012 was the hottest month by far for the lower 48 states. Much of the nation faced drought conditions that grew steadily worse throughout the summer, and there were major repercussions for crop yields and food prices. Wildfires were also rampant. The record low snowpack in May 2012 in the Colorado Rockies set the stage for major wildfires in June, with more than 600 homes lost in Colorado alone. Wildfires developed in other regions in July as well, as tremendous record-breaking heat developed in Oklahoma and surrounding areas. Considered individually, the record temperatures, droughts, fires and diminished snowpack are not necessarily alarming and may not signal anything beyond the natural occurrence of a hotter-than-average year. But combined, these indicators are much more significant from a climate standpoint. They highlight that there is more than just natural variability playing a role: Global warming has reared its head in a way that can only be a major warning for the future. So, what can we expect?

25 Nov 2012

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