Taxonomy term

Voices

Crystal Ball EARTH: Natural Hazards: Reducing society's risks

The global financial disaster of 2009 has many parallels with catastrophic natural hazards. It struck pretty much without warning, its impact was greatly exacerbated by an incredibly complex system of cascading consequences, and finally, mechanisms supposedly in place to mitigate the worse impacts (regulations, in the case of the financial system) failed. There was awareness that such a meltdown could theoretically occur, but it was considered such a low-probability event that it was evidently not worth planning for.

11 Dec 2009

Crystal Ball EARTH: Agriculture: The future will have a different face than the past

Tomorrow’s agriculture is facing an immense challenge. By 2050, the world’s population will reach somewhere between 9 billion and 10 billion people, and a greater proportion of those people will be enjoying a richer diet than today’s population. That means farmers will have to grow twice as much food. The world has already witnessed a preview of what might happen if large populations don’t receive an adequate supply of food: They do not accept their fates passively.

04 Dec 2009

Crystal Ball EARTH: Energy: A fool's look into the future

In the 1985 classic “Back to the Future,” Doc Brown, the mad scientist played by Christopher Lloyd, queries his time-traveling visitor, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox), in 1955 about the future of America with the simple question of who was president. The answer of Ronald Reagan appeared astounding and ridiculous, as his name was on a movie poster at the time.

04 Dec 2009

Crystal Ball EARTH: Energy: Oil and gas around the world

Energy is a combined product of natural resources, human ingenuity and economy; it is also an engine for economic and social development. This is truer now than ever before because the global economy is more integrated and populations are growing, and with that, competition, challenges and prospects are also rising.

01 Dec 2009

Three Cheers for Peak Oil!

After decades of back-and-forth, the debate about peak oil boils down to two points of contention: Is peak oil real, and is it cause for concern? But instead of arguing tired positions that don’t seem to be converging on consensus, maybe it’s time we shift our tack and instead see what we can do to bring about the peak as soon as possible.

08 Jun 2009

Oil barrel politics

As a new president and Congress entered office in January, current events continue to keep energy in the forefront of national concern. Volatile prices, resource depletion, climate change and national security impacts of energy trade have become a part of daily news and policy discussion. Americans will be watching the new policymakers to see how they respond to energy concerns. How they treat energy research and development — particularly the amount of funds dedicated to R&D, and the portion of that R&D that is allocated through earmarks — will be telling.

08 Apr 2009

Running into the brick wall of Creationism again

I had recently moved to a new community and begun a new job. One night I was dining with some potential new friends. Upon learning that I am both a Christian and a passionate student of geology, one of my dinner mates proclaimed, “So, I suppose you believe in evolution, right? Well, I need to let you know that I HATE evolution.” I somehow managed to keep my cool. “And exactly why do you hate evolution?” I queried. “My minister has taught us that it is false Christian teaching,” she retorted. By that time, I could not hold myself back.

31 Mar 2009

Geologic Column: Saving the World? Or Just Saving Money?

It all started with a reporter.

I had just signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, which pledges that my university will try to decrease its carbon footprint and develop a plan to become carbon neutral, when a reporter from the local newspaper challenged my personal credentials, my knowledge of and commitment to the environment. Forget my background as an earth scientist, the many years I taught environmental geology, the summers I worked at a conservation-education camp. He wanted to know what kind of car I drove.

31 Oct 2008

The art of un-legislating

Taking public approval ratings at face value, it would be easy to conclude that the legislative branch of our government is motivated by an unfortunate blend of incompetence and arrogance. Certainly the repeated and well-documented failures of Congress to act on issues of national significance and its tendency to substitute rhetoric and pork barrel spending for meaningful action provide ample fodder for this well-worn reputation.

30 Sep 2008

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