Friday, July 3, 2020

IAPG supports the
International Declaration released during the EGU General Assembly 2020

The IAPG - International Association for Promoting Geoethics officially supports the Declaration of the Significance of Geoscience Expertise to Meet Global Societal Challenges. The declaration was promoted by EGU, AGU, AOGS, GSA, JpGU, GSL.

Silvia Peppoloni (IAPG Secretary General) signed the Declaration on behalf of the IAPG.

This Declaration in the EGU - European Geosciences Union website:

Declaration of the Significance of Geoscience Expertise to Meet Global Societal Challenges


Humanity today faces many societal challenges whose escalating scope, interconnection and urgency could jeopardize achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Our ability to anticipate and meet both current challenges and future issues depends in large part upon facilitating innovative science and technology as the most effective means to comprehend the origins of these challenges and to establish successful strategies for mitigating and addressing them.

The international geoscience community possesses much of the specialised knowledge, skills and expertise necessary to provide the essential resources and healthy environments that humanity needs to thrive. The world’s geoscience expertise helps to ensure reliable supplies of mineral, energy and ecological resources; satisfy human and environmental requirements for clean water, clean air and fertile soils; manage wastes to protect the environment; bolster public health; and build societal resilience to the short- and long-term effects of a range of natural and anthropogenic hazards.


In recognition of the significance of international cooperation in science, technology and innovation, and particularly within the Earth, planetary and space science community, the European Geosciences Union, the American Geophysical Union, the Asia Oceania Geosciences Society, the Geological Society of America, the Japan Geoscience Union and The Geological Society of London declare our commitment to work together to support and promote all forms of geoscience research.

As signatory societies, we recognise our shared responsibility to:

  1. Devise strategies to protect and sustainably develop vital resources for present and future generations;
  2. Utilise scientific research results to increase societal resilience to single, multiple and potentially interrelated threats, support global wellbeing, and help humanity prevent, better prepare for, and recover from local, regional and global crises;
  3. Impartially analyse risks associated with natural and anthropogenic hazards, including individual and cascading perils, and support comprehensive, forward-thinking solutions that directly address these issues;
  4. Promote widespread access to scientific methods, research and associated outputs;
  5. Encourage ethical conduct by adopting high standards, fostering ethically responsible attitudes and supporting equitable, diverse, inclusive and transparent funding mechanisms;
  6. Advocate for scientific freedom and develop best practices for promoting scientific integrity;
  7. Diversify science and recognise the voices and perspectives of researchers from underrepresented groups, including the global south and early career researchers;
  8. Recognise and develop the professional and educational skills required to engage various audiences with geoscience concepts, both in public and political spheres;
  9. Effectively communicate scientific methods and research results to improve public trust in science, engage policymakers, and effect policies that implement and advance the science that supports global wellbeing; and
  10. Promote the multi-disciplinary dimensions of geoscience, knowing its impact is strengthened by the intersections between subdisciplines and plays an active role in addressing key societal issues.

We hereby affirm our commitment to apply geoscience research to discovering and implementing solutions that will help realise a sustainable and just future for humanity, our shared planet and its vital ecosystems.

Signed in solidarity,

Alberto Montanari, President
European Geosciences Union

Robin Bell, President
American Geophysical Union

David Higgitt, President
Asia Oceania Geosciences Society

Donald Siegel, President
Geological Society of America

Hodaka Kawahata, President
Japan Geoscience Union

Nicholas Rogers, President
The Geological Society of London

Jeannot Trampert, Chairperson
GEO*8 |European Alliance for Earth Sciences

Heidrun Kopp, President
German Geophysical Society DGG

Reinhard Hüttl, Chairman of the Board and Scientific Executive Director
GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences

Silvia Peppoloni, Secretary General
International Association for Promoting Geoethics

Kathy Whaler, President
International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics

Takashi Kosaki, President
International Union of Soil Sciences

Anne Husebekk, Rector
UiT The Arctic University of Norway


IAPG - International Association for Promoting Geoethics

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Portuguese Closing Conference
of the GOAL Project

Porto (Portugal)
7th July 2020, 10:00 (DST)

The University of Porto coordinated the Erasmus+ Project GOAL - Geoethics Outcomes and Awareness Learning (ref. 2017-1-PTO1-KA203-035790).

This project included an interdisciplinary consortium of researchers and professionals from six countries: Portugal (U.PORTO), Austria (BOKU), Spain (UNIZAR), Israel (WIS), Italy (INGV), and Lithuania (KTU).

This multiplicity of areas of expertise enabled the development of a geoethics syllabus and the production of more than a dozen educational resources pointed at higher education.

These resources, now compiled in the eBook "Teaching Geoethics: Resources for Higher Education" (edited by Clara Vasconcelos, Susanne Schneider-Voß, and Silvia Peppoloni), will be presented on 7th July 2020 at 10:00 (DST) at the Portuguese Closing Conference of the GOAL Project.

This conference is sponsored by IAPG-Portugal.

The IAPG - International Association for Promoting Geoethics is official partner of the GOAL project.

IAPG-Portugal website: 

Conference link:

GOAL project website:


IAPG - International Association for Promoting Geoethics

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Session on Geoethics at the AESC 2021

Call for Abstracts

deadline: 24 August 2020

Sandra Villacorta, past national coordinator and currently scientific coordinator of IAPG-Peru, has launched a call for abstracts for the session "Geoethical Aspects in Geosciences", to be held at the AESC - Australian Earth Sciences Convention in 2021

The congress is planned from 9 to 12 February 2021 in Tasmania (Australia).

The session "Geoethical Aspects in Geosciences" was accepted by organizers under the Theme 5 "Geoscience in society, education and environment".

This is the session description:

There is an urgent need to promote geoethical values to deal with the implications of geosciences activities and discuss the appropriate behaviours and practices, wherever human activities interact with the Earth system worldwide.
The scope of this session is to discuss the ethical implications of developing geoscience activities. Acknowledging the role of Geoscientists at the service of society, this session will develop discussion on ethical and social problems related to the management of land, coasts and open oceans; socio-environmentally sustainable supplies of energy and geo-resources; geoscience communication and education, role of geosciences in socio-economic development, sustainable development and intercultural exchange among others.
It is expected participation of professionals of the International Association for Promoting Geoethics – IAPG (

Colleagues are invited to submit an abstract on issues of interest for geoethics.

You find information about the abstract submission at:

The session is supported by the IAPG - International Association for Promoting Geoethics.


IAPG - International Association for Promoting Geoethics

Monday, June 15, 2020

Webinar on Hydrogeo-ethics

18 June 2020, 5:00-6:00 pm (BST)

ZOOM link:

Inspired by the recent IAPG-IAH conference on geoethics and groundwater management, the Hydrogeology Group of the Geological Society of London has selected Hydrogeo-ethics as the topic for their next "Lockdown Event" on Thursday the 18th June 5-6pm (BST). The programme is as follows: 

  • Alan MacDonald (BGS, University of Dundee) will give an "Introduction to hydrogeo-ethics". Alan will provide his perspective as a Chartership scrutineer for the Geological Society as well as share his experience of working in different countries and his thoughts on the Precautionary Principle.
  • Jude Cobbing (Consultant groundwater hydrologist) will present on "Groundwater in Sub Saharan Africa and the precautionary principle"; and,
  • Jane Dottridge (Technical Director Mott MacDonald and Chief Scientific Editor of the QJEGH) will present on the "Safeguarding of groundwater abstractions by enforcement of source protection zones".

The three talks will be followed by 15-20 mins discussion.

The hydrogeology committee expect the event to appeal to a wide audience, not just hydrogeologists. It promises to provoke thoughts and stimulate conversation. The event will be of interest to those working overseas and those who want to understand professional ethics more generally.

For those interested in attending please contact Alex Gallagher who organises and Chairs the Lockdown Events ( for additional information, or join the Hydrogeology Group LinkedIn Group

The ZOOM link for the event is 

Picture above from:


IAPG - International Association for Promoting Geoethics

Friday, June 12, 2020

1st International (Virtual) Symposium on Geoethics

14 June 2020, 02:30-04:30 pm (IST)

The symposium is organized by IAPG-India and hosted by the School of Earth and Environmental Science, Amity University Haryana (India).

Among the speakers, Silvia Peppoloni (IAPG Secretary General), Surya Parkash (IAPG-India Coordinator), Giuseppe Di Capua (IAPG Treasurer).

The programme is in the picture.

The symposium registration URL for participants is:


IAPG - International Association for Promoting Geoethics

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

The “robbery mining”:
grab the money and run

by Nicola Careddu*

Ph.D., Mining Engineer, Associate Professor
Civil, Environmental Engineering and Architecture Department, University of Cagliari (Italy)

Nicola Careddu
Robbery mining refers to the irrational and unplanned exploitation of natural resources. It refers to mining activity which is carried out with no adequate safety standards in working places. This kind of mining activity dates back to ancient times and it has remained in operation until modern ones anywhere in the world.

Avid and unethical exploitations, which the Germans have always referred to as "raubbau" ("coltivazione a rapina" in Italian), took place when miners and/or entrepreneurs mined the best portions of ore deposit and then proceeded to immediately close their activity down. Such mining methods prevented any further work including any potential discovery of other parts of deposits which may have been of economic interest [1].

In the U.S.A. the term "gophering" was also used to indicate mining in irregular drifts or other openings, which "follow or seek ore with no regard to maintenance of a regular grade or section"; this method was also called "coyoting" in Western U.S.A., which generally designates any small-size, irregular, unsystematic workings [2].

Throughout history, this mining method consisted on small excavations in which walls required little or no support; it goes without saying that this method could be applied in portions of veins, beds or masses, but it is the worst option in well-planned and managed mining. When used to mine abundant seams in a large orebody, robbery mining often resulted in short-term profits with a possible loss, incurring when the irregular openings resulted in the excessive increase in the cost of mining of low-grade parts.

When discussing mining legislation in 1871 in Italy, the deputy and finance minister Quintino Sella underlined the fact that "ownership rights have been conferred to the owner of the ground over the mine, which in many cases has charged a high fee on the extracted minerals, to be paid by the miner who works in the quarry. The situation described is reminiscent of the feudal system", which was exactly what was happening in regions such as Tuscany and Sicily.

Miners were encouraged to provide incentives for that system, and asked to immediately extract the best minerals they could find, without spending money and time for improvements. Work conditions used to be inhuman as workers were exposed to humidity, heat, gases, scarce ventilation, shoulder carrying, work shifts, etc. Basic forms of protection for miners did not exist.

Sella went on explaining that "such fees on the mining industry, may be convenient if spent to cover the use of the land, even if the impact is lower when miners work in a shallower environment than those who work in deeper environment, and who are the ones to be affected more".

Sella's arguments reflected a technical-economical point of view, which also included ethics: "as a matter of fact, the servitude of miners to landlords has had the unequivocal effect of limiting the extractions to more superficial layers, and prevented a massive production of minerals, ultimately resulting in what the Germans have eloquently defined as Raubbau, i.e. robbery-mining".

If the objective of mining is to dig out only what can make higher earnings on a short term, then "raubbau" looks more like a bank robbery: grab the money and run. A long term planning facilitate the delivery of more complex projects, including deeper excavations, water management, ventilation, all of which would improve the life of miners and the productivity of mines. Instead, there are still cases in which it doesn’t really matter if people die at work, nor does it matter if same areas are exploited over and over again at the sole expense of the environment and health of miners, resulting in serious social, health and environmental issues for many years to come.

Sella had already clear in his mind the idea of responsible mining and a better and ethical way to exploit minerals.


[1] Careddu N., Di Capua G., Siotto G. (2019). Dimension stone industry should meet the fundamental values of geoethics. Resources Policy, 63, 101468.
[2] Peele R. (1941). Mining Engineer’s Handbook, Vol. 1. Wiley.
[3] Sella Q. (1871). Sulle condizioni dell’industria mineraria nell’isola di Sardegna, Relazione alla Commissione parlamentare d’inchiesta. Firenze, Tipografia Eredi Botta, 1871 (in Italian).


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IAPG - International Association for Promoting Geoethics

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Vitor Correia appointed IAPG Delegate for Relationships with European Organizations

Vitor Correia was appointed IAPG Delegate for Relationships with European Organizations.

Delegates are IAPG key-officers, whose aim is to create opportunities for the IAPG in order to facilitate, in specific contexts, projects, initiatives, activities, agreements with other organizations, that have the development and promotion of geoethics as their main focus.

Vitor is Secretary-General of the International Raw Materials Observatory and Past-President of the European Federation of Geologists. He founded and managed several companies working in geosciences, and he has over 25 years of experience in strategic management, innovation and organizational effectiveness. He began his career as a mining geologist, and he worked in mineral exploration, geological engineering and environmental geology in Europe, Africa and South America. Vitor holds a BSc in Geology and an MBA, both from the University of Lisbon. He is registered.


IAPG - International Association for Promoting Geoethics

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Geosciences and Geoethics
in times of Covid-19 pandemic

An interview to Silvia Peppoloni (IAPG Secretary General)

At the last online EGU 2020, Silvia Peppoloni was invited to be panellist of the Union Symposium 1 "Best practices for scientific integrity and scientific freedom in an age of pandemics - and beyond". This symposium was co-sponsored by AGI, AGU, AOGS, GSA, GSL, and JpGU.

We interviewed Silvia Peppoloni after the EGU 2020 symposium to get a brief reflection about the role of geosciences and implications for geoethics in these times of Covid-19 pandemic.

Silvia Peppoloni
Question A:
Which was the focus of your presentation at the last EGU 2020 in the Union Symposium 1?

I focused my presentation on what the geoscience community can learn from the Covid-19 pandemic. Many studies attempting correlations between virus incidence and pollution are preliminary and need careful studies. What seems clear, however, is that the growing impact of human activities on bio-geological systems, if not properly controlled in accordance with the transitory ecological balances, produces an increased risk to have pandemics. Even geoscientists have been saying this for several years, but to date other logics and values have governed our interaction with natural systems. Covid-19 is the effect of this non-functional, unhealthy, dangerous interaction for humanity.

Question B:
Which lessons we may learn, as geoscience community and society as a whole, from the Covid-19 pandemic?

The pandemic is teaching, or rather confirming, some reflections that have already emerged for some years in the field of geoethics, which deals with the ethical aspects of managing the interaction between human beings and the Earth system. These reflections are useful precisely to address the effects of global warming and synthesized as follows:

1) At the base of the chain of actions that the society must put in place to solve its problems, there is always the individual. Individual behaviours are fundamental to face global crises too, because the irresponsible behaviour of even a single individual can generate a systemic planetary crisis over time.

2) Personal, inter-personal responsibilities and those towards the community of which each of us is an integral part are fundamental for living in health and safety in a globalized, highly interconnected society.

3) Everyone's responsibility towards the Earth system implies respect for social-ecological systems. Otherwise, the exposure and therefore the risk of all the human communities to phenomena that can jeopardize the current structure of globalized society increases, leading to a systemic collapse.

4) Global anthropic supply chains, which transfer huge flows of energy and matter on the planet, must be redesigned to increase resilience in case of shock and to reduce their ecological impact. This process will be complex and take time to take into account the complexity of social and economic structures. The world cannot change in a short time, but it will change. And it is certain that complexity can only be addressed with multidisciplinary approaches.

5) We must create more transparent, authoritative and independent international governance mechanisms in the health and environmental field, which encourage the transfer of knowledge and experience between nations and provide decision-making support to governments. These bodies would aim to facilitate the integration of decisions by each country that impact a globalized human system, rather than initiatives that refer only to local contexts.

6) The modification of the economic, social and political paradigms, required to give a concrete and effective response to global anthropogenic problems, also needs a cultural change in society. This means that investments in school systems must increase, as well as in research systems.

7) Merit and competence are values that must be placed at the centre of a new social compact among citizens. Most people demand reliable and authoritative answers from those who know the problems from a scientific point of view, even if with uncertainty and gaps. Addressing global warming and its local and planetary effects requires expertise, study, professional updating, honest cooperation, fair confrontation, openness to dialogue, and political decisions that are scientifically grounded and carefully weighed through the expert advice of scientists and technicians.

Question C:
Which is the role of geoscientists in the society and their relationships with policy?

Geoscientists are social and political actors. The profound meaning of their activity lies in improving the knowledge we have of the planet for the benefit of humanity. That knowledge shapes the idea we have about the world and its social and ecological relationships. They just have to be careful not to give in to the enticement of considering themselves custodians of certainties. The role of geoscientists in social architecture must be clear: to produce knowledge, communicate what they know about the planet and what are the limits of that knowledge, and develop scenarios that help decision-makers. Geoscientists can provide possible options, but decision-makers have to make the decisions, also taking into account other factors (for example, social and economic factors). Each social and political actor has their role and responsibilities, of which must be fully aware.


Other articles published in the IAPG Blog:

IAPG - International Association for Promoting Geoethics

Friday, May 15, 2020

"Geoethics in the Geosciences"

An international survey by the IAPG

Which is the the geoscience community's perception and awareness on the importance of the ethical and social aspects of geoscience research and practice?

The online questionnarie "Geoethics in the Geosciences" is the tool for investigating this perception and awareness in this international survey conducted by the IAPG.

Everyone can fill in the questionnaire anonymously, since its structure allows compilers to fill in it as individuals in the performance of their institutional/professional activities, without implying personal data or information related to their private life.

The questionnaire can fill in at:

This questionnaire will be disseminated within the international geoscience community, also through the help of the geoscience partner organizations of the IAPG.

Everyone is invited to fill in the questionnaire. Help us in this international survey. Share the link to fill in the questionnaire with your colleagues.

Thank you very much for your cooperation.

Additional information about the Questionnaire "Geoethics in the Geosciences"

Authors of the questionnaire
Silvia Peppoloni and Giuseppe Di Capua

The goal of this questionnaire is to understand how much the geoscience community is aware of the importance of the ethical and social aspects of geoscience research and practice.
The feedback received will help IAPG select priorities in its strategy of promoting geoethics.

The questionnaire covers the following topics:

  • Research integrity and professionalism in conducting geoscience activities.
  • Respect towards colleagues and appropriate behaviours in the working environment.
  • Conflicts of interest.
  • Awareness of geoscientists' responsibilities towards society in the dissemination of scientific results, in geoscience communication and geo-education activities.
  • Roles and responsibilities of geoscientists in the decision-making process.
  • Relationship between the geoscience community and stakeholders.
  • Responsibilities of geoscientists towards the Earth system.

We address this questionnaire to all members of the geoscience community, and are promoting it through the web channels of the IAPG and partner organisations, to assure wide international participation. 
You can fill in the questionnaire anonymously. We aimed it at people in the performance of their institutional/professional activities, without implying personal data or information related to their private life.
People filling in the questionnaire act on a voluntary basis. This questionnaire does not contain any reference to political, religious or racial topics. Before filling in the questionnaire, we ask the interviewee to provide her/his own acceptance of statements related to having read the above information, the freedom to withdraw from the survey at any time, and to remain anonymous.

Time needed for filling in the questionnaire
You shuould be able to complete the survey in 30 minutes.

Link to the questionnaire

Procedures for data management
IAPG's procedures for data collection, storage, protection, retention and destruction comply with the "EU GDPR" policy (European Union - General Data Protection Regulation):

This questionnaire is an initiative of the IAPG – International Association for Promoting Geoethics, partially funded by the IUGS – International Union of Geological Sciences.
The questionnaire has been realized with the great contribution of Jan Boon (IAPG-Canada co-coordinator) and Ruth Allington (IAPG Board of Experts). 
We are also grateful to Susan Kieffer and Shrikant Limaye (IAPG Vice-Presidents), Margaret Brocx, Nic Bilham, and Roberto Greco (IAPG Continental Coordinators), Martin Bohle (IAPG Board of Experts), for their help to improve further this questionnaire.
We also thank Peter Bobrowsky (IAPG Continental Coordinators), Christine McEntee, and Luis González de Vallejo (IAPG Board of Experts) for taking part in the test phase of the questionnaire.

More information
For more information, please, send an email to

How to cite
Peppoloni S. and Di Capua G. (2020). Questionnaire "Geoethics in the Geosciences". IAPG - International Association for Promoting Geoethics,

IAPG - International Association for Promoting Geoethics:

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Situating Geoethics in the Pandemocene, an Opinion

Martin Bohle

IAPG Board of Experts and Ronin Institute - Montclair, NJ, USA

Martin Bohle

Pandemics are more than outbreaks of diseases. To face it, our modern way of life is a bunch of pandemics. Hence, time to face them, thoroughly and as such – geosciences included. 
A little semantics first; the ancient Greek origin of the word pandemic means ‘all’ (pan) and ‘people’ (demos); that is, something common to all humans. Pandemic applied as a medical term may serve as one example. Broader meanings are, for example, “…globalization, the most thoroughgoing socioeconomic upheaval since the Industrial Revolution, which has set off a pandemic of retrogressive nationalism, regional separatism, and religious extremism” (Martin Filler, New York Review of Books, 24 Sept. 2009, [*]). This quote illustrates nicely that a pandemic mainly is a cultural thing, something deeply rooted in human behaviour. How the “coronavirus” emerged (markets), how the illness COVID-19 did spread through societies (travel), or what works to confine the outbreaks (social distancing) - any of these courses is mainly cultural.
Humans, now seven Billion and soon eleven Billion people, who are needing a decent life on Earth require a globalised society for provision of food, goods and security. There is little alternative to it. Under such circumstances, globalisation is not a question of whether, although it is a profound question of how. The manner how the production of food and goods, the use of commodities and natural resources is done that is a concern for all people, that is, it is pandemic. The exponential growth of the number of human people of the last two centuries has wiped any alternative away. Unhappily that period left us with an unpleasant common heritage of humankind. The manner how the production of food and goods, the use of commodities and natural resources was done in the recent past led to anthropogenic global change. Climate change is only the single best-known example. Anthropogenic global change, like climate change, concerns all people; hence, it is a pandemic. 
Turning to the geoscientists, recognising that the Holocene has ended (Waters et al. 2016) is acknowledging that the pandemics reached the geological record (Zalasiewicz et al. 2019). Hence, as debated since two decades renaming the current times ‘Anthropocene’ seems valid (Bohle and Bilham 2019); ‘Pandemocene’ may be an unthought alternative.

Societal contexts of the geosciences

Geosciences or Earth sciences are an amalgam of fundamental and applied research fields mainly within but also beyond natural sciences, as well as specific engineering disciplines and commercial undertakings on various scales, ranging from individual chartered experts to state-owned or multinational private corporations. Together, these geosciences disciplines nourish a corpus of stewardship knowledge about natural processes that can inform how people could act within the Earth system (Lenton and Latour 2018; Ogden et al. 2013; Redman and Miller 2015; Steffen et al. 2011). Contemporary geoscience knowledge is, therefore, of very high operational value for the functioning of modern societies. That geoscience knowledge alone, however, does not guide how people ought to act. That issue is addressed by ethics, in general, and in the specific form of professional ethics such as contemporary geoethics [**]. However, even in the absence of guidance as to how to act, the geoscientist’s expert knowledge comes with responsibility for the individual scientist, as a professional and as a citizen, towards people and communities.

Can Geoscientists help to cure the Pandemics of the Anthropocene?

Are geoscientists needed, as the medical caretakers in times of a health pandemic, among other workers, to cure the Anthropocene? If yes, are they ready to join forces to face the pandemics of the Anthropocene? Do the societal contexts and the ethical framework of their disciplines enable them to render a contribution?
In general terms, science and research shall serve society (Bernal 1939), and responsible science and innovation is a public good (Blok 2018; Murphy, C., Gardoni, P., Bashir, H., Harris, C. E., & Masad 2015). These insights have taken root in contemporary societies (United Nations 2013) and, although still questioned to some degree, they have become operationalised (Schneider et al. 2019). Like many other natural science communities, the geosciences communities have strengthened their ethical frameworks in the last decade; using the label ‘geoethics’. 

The Cape Town Statement on Geoethics (Di Capua, Peppoloni, and Bobrowsky 2017) outlines an actor-centric virtue-ethic for professional geoscientists. It promotes to act responsibly and knowledge-based. It emphasizes the societal context of the geosciences. However, its scope is intra-professional as summarised in its concluding paragraph “Raising the (geo)ethical awareness and competences of the members of the geoscience community is essential, also to increase trust and credibility among the public. This can best be achieved in the near future by two means: by promoting more effectively existing guidance such as codes of ethics/conduct and research integrity statements; and by introducing geoethics into geoscience curricula, to make geoethics a basic feature of the training and professional activity of geoscientists.

The soft side of geosciences, geoethics

When thinking about probable futures, it deems necessary to go beyond a mainly intra-disciplinary setting of geoethics. Intra-disciplinary frames, like the Cape Town Statement on Geoethics, are advantageous framework, unquestionable. They provide a solid foundation inter-discipinary and extra-discipliary settings (Peppoloni, Bilham, and Di Capua 2019). However, geoethics may be strengthened for use by any citizen (Bohle and Marone 2019). 
Strengthening geoethics may be a choice in the Holocene, although it is a must in the Pandemocene because citizens’ actions should ‘be judged… where they fall on a scale of care and neglect” because “[w]hen humans formed an independent relation with the Earth, we were left to choose between a path of care and a path of neglect.’ (Hamilton 2017; p. 150, emphasise in the original). When facing that claim, tools are required. Geoethics for geoscientists is a specific tool. A more generic tool is needed. The foundations of geoethical thinking can be expanded through the works of Kohlberg and Jonas, namely about moral adequacy of normative frameworks (a: see below)  (Kohlberg 1981) and the imperative of responsibility for those who deploy technologies (Jonas 1984). Combining these approaches with geoethics approach, a ‘geoethical rationale’ emerges. It promotes six normative preferences: ‘actor-centric, virtue-ethics focused, responsibility focused, knowledge-based, all-actor-inclusive, and universal rights-based’ (Table 1). 

A framework like the ‘geoethical rationale’ may be suitable guidance of citizens in the Anthropocene (or Pandemocene). At a more modest scale of action, the normative preferences of the geoethical rationale may help citizens, who also are geoscientists, to reach out beyond their professional spheres. On the path towards this endeavour, the question arises why geoscientists should be among the ‘health workers’, who are needed to mitigate the risks of the Pandemocene.

(a): The highest level of moral adequacy, Kohlberg’s ‘upper post-conventional level’, is described by a morality that is based on individual human rights and justice, by acts that are based on universal ethical principles, and by principled self-conscience and mutual respect. Kohlberg’s grading (relative to ‘societal conventions’) involves (i) acceptance of imposed rules (lower & upper pre-conventional levels); (ii) relationships of convenience (lower conventional level); (iii) compliance with law & order (upper conventional level); (iv) agreed social contracts (lower post-conventional level); (v) the agent acts in line with ethical principles (upper post-conventional level);

A pandemic of anthropogenic global change

Past and Present

During prehistoric and historical periods, humankind modified natural environments to appropriate resources for living and wellbeing (Ellis 2015; Fuentes 2016; Ruddiman 2018). Contemporary societies apply geosciences extensively for their economic, societal and cultural activities (Bohle 2017; Gill and Bullough 2017; Krausmann et al. 2013, 2017; Rosol, Nelson, and Renn 2017). These activities bind, through global supply chains, the entire globe into one social-ecological system (Reyers et al. 2018) that intersects deeply with the physical and biological systems of the Earth. Crafts-persons, technicians, architects and engineers apply geoscience knowledge, at least implicitly, when altering natural environments or creating artefacts, e.g. extraction of minerals, the laying the foundations for buildings, or managing floodplains. Artists, poets or philosophers of any time or culture refer to the Earth for co-shaping human identity. Contemporary geoscience knowledge seeps into modern thinking and dealings (Moores 1997; Peppoloni and Di Capua 2012), often without being identified as such (Bohle 2015; Bohle, Sibilla, and Casals I Graells 2017), and rarely put forward so openly as in the metaphorical title of the book by the geochemists Langmuir and Broecker (Langmuir and Broecker 2012), ‘How to build a habitable planet’.
Large-scale infrastructures like shore defences, hydropower plants or urban dwellings visibly interact with the geosphere and are a physical expression of how people situate themselves on Earth; views that alter through history (Ellis 2011; Fressoz 2012; Purdy 2015). Whatever the philosophical concepts are that frame the construction of these infrastructures, they could not have been built without a profound geoscience culture (Brown et al. 2017; Häusler 2018; Ruddiman et al. 2015; Wysession et al. 2012) that includes scientific understanding, technological know-how and societal justifications. Likewise, purposefully designed global production systems or consumption patterns couple human activity with the geosphere at a planetary scale. The coupling happens through cycles of matter, energy and information (Haff 2014b; Rosol et al. 2018; Zalasiewicz et al. 2016) that are mostly invisible. Greenhouse gas emissions are well-known as the most prominent example, although a similar case could be made for nitrogen or the global agriculture system (Campbell et al. 2017; Morseletto 2019; Zhang et al. 2015). 

During the last century, humankind's activities have intersected the geosphere in a much more extensive and intricate manner than ever before, either directly or intermediated through the biosphere (Barnosky et al. 2012; Steffen et al. 2015). Over some decades, the increasing number of people living on Earth and more notably the profligate consumption of resources in the affluent industrialised regions has culminated in a pandemic of anthropogenic change (Kunnas 2017; Steffen et al. 2011; Zalasiewicz et al. 2014). The notion ‘Anthropocene’ should be used while also acknowledging the responsibilities, political mechanisms and social processes that led to the current state of the globe, that finally make the Pandemocene. Anthropogenic global change is about how people, given hegemonic systems of cultural values, choices and lifestyles, govern the appropriation of biotic and abiotic resources from natural environments at a planetary scale (Wright et al. 2018). This description of the contemporary ‘human condition’ would be the essence of a geological epoch named the ‘Anthropocene’. Naming it suchlike is an overdue act (Bohle and Bilham 2019).

Scriptum Futurum Recycled

About two years ago, in 2017, I wrote a piece for the Salzburg Global Seminar # 593 [***], stating that “new complexities, irritating disruptions of trusted practices, and accelerating change seem to characterize our times. Uncertainty about the future is acknowledged by many. The rate of change is unmeasured; hence, it is felt”. Back in 2017, the participants of the seminar were asked: What will it mean to be human in 2050 or 2100? Now, the disruption of the habitual daily doings may come with accelerated pace because of the COVID-19 health pandemic.
The years 2050 or 2100 deem far away, somehow. It will be times when my children and grandchildren will be getting as old as I am now, respectively. I wondered, at time of writing in 2017: “Hence, what is 'The New' that is up to us, in a world of somehow self-driving cars, subsistence fishermen and first climate refugees? Our views focus' on the next corner, the next turn of a road. Where are the signposts? Who has a sketch of the roads ahead? Does vision lack? What marks the debates? The technology-fascinated disagree. Nevertheless, their vision is just 'scale-up,' massively to reach a singularity.” At the time of writing in 2017, I offered ten statements. Each implied a considerable alteration of the present state of people's dealings; some deemed clear-cut, some were underlying. 
Today I take out the statement #10 (Our outpost on Moon and Mars may be reopened soon after the burial of the bodies of the early colonists on Earth.) and modify #1, namely replacing ‘emergencies’ with ‘pandemics’ and advancing their onset. I made both changes because time seems to shorten before entering the difficult decades 2020-2040. My scriptum futurum runs as follows:
  1. People overcame the multiple societal-environmental pandemics of the 2020/2030-ties; then life-expectancy had stalled globally. During this crisis, luckily, the use of arms of mass destruction got hindered; although some 'conventional warfare' occurred.
  2. By 2050, collaborative Earth System Governance has emerged, and the life-expectancy (number of healthy years) of people started to increase again.
  3. In most regions, the species extinction rates got capped. The deterioration of vital global ecosystems has halted.
  4. In 2100, the global human population has stabilized at little less than 11 Billion people; slow decline seems possible now. Open societies have led to about equal levels of development in all urbanized regions.
  5. Networks and circular supply-chains enforce participatory handling of societal-environmental problems, including large-scale migration of people.
  6. Joint efforts are ongoing to relocate people from the ocean shorelines (and some other now uninhabitable zones); 'managed human retreat' because of sea-level rise and 'rebuilding of (coastal) urban areas' is a global policy.
  7. The rate of change of societal-environmental systems has been capped, and the diversity of the 'human niche' is made a 'species goal’'
  8. Most production systems use processes that are derived from synthetic biology with embedded quantum-technologies.
  9. Since 2050, emotions emerged spontaneously in complex information systems, and since then, they consolidated into stable societal features. Since then, such ‘feeling systems' and the various (collective and individual) 'people-tool systems' got a dedicated legal status in most countries.
The current turmoil of early 2020, which is caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, indeed “stretch our imagination to the breaking point. Hence, Irritation!” Notwithstanding the current turmoil, I stay by the metaphorical description about the exit-strategy made three years ago:

(1) For many of our fellow citizens, 'The Future,' with capital "F," is the march towards "About-the-Same." It may be a bit more of the same. For most people, The Future is nothing that is 'made.' It is something to be endured. Moreover, disasters or war deem ready to disrupt its regular gait. It is this aeon-old view, "Nihil sub sole novum" (nothing new under the sun) that for many provide a sense of security. Astonishingly, 'The Future' is a reference frame. It embeds our myopic starring at the next turn of events. However, what to do when this reference frame seems to change, to wobble and, hence gets uncertain. Then, menacingly, ‘The Unknown' frames the stages of our plays. Irritatingly, 'The Counter-Intuitive' seems to consolidate out of our plays. Threateningly, they block the way back. The horsemen of the modern apocalypse, 'The New,' 'The Unknown,' and 'The Counter-Intuitive' threat with insecurity, loss of competences, altered divisions of societies, and lost sense!

(2) Some people relish the 'The New,' 'The Unknown,' and 'The Counter-Intuitive’. Artists, Explorers, Scientists feel a deep sensual pleasure when confronting them, as a person and as citizens. The artist's psyche, the explorer's spirits, the innovator's minds, the researcher's souls are resources vibrating with imagination and passion. Hence, nurtured by them, the citizenries may confront Quantum-Technology, Earth System Sciences, Artificial Intelligences, and Synthetic Biology. Then the citizenries will draft the new 'guides to these galaxies.' They will tell, whether '42' is still the right answer, why your towel might be sufficient, and who moved the restaurant(s) at the end of the universe(s)? [##]

(3) Only as citizens, artists, cultural practitioners, inventors, and scientists can push the boundaries of the human imagination. As citizens, jointly they may move beyond the familiar and transcend the borders towards the future. Nevertheless, are they ready to assume this task? Do they invest collaboratively in path-changing discoveries, different fates of our planet, and charting pathways to liveable futures? Only then, 'The New', 'The Unknown', and 'The Counter-Intuitive' will face the broad, vigorous smile of 'The Imaginator'- Surrender!

Conclusion: Planetary human agency and geosciences

How societies alter natural environments depends on their technological means, cultural views on how to deploy them, the scientific insights that underpin these technological means and cultural views, and the economic conditions, cultural constraints and available resources. Together they determine which ‘endeavours’ of anthropogenic change are possible or desirable to undertake. The principal human endeavour in contemporary times is to operate a ‘technosphere’ at the planetary scale (Castree 2017; Haff 2014a, 2014b; Herrmann-Pillath 2018; Leach et al. 2018; Redman and Miller 2015; Steffen et al. 2011), which is the essence of the Pandemocene. 
Within society’s corpus of technological means, cultural views and scientific insights, geoscience knowledge has the potential to fundamentally shape the direction, effectiveness and efficiency of anthropogenic change of Earth system dynamics. To that end, when answering questions about the Earth system like ‘where to situate humankind’, ‘how to change processes’ or ‘what features to safeguard’, the geosciences provide ‘instruments’. Such instruments are Earth science literacy, insights into the origin of Earth including its development through aeons and understanding how Earth system dynamics operate, and, finally, geoethical thinking to guide about the ‘ought to be’. When considering the anthropogenic global change in its daily societal context, people need geoscience knowledge because any given individual interacts with the Earth system, be it only as a consumer of resources. Furthermore, citizens need insights into the functioning of the Earth system to engage in better-informed decision making. A dedicated responsibility of geoscientists results from the specific function that they have within contemporary societies because of the corpus of expertise that they can offer. 
To summarise, geosciences are instrumental in making anthropogenic global change happen, that making it a Pandemic. Therefore, geoscientists are its co-architects who should assume the responsibility that comes with their role as agents of technology-driven change. In this context, how geoscientists use their expertise is not an impartial matter. They are called to duty to offer cures in the Pandemocene; that is the essence of geoethics.


This post is a shortened version of a text (10.13140/RG.2.2.28145.22886) that draws on two conferences contributions (“Taking responsibility: Geo-societal studies of alternative futures,” EGU2020, Vienna, with Martin Kowarsch, MCC; “Geoethics for Operating in the Human Niche” GGM’20, Porto, inspired by E. Marone), a paper published in 2019 (“The ‘Anthropocene Proposal’: A Possible Quandary and A Work-Around” with N. Bilham, and a blog post prepared for the Salzburg Global Seminar #593.  


[*]; consulted 11th April 2020.

[**]; consulted 11th April 2020.

[***]; consulted 11th April 2020.

[#] Salzburg Global Seminar #593 "The Shock of the New: Arts, Technology and Making Sense of the Future" (Salzburg, 20-25 February 2018).

[##] See plots in "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" by Douglas Adams.


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