Friday, July 24, 2015

Geoethics at the AGU FALL MEETING 2015

The IAPG promotes a session on ‪Geoethics‬ at the AGU FALL MEETING 2015, that will be held in San Francisco (USA) from 14 to 18 December 2015. The deadline to submit an abstract is approaching (5 August 2015, 11:59 P.M. EDT).

The session is numbered ED032 and titled: "Geoethics and Critical Thinking in Undergraduate Geoscience Classes".

The Primary Convener is Dexter Perkins (University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, ND, United States).
Vincent S. Cronin (Baylor University, Geology, Waco, TX, United States and IAPG-USA coordinator) and David W. Mogk (Montana State Univ, Bozeman, MT, United States and IAPG Corresponding Citizen Scientist) are the other two conveners.

Here the session description: 
"Ethical thinking and critical thinking are two intertwined skills that should be taught in all geoscience and engineering programs. These highly necessary skills will serve our students and society well, regardless of what students do after college. Yet, for the most part, ethics and critical thinking are only indirectly addressed in geocurricula. Furthermore, few faculty have the requisite training or resources to effectively teach these topics. So, department/programs need to be more intentional and there is great need for resources to support instruction. We invite researchers, educators, lifelong learners, and practitioners to submit papers that address the importance of teaching these skills, how they can be built into geocurricula and, perhaps most important, to share practical ideas and materials that can be used in our classrooms."

Submit an abstract:

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Video Lecture on Geoethics at the AAWG Conference in Nigeria

Silvia Peppoloni, IAPG Secretary General, gives a video-lecture on ‪Geoethics‬ at the First National Conference of the African Association of Women in Geosciences Nigeria (AAWGN), that is held in Abuja on 15 and 16 June 2015 (see the post on 8th June 2015).

Now, we publish the video:

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Geoethics, the Anthropocene and the Pope

by Gábor Paál

Gábor Paál
Geographer and Journalist
SWR2 Bildung und Wissenschaft
Southwest Broadcasting
Baden-Baden (Germany)


Disclaimer: the views expressed in this paper solemnly engage the author

Until some years ago, only a few people used the term geoethics – mostly those who wanted to express that there is something new to think about. 
Fun fact: In Germany, many people are reading "Goethik" instead of "Geoethik", thinking it's about Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Geoethics is still far from being a established buzz word, but it's spreading. Earth Scientists talk about it. Academic Associations have been founded. It's in the media now and then, but still without any broader political impact. Yet, there is no uniform definition. From the beginning of the 1990's, when the term appeared in several essays you can find essentially two different interpretations, which you can summarize as "Ethics of Earth Scientists" and "(Extended version of) Environmental ethics", respectively. It is not really clear to me if these two concepts are competing or rather completing each other, although I am inclined to think, they can be integrated.
There are many situations in which scientists have to take ethical deliberations into account, as stressed by the work of the IAPG - International Association for Promoting Geoethics ( as well in the first geoethics textbook of Max Wyss and Silvia Peppoloni (2015). This is a first approach to geoethics.

But geoethics is much more and covers all the moral questions that are involved with the global human impacts on the Earth System. Climate change, ocean acidification, shifts in the the geochemical cycles, human-induced earthquakes, exploitation of land and natural resources. In a word, geoethics would be the ethics of – or for – the Anthropocene. It's striking that more and more essays are stressing this connection. "The reason why we need it [geoethics] is the anthropocene", said David Mogk recently in an Austrian radio documentary. Martin Bohle shares the same view in his recent essay. This approach to geoethics would also deal with the problems arising with fracking and geoengineering, but it would go far beyond engineering issues.

I also had this concept in mind, when I tried to introduce the word geoethics in Germany in 2010. If you introduce a new ethical "subdiscipline" you have to argue why "normal" ethics is not sufficient. That's why Bioethics emerged. Our ancestors didn't have to answer questions like: "From which moment has a fertilized egg cell to be regarded as a 'human subject'? Is the cloning of organisms right or wrong?" You need new criteria to answer these questions. Similarly you can point out that geoethics is concerned with problems that earlier societies didn't see as problems. That man's behaviour is changing the planet. That our consumption pattern in Europe does have an impact on people on the other side of the world. Geoethics also deals with ethical dilemmas which are based on probabilistic and "big number" effects. It's not about the "bad morality" of the thief causing an immediate damage on a certain victim, but about decisions and behaviours that – multiplied by billions of people – are increasing the risk of damages for future generations.

Both approaches have their advantages: The first – narrow – view makes it easier to handle geoethics, to come to specific conclusions and to develop learning modules for students. The second is more consistent with the logic of other "applied ethics" as it tackles the problems of concern and does not address only a specific academic discipline. This seems reasonable, as nobody would define "Bioethics" as the ethics of biologists and doctors. Bioethics is concerned with new dilemmas arising due to certain new technologies and scientific knowledge. Yet, the search for solutions of these dilemmas is not just a technical but a political issue. In the same way, geoethics, if taken seriously, must address all societal groups and lead to political decisions – not just to a professional code of conduct.

You might argue, that this notion of geoethics – covering questions from engineering to the management of global commons - is too broad to be regarded as one cohesive concept. But, to stress the analogy once more, neither can Bioethics be seen as one cohesive concept. It is a collection of many different questions, just somehow "having to do with life sciences".

There is another reason, why connecting geoethics with the anthropocene would be helpful. Recently, I had a controversy with Reinhold Leinfelder. He is member of the Anthropocene Working Group in the International Commission on Stratigraphy and a scientist who is more than others promoting the idea of the anthropocene in the German public. Our discussion was about the question: Should the notion of the anthropocene include a specific attitude towards the problems we all know about? In other words, does it make sense to promote something like "Anthropocenism" as a world view and a specific approach the global environmental changes? While Reinhold Leinfelder is in favour of such an idea and calls himself an "Anthropozäniker" I argued that the meaning of the term anthropocene should be in a consistent line with all the other "-cenes" in earth history. Thus, it should be restricted to its scientific value and not be overloaded with eco-political ideas, may they be ever so likable. From this point of view, the recent discussion about an exact starting date of the anthropocene (did it begin in 1790? or only in 1945?) seems pointless. In this discussion felt a bit like in the looking-glass world with me, the journalist, criticizing the scientist for overpopularization.

Anyway, connecting geoethics with the anthropocene could help to solve this conflict. The conception of man changing the geosphere does not per se imply any specific attitude: you might find it horrifying and take it as a stimulus to change your own behavior – or you just find it intellectually interesting, but come on, the world has always changed, and if there is some trouble, somehow the engineers will find a way out.

Pope Francis
Therefore it is not reasonable to postulate something like "anthropocenic ethics". But it would be fairly appropriate to say: Geoethics goes along with the anthropocene.

Recently, Pope Francis published his Encyclical "Laudato si’". The news is not that the Catholic Church acknowledges a need for action due to environmental problems. But contrary to the clerical positions so far, Francis doesn't refer to it just as "conservation of the creation" (leaving it to us to imagine what "the creation" is). He as he connects climate change or the uneven distribution of water to questions of poverty reduction, he points out, that the "environment" is not something "out there", but it's the foundation for the living of future generations. This is to say, he is now the most popular representative of geoethics in the world. But does he know it?

Other articles for the IAPG Blog are listed in the IAPG homepage:

Friday, July 10, 2015

The IAPG section of Nigeria

We welcome the IAPG section of Nigeria. 

The section will work under the responsibility of Arinze Harrison Ikwumelezeh (Raw Materials Research and Development Council, Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, Abuja).
He will be joined by a board consisting of Ettu Obassi, Aishatu Adamu Ahmed and Hillary Ezeh.
Currently IAPG-Nigeria can count on 15 members.

Arinze Harrison Ikwumelezeh

Arinze works with Raw Materials Research and Development Council and an Advocate for Earth Science and Mineral Exploration in Nigeria.

Ettu Obassi

Ettu Obassi is Mining/Mineral Processing Engineer and Chief Scientific Officer at Raw Materials Research and Development Council.

Aishatu Adamu Ahmed

Aishatu Adamu Ahmed works at Raw Materials Research and Development Council and she is also the national President of the African Association of Women in Geosciences - Nigeria chapter (AAWGN).

Hillary Ezeh

Prof. Hillary Ezeh is Dean of Geoscience/Geo-Exploration Department at Ebonyi State University, Nigeria.

Other IAPG national sections:

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The IAPG section of Argentina

We welcome the IAPG section of Argentina. 

The section will work under the responsibility of Elizabeth Ivonne Rovere (Servicio Geologico Minero Argentino, Dir. Geología Regional) and Roberto Antonio Violante (Servicio de Hidrografía Naval, Departamento Oceanografía, División Geología y Geofísica Marina, Sección Geología Marina).

Elizabeth Ivonne Rovere

Elizabeth has a degree and PhD in Geological Sciences (University of Buenos Aires). Specializing in Volcanology, Geochemistry Evolution Volcanic and Volcano Threat Management Assets. She is Project Manager at Regional Geology Dept. and IGRM SEGEMAR and President of Civil Association Gevaş Red Argentina: Geology, Volcanoes, Environment and Health. She collaborated on the idea, writing and creation of the Law Project in the Senate S-1911/11 Nation (Senator
Dr. H. Lores, Neuquén) to implement a law to create one Volcanological Emergency Center (CEVCOR) and Volcano Observatory (OVA). Professor at Graduate Courses and Electives on Volcanology in universities: FCEyN, National Univ San Luis (2008) - FCNyMuseo, Univ Nac. La Plata (2010, 2011, 2015), University of Comahue (2012), University of Rio Negro and University of Rio Cuarto (Cordoba, 2015).

Roberto Antonio Violante

Roberto has a degree in Geology and a PhD in in Natural Sciences (specialization in Geology). Roberto's main research field is coastal and marine geology, with secondary focus on lake studies, comprising both basic and applied research. He is participating in international IGCP and INQUA Projects aimed at studying the evolution, processes and sediments both in the shelf and deep ocean, and he has also participated in technical consultations on coastal management. Since 2004 he is involved in regional projects aimed at depicting the source-to-sink (from the Andes to the sea) processes along the Argentine territory, with a partial dedication to geological and environmental hazard. In this framework his research activities included volcanic areas of western Argentina and the environmental and social impact of eruptions.

IAPG-Argentina has the aim of promoting actions related to developing the best practices for interaction between geosciences and society.

The basic objectives of IAPG-Argentina are:

- To encourage the construction of links between society and geosciences (mainly focused on public health impact) from the awareness and training on Best Practices in the risk management facing volcanic eruptions.
- To promote interaction with medical, social and communicational sciences, and fostering transfer to society through teaching, workshops, conferences, symposia and other ways of information media.
- To collaborate with public and private agencies, institutions and actors involved in risk management, at local, national and international levels, in the planning of actions related to hazard prevention and risk mitigation in areas affected by volcanic activity or its indirect geodynamic processes.
- To perform basic scientific research (geological, geochemical, geophysical) aimed at generating new scientific knowledge and encouraging exchange with scientific organizations, NGO's and institutions, both national and international. 
- To provide technical support in order to assess and remediate the consequences of volcanic eruptions and other natural disasters (earthquakes, floodings, landslides, meteorological events, etc.) on affected populations, encouraging community participation and creating resilient social behaviors.

The National Government (Through the Ministry of Science and Technology) and the Argentina Geological Survey have presently been carrying out an organized policy protocol on Geohazards, including the organization of a National Volcano Observatory (in whose initial stages of preparation there was some input from GEVAS Red Argentina). Under the umbrella of the future Observatory, one of the objectives of IAPG-Argentina will be to generate synergy among the different actors involved (national and provincial authorities, universities, Institutions, etc.) in searching for an integration through a National Volcano and Geohazards Observatory. 
Undoubtedly, geoethics is a major topic involved in these kinds of activities, since geoscientists have ethical obligations in the fulfillment of their research, the scientific information (although with no-scientific language) provided to society, the interaction with government and civil associations, the interaction with international associations and the formation of human resources with expertise in geohazards. These principles will be a basic background of IAPG Argentina. 

Major geoethical topics for the geoscience community in Argentina are:

To provide the debate on problems of Ethics applied to Geosciences.
- To influence the awareness of society regarding problems related to geohazards.
- To guide geoscience in benefit of society.
- To consider the implementation of Best Practices in every activity related to the study of geohazard and its impact in society.
- To create synergy among the different local (national) actors involved in strategic planning facing geohazards.
- To focus the problems arising from volcanic eruptions affecting Argentina under the umbrella of geoethics.

Other IAPG national sections:

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Young Scientists Club of the IAPG

We have created the YOUNG SCIENTISTS CLUB (YSC) of the IAPG.

Marie Charrière

Marie Charrière (Switzerland) has been appointed Chair of the IAPG-YSC.
Marie is a geoscientist educated at the University of Lausanne (Switzerland), she is currently PhD researcher at the Delft University of Technology (The Netherlands). Her research topic is the effectiveness of communication to raise risk awareness. The involvement of stakeholders during the design of a research plan is among her interests. She has been co-convener of two sessions on communication at the EGU 2015.

Read more about the Young Scientists Club in the IAPG website: