Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Developing a charter for geoethics education:
Results from an interactive poster
for the IAPG at the EGU 2018

David Crookall
(Université Côte d’Azur, France; IAPG-France co-coordinator)

Pariphat Promduangsri

(Lycée Renoir, France)

David Crookall
Do you think that paying greater attention to ethics will give planet Earth and its inhabitants a greater chance of reaching sustainability?  Do you think that geo-scientists still have room to improve their ethics and to help humanity to become more ethical?  Do you think that including ethics in all areas of education will better equip people to behave in a manner that is more respectful of each other and of Earth and its resources?

Pariphat Promduangsri
That is part of the invaluable work being carried out by the IAPG, "a multidisciplinary, scientific platform for widening the discussion and creating awareness about problems of Ethics applied to the Geosciences" ( In 2016, the IAPG drew up an important declaration, titled Cape Town Statement on Geoethics ( These efforts have been spearheaded with incredible energy by Silvia Peppoloni, Co-founder and Secretary General of the IAPG, and supported by a group of like-minded scientists. Their inspiring mission, vision and energy have drawn us their sessions at the EGU over the last few years.

Thus, in April 2018, we had the wonderful opportunity of participating in the IAPG session called Geoethics: Ethical, social and cultural implications of geoscience knowledge, education, communication, research, and practice at the EGU General Assembly 2018. It was convened by Silvia Peppoloni, Nic Bilham, Giuseppe Di Capua, Martin Bohle, and Eduardo Marone. We presented two interactive posters, both focused on learning about geoethics.  The one that is relevant here is titled Geo-edu-ethics: Learning ethics for the Earth. We prepared an interactive, participatory poster; it is one that invites viewers to interact actively as participants. They do something more active than simply reading.  Usually they will write or make marks on the poster – see photos here, taken during the EGU General Assembly 2018.
Our abstract for the conference poster contains the following paragraphs among others:

... Ethics is becoming ever more important, not least in the geo-sciences, particularly under the impetus of the IAPG.  …
In 2016, one of the authors coined the term eduethics.  …  The term intends to convey the fact that education is inconceivable without ethics (and ethics impossible without education). …
What can we do to encourage more ethical behaviour towards the Earth and the life it supports, and thus to combat impending disaster?
The only viable answer is through geoethical education. We need people to learn, and grow up learning, about what is right and wrong in regard to each aspect of our personal earth citizen lives.

The objective of the poster session was to begin a process of thinking about how to "move towards implementing education programmes that encourage ethically sound behaviour individually and collectively, and do it before it is too late …"

Our unmarked poster contained some initial ideas for participants (readers). We invited participants to contribute their own ideas in blank spaces and thus start the development of a charter for geoethics in education. We call it geo-edu-ethics – learning ethics for the Earth. Our aim therefore was to start a collective contribution to the process of developing a charter. Our format allows people to say what they want without fear of disapproval. The written format gives people time to think and provides for a record of the full proceedings.

The participants contributed some wonderful ideas, as well as some useful critical comments – thus beginning a debate on these crucial issues.  We think that it is important that this discussion be recorded, thus making it inclusive for those who wish to join the conversation. It should also help us to better grasp the range of geoethics issues in general and geo-edu-ethics in particular.

This article therefore constitutes stage two of a draft charter. Over time, we hope to arrive at a charter that is realistic, garners general agreement, has sufficient clout to make a difference, and agrees with the IAPG Cape Town Statement on Geoethics. We recall the couplet, often attributed to Goethe and quoted by William H Murray (1913-1996), in his 1951 book "The Scottish Himalayan Expedition":

Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.

Thus, our poster participants and us have begun our journey on the road to a geo-edu-ethics charter, and hope that you will join in. Our progress so far is recorded below.

We provide our original texts in black, under the broad headings used in the poster, followed by participants’ unedited contributions in red. Participants wrote their comments in a space opposite our original idea. Some comments were directly related to our original texts, while others had a more cursory link. We found it difficult to read some comments, but in the interest of authenticity, we decided to include them all. If we had designed our poster differently, it might have been easier to follow the thread.

Geoethics test for people in positions of authority

All holders of public office (civil servants, politicians, research institute directors, hospital directors, armed forces directors) and all people in positions of responsibility (doctors, charity directors, company directors, managers, etc.) must pass a test of geoethics (test level according to position level).

Participants' contributions:

1. Being a geoscience educator is a privilege.
2. The physical, intellectual, and psychological care of our students and colleagues is our responsibility.
3. Care will be exerted to clearly differentiate opinions, assertions, untested and tested/ not falsified hypotheses.
4. All quantitative data and results will be reported with appropriate uncertainties and significant figures.
5. All people (engaged in the educational process or otherwise) will be treated with respect.
6. Credit will always be given to the originators of the data and ideas you use in science.
7. Geoscience educators have to contribute to a knowledgeable society and to build a vision of the world we want while respecting natural dynamics.
8. A geoscience educator has to be coherent. Act as you say that should be done.
9. (Geo)scientist should again be public service "agents" - spread their knowledge and educate the populace so that positive change is possible.
10. I don't think this is the way to go.
11. I have seen the effects of forming people to do such things – they resent it and won't internalize it.
12. It would be better to build it softly with the performance appraisal process and find a way of making it part of existing ‘official expectations'.
13. A charter is half of the COL [sic, or COI], but [?] it is not a coef. [Difficult to read.]

Charter elements, precepts, guidelines

Every educational establishment (all levels: primary, secondary, tertiary, training) must include geoethics elements in all courses in all its programmes.

Every educational authority (ministry, academy, …) must make sure that establishments follow geoethical guidelines.

All establishments must be given the means (funding & personnel) to train its teachers and trainers in ethical curriculum, syllabus, & materials design, and in ethical facilitation and debriefing techniques.

Participants' contributions:

14. (I suggest replacing "must" with "should" in all of the bullet pts.)
15. Note that just as ethics is at the core of science (which is the best way of discovering reliable information about the physical world), so too is ethics at the core of geoscience education.
16. Mutual respect is essential to all student-teacher, student-student, and teacher-teacher interactions.
17. I tried to make this happen, but so far my attempts have failed (lack of interest, bureaucracy of institutions).
18. After all was said and done, much more was said than done.
19. As a consequence, risk communication and social aspects related to earth education must be taught and they should be included in training curricula!
20. It may be possible to achieve this at least partly through local community (e.g. faculty, teaching staff, employees) effort.
21. You may need to call in experts at times.
22. i)  Geoethics......geosgcky [sic], see poster X1.3.
23. ii)  Embedding in science ped.[sic] lecture/class.

Edu-geo-ethical repository

A world-wide repository (or multi-media library) of pedagogical materials must be set up, and made available for free to all teachers round the world.

  • Pedagogical materials encompass a wide range of items, such as: curricula, syllabi, quizes, teaching notes, guides for class excursions, simulations+debriefing, role-plays+debriefing, games+debriefing, case studies, etc.
  • Subjects (eg, maths, languages, physics, literature, social studies, economics, business & management, teamwork, job interviews) should have guides, at each level, on how to implement geo-ethical principles in courses).
  • The repository may be called Bank for Edu-geo-ethical materials – BEGEM, or something similar.
  • The repository must be open access.
  • All existing materials must be deposited into this depository.
  • All users of the materials are expected to provide feedback on materials used.
  • Time-off and conference support must be given to all who wish to develop materials.
  • Credit must be given to all depositors & evaluators of materials. No anonymity.

Participants' contributions

24. I suggest you look at Dave Mogk's contributions online at
25. The Science Education Resource Center (SERC) is an existing repository that might work for this project.
26. The IAPG website is always at disposal to collect online materials:
27. Academic integrity – Plagiarism, etc.  Why and how to avoid.
28. Look for teaching kit for W African schools about the ecosystem approach to fisheries done by Mundus Maris for FAO.  Look for project 2011 go to last page with downloadable stuff teaching kit, fish rules, eval sheets, etc. In EN & FR.
29. Good idea. Who will "bell the cat"?
30. This will run into unavoidable bureaucratic hurdles. It will be better to do this informally "under the table".

Geo-edu-ethics in council, curricula programmes

  • An international body, Council for Geo-Ethical-Education (CGEE), under the joint auspices of the IAPG and UNESCO, should be created to oversee implementation of the geo-edu-ethics charter. 
  • SDG 4: Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning must operate under and include solid geo-ethical principles.
  • All new curricula, syllabi, edu programmes, and edu materials must follow principles enshrined in the charter, and be guided and approved by the CGEE.
  • All educational programmes (exchanges, internships, diplomas, institutions, holiday camps, etc) must follow principles enshrined in the charter, and be guided and approved by the CGEE.

Participants' contributions

31. The purpose of this is not to control or constrain information to be taught in geoscience courses, but rather to facilitate the broadest availability of high-quality geo-ed-ethics content.
32. My experience is that such high-level bodies are generally not effective.  Risk of failure is very high.
33. IAPG's Geoethical Because [sic] is an [sic] useful puishung [sic] document.
34. IAPG could lead this initiative towards UNESCO.
35. Spread all (no conflict of interest] scientiofioc [sic] facts to be public. Be an educator and advocate of science for people. Be meual [sic] or better only pro Earth.
36. We cannot modify SDG 4, but yes contribute to it.
37. The bureaucracy would kill the initiative. This won't work in practice for good sociological and psychological reasons.

In this poster, we got excellent feedback from participants. Most of the comments were encouraging. Of course, we also got a few mild naysayers. However, the world will be driven by people who are bold and ready to act in a positive manner.

We hope that you will continue this discussion with new suggestions. In order to do that, please send your ideas and comments to Pariphat at this email We will incorporate them into a new draft. We may even present an updated poster at the IAPG session 5.2 on geoethics at the EGU 2019. Please indicate if you wish your comments to be anonymous or if you wish us to indicate authorship.

Our warm thanks go to Mona Jensen, Copywriter at, Denmark, for some marvelous suggestions for improving this post.


David Crookall is an experiential learning expert in Earth and environmental sciences, sustainability, climate change. He also works in editing, debriefing, simulation, role-play and publication, and has published widely and presented at many conferences. He is now retired from the Université Côte d'Azur, France.  He has lived in five countries on three continents. Please join him here:

Pariphat Promduangsri is a science baccalaureate student at Auguste Renoir high school in Cagnes-sur-mer, France. Her native country is Thailand. She has lived in France for nearly four years. She speaks English, French, Italian and Thai. When she is not studying or climbing mountains (she has already done most of the Tour du Mont Blanc), she likes playing the piano. Later she will probably persue a career taking care of the environment and the Earth. Please join her here:

Other articles published in the IAPG Blog:

IAPG - International Association for Promoting Geoethics