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Andrew Alden

Earth Science Week 2013: Why We Need It

By October 11, 2013

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Earth Science Week occurs almost exactly opposite Earth Day on the calendar. This year, it's October 13–19. Perhaps the American Geosciences Institute didn't choose that deliberately, but it does serve to help compare and contrast the two occasions. Both occur at turning points in the year. Earth Day, for most of the world's people in the northern hemisphere, is associated with the green burgeoning of spring and has become an anodyne celebration of cute living things. Earth Science Week comes at the turning point into winter, a time for alertness and foresight.

Consider an incident from the news a few years ago, a terrible spill of red mud (a byproduct of aluminum manufacturing) in Hungary. The Earth Day approach is to stop using aluminum, which is fine as far as it goes. The Earth Science Week approach is to excite and cultivate the experts of tomorrow and today who can engineer better ways to deal with red mud, preferably by use as an industrial feedstock, or at least by ensuring safer ways to handle it than precarious dams on perpetual waste ponds.

Earth Day demonizes aluminum; Earth Science Week explains and demystifies aluminum. Earth Day is about saving whales; Earth Science Week is about saving us. Earth Science Week is about getting beyond Earth Day to Earth Life.

This year's theme for Earth Science Week is "Mapping Our World." I plan to be posting all week.

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