For example, in many countries centuries of mining and smelting have left a legacy of mining wastes and soils polluted with mercury, arsenic, and other toxic elements. With profits from mining long since removed to other places, the people who live in these areas struggle to exist in despoiled landscapes that affect their health and ability to create and sustain economies in which they can thrive. We believe that mining and resource recovery in the 21st century does not need to follow the same trajectory as mining in previous centuries. Advances in technology and technique, and awareness of environmental impacts and long-term consequences, afford real opportunities to both obtain the materials on which an economy can be built and concurrently preserve and restore the environment. Such a situation is present at a number of sites in South America, Eastern Europe and elsewhere, where years of mining have left tens of thousands of tons of mine tailings that in similar settings elsewhere have been used to recover valuable elements. Wastes that now contaminate the countryside could locally provide valuable byproducts that could help fund clean-up and provide economic opportunities.
The challenge of doing geology for the public interest is not for the faint-hearted. It requires an ability to imagine what a better world might be like and a concern for the future of others as well as your own descendants. It requires that you value benefits that will be gained in the future over benefits (typically financial) that may be more immediate, and an acceptance of the fact that you may not live to see those benefits.
Geoscientists can count themselves as some of the most adventurous and self-reliant people on the planet, so faint-heartedness is not a question with us, but this kind of work is not accomplished by individuals acting alone. Critical to success overall is our ability to cooperate on a wider scale and across more boundaries than we have ever attempted before. We must use good science to collaborate and coexist, and we must find ways to help everyone imagine and create a better world for all of our children.
It is our children’s world for which we should be working, not ours. Please join us.
“Modern societies and those in the less-advantaged areas of the world must depend on the basic knowledge provided by professional geoscience. Water, sanitation, natural hazards, mineral resources and the degradation of natural systems are objects of geological study as well as applications that benefit humanity and all living things. GPI is an essential agent of bringing awareness of geoscience to the general public and governments.”