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Earth, Water, Fire, Air: Elements of Life

To know where we’re heading, the saying goes, we need to know where we came from. And finding that out is the task of geo-scientists. In Germany, a new campaign starts this week entitled "The Year of Geo-Research".


More than just boring element tables and dusty rocks

For many of us, the term "earth science" calls to mind boring old tables of elements, dusty rocks in glass cases, and obscure measurements of the earth’s surface. But in reality, the work of an earth scientist is much more varied.

They are geologists, meteorologists, seismologists, paleontologists and vulcanologists. And most of them don’t spend their time cooped up in a lab, but rather out in the field diving, drilling, melting and blasting their way to knowledge of our planet.

Unfortunately, not many people outside the realm of science know what geo-science, or earth science, is all about and how much this group of scientists contributes to improvements in our daily lives. In Germany the situation is about to change.

Starting today, the German Ministry for Education and Research is launching a campaign titled "The Year of Geo-Research" with the intent of increasing public awareness of the earth sciences.

Over the next 12 months lectures, discussions, symposiums and exhibits will take place throughout Germany. Each event is open to the public and is dedicated to informing the normal citizen about projects in this multi-faceted field of research.

Planet Earth

Under the motto "planet earth", the German government will sponsor four large exhibits in Berlin, Leipzig, Cologne and Bremen dedicated to one each of the four elements: earth, air, fire and water.

Edelgard Bulmahn, Minister for Education and Research, expects that the topic of natural resources and conservation will be of central importance in the public debates connected to geo-research. She hopes the discussions will bring scientists and ordinary citizens closer together and produce new ideas for future projects.

Oil, gas, coal, clean air and water – all of the resources we so often take for granted are brought to us through the work of geologists who locate their sources, develop means for us to use them, and help provide information on how best to conserve them for future generations.

During the opening ceremony for the "Year of Geo Research", Minister Bulmahn emphasized that it was the future generation, the children, who would benefit most from a dialogue on the planet earth. In addition to the main events connected to the topic, the ministry has also plans to include special discussion groups and workshops designed especially for students and children. For the first time, the science year will also offer a youth contest and a workshop on the topic just for girls.

Science Years

The "Year of Geo-Research" is the third such science year organized by the German government. Last year was the "Year of Living Sciences", and the year 2000 was the "Year of Physics".

The goal of the year-long projects is to focus more attention on science, to remove it from its elite position in the ivory tower of academics and make it a subject of every day discussions.

The Year of Living Sciences was especially successful in this regard as bio-technology and genetics made their way into the political arena with such hotly-debated topics as stem cell research and genetically-engineered food.

Over a half million people visited local and regional exhibits in conjunction with the Year of Living Sciences. This year the Ministry for Education and Research hopes just as many will take advantages of the events associated with the Year of Geo-Research.

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