Earth Day, Earth Sciences and Climate: be part of the Change at the University of Waterloo

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

The global pandemic is a perfect time to pause, reflect, learn and act upon improving our relationship with the Earth and each other. Looking back in time, have we really taken care of the Earth and each other? While we are pausing, can we ignite our minds to learn more? And should we learn to take action not only on Earth Day, but also every day?

During this unprecedented time of isolation, we immediately observed changes in the Earth System such as reduced air pollution, as we reduced human activity. However, before this, it may have been difficult for the average person to fully grasp the connections between humans and the Earth. Humans are part of the biosphere and pollution is part of the atmosphere, and together these spheres have been interacting over time and space to affect our Earth System and influence climate change (this year’s Earth Day theme).

To a learned geoscientist, connecting humans (part of the biosphere) to pollution (part of the atmosphere) and climate change and providing context in all of Earth’s sphere (which includes the geosphere and hydrosphere) is a welcomed challenge to unravel. This type of thinking requires adopting the mindset of a geoscientist. To think like a geoscientist, one must also stretch your mind beyond human lives and experiences in time and space. One must incorporate many spatial scales, from small-scale pieces like atoms to large-scale pieces such as the entire Earth, and many time scales, from seconds to millions and even billions of years. Together, these spheres, and spatial and temporal scales allow geoscientists to grapple with the massive, complex and connected Earth System and allow for a deeper appreciation and understanding of the relationships between ourselves and the naturally deep and connected world that we belong to, the Earth System.

On Earth Day we encourage you to try adopting the mindset of a geoscientist to unlock the beautiful secrets of the Earth System that enrich our connection with the Earth and each other. Although in this time of isolation, we immensely miss our connection with each other and with our Earth, what better day than Earth Day to pause, reflect, learn and create action plans to improve our special relationship with each other and with our Earth.

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