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Earth science for society...

Eduardo de Mulder, Executive Director of the UN International Year of Planet Earth, wishes the planet a happy new Year.

Geoscientist 18.1 January 2008

Welcome to 2008 - United Nations International Year of Planet Earth (IYPE). IYPE aims to capture people’s imagination with the exciting knowledge about our planet, and to use that knowledge to make our Earth a safer, healthier and wealthier place.

The UN Year holds a central position in a triennium of activity - January 2007 to December 2009 – that began with the Bicentenary balloon launch at Burlington House last January marking the simultaneous start of these two landmark events. In the same month, similar balloon events also took place in India and Brazil.

Many IYPE events have occurred already in 2007, but 2008 will be the main International Year as proclaimed by the UN General Assembly. The UN sees the Year as a contribution to their sustainable development targets, promoting wise use of Earth materials, encouraging better planning and management and reducing risk. Preparations are in full swing now. At the time of writing (15 November 2007), 55 nations had established National IYPE Committees - each developing its own exciting science and outreach programmes. By March 2008, we expect 70 nations to be actively participating in IYPE.

The IYPE draws its inspiration from two previous "years". International Geophysical Year (1957-58) uncovered many things about our planet, then being seen for the first time from space. As the IGY attracted a lot of public attention, in particular by young people, many students chose geological subjects in universities worldwide. More recently, in 2002, the geoscience community in Germany launched the GeoJahr with many public events and a logo that they generously donated for our use in IYPE. That resulted in higher recruitment of German students to the Earth sciences in subsequent years. If that can happen in one country and in one year, we believe that significant exposure of Earth sciences in 70 nations during three years will result in a new recruitment boom.

IYPE was initiated in 2000 by IUGS. In 2001 UNESCO joined, followed by a number of Founding Partners. Among these were GSL and the Geological Survey of the Netherlands (TNO), who provided significant staff time to kick-start the project. Founding Partners now include almost all Geo-Unions in ICSU, ILP, ISRIC, FIGS, AGI, AAPG and AGI. Upon UN Proclamation in late 2005, "International Partnership" was introduced – of which there are now 13. Since UN proclamation, 192 UN member-states have declared their political support.

IYPE operates within a Science and an Outreach programme. GSL’s current Foreign and External Affairs Secretary, Edward Derbyshire, has been the Chairman of the Science Programme; while Ted Nield has acted as Chair of the Outreach Programme. Funding for projects in both programmes is being sought from industry, foundations and governments worldwide. Both operate in a ‘bottom-up’ mode. The science programme consists of 10 broad, societally relevant and multidisciplinary themes: health, climate, groundwater, ocean, soils, deep Earth , megacities, resources, hazards and life. Brochures on each may be downloaded from

Outreach activities are taking place in many nations already, but significantly more will happen this year (2008) and 2009. In February 2008, a Global Launch Event in Paris will be the meeting place for many political leaders, as well as industry and science. In the coming two years, thousands of volunteers and professionals will ensure that The Greatest Geo-Show on Earth will not pass unnoticed. Participation is now up to you!