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IYPE launched in Paris

Dr Ted Nield, Master of Ceremonies

In reading his last written work, Sir Arthur C Clarke closed ther Global Launch Event of the Ineernational year of Planet Earth with an audio message on 13 February at the Paris headquarters of UNESCO. Ed de Mulder writes...

Geoscientist Online 15 April 2008

The Global launch event of the International Year of Planet Earth, held in Paris on 12-13 February, epitomised the aims of the Year. With contributions from all 65 IYPE national committees, it communicated to decision-makers and the public at large that we should all be making better use of Earth science in planning decisions. We should be using Earth science to influence the sustainable use of Earth resources, and make the world a healthier, wealthier and safer place for all.

Following the introduction of the events of the two-day celebration by Master of ceremonies Ted Nield (Chair of the IYPE Outreach Programme), Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO addressed the audience of almost one thousand participants.

Mr Koichiro Matsuura, DG of UNESCO Mr. Matsuura spoke of the fundamental role of the Earth sciences in securing a healthy Earth system that is vital to informed planning of sustainable development in the face of challenges — including climatic change.

He laid great emphasis on the serious implications of the fact that, in rich and poor countries alike, the numbers of students studying science are declining. This threat to the survival of university geology departments, if not reversed, will effectively cut off from society the Earth scientists of the future in a world in which the demand for sources of energy and raw materials will be with us for many decades to come as world population approaches nine billion.

In welcoming politicians, prominent members of geosciences institutions and leaders from within the business sector, he stressed the importance of the societal dependence on the Earth sciences on a day to day basis, so that while the Global Launch Event marks a peak achievement by the world’s geoscientists, it constitutes only a starting point in improving understanding of the richness and diversity of Earth science by the global community.

Prof. Zhang Hongrem (PRC) Zhang Hongren (P.R. China), as President of the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) and co-initiating organization of the International Year with UNESCO, spoke of the need for both leaders and public to make optimal use of the Earth sciences in protecting the Earth system. The sustained efforts of the many scientists shouldering the burden of work for seven years to realise the IYPE were praised by Larry Woodfork, Chair of the International Year Corporation.
M. le Ministre Jean-Pierre Jouyet (France) Jean-Pierre Jouyet, Minister of State in the French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, spoke to the effect that the twin facts of a changing climate and a burgeoning world population must be a priority for the French Presidency of the European Union in the second half of 2008. He noted the significant contribution already made to the IYPE by French geoscientists and wished the venture, which also marks the opening of the IYPE in France, every success.

A clear awareness of the character of the IYPE and the need for outreach was evident in the statement by Tora Aasland, Minister of Research and Higher Education, Norway, who announced full commitment to, and considerable financial support for the activities of the IYPE in Norway, including support for the International Secretariat.
Dr Arab Hoballah (UNEP) A wide-ranging discourse was presented by Arab Hoballah, Chief of the Sustainable Consumption and Production Branch of the Division of Technology, Industry and Economics of UNEP. After the UNESCO Director-General spoke about the IYPE’s ambitious targets, Aubrey Manning (Emeritus Professor, renowned zoologist and television and radio broadcaster) enlivened the proceedings with a vision of the essentials of the Earth system.

The afternoon session began with the performance of a ‘geo-song’ called Mother Earth. This specially-composed item was sung with instrumental accompaniment by some 150 students who hailed from all continents of the world and were present as guests of the IYPE; they were selected from among the many hunreds of students who participated in a world-wide contest. The remainder of the Launch Event was dedicated to a series of three themes of global concern. These sessions were led by renowned practitioners, from several walks of life, whose presentations provided the basis for interactive discussion with members of the audience.

Students from all over the world join in singing the

Prof Aubrey Manning, Edinburgh, UK. Goodwill Ambassador and co-facilitator Three themes from the 10 of the Year - Population growth and climate change challenges for planet Earth: Earth resources — threat or treat?, and Geohazards: minimizing risk, maximizing awareness, were aired during interactive sessions chaired over the remainder of Day 1 and Day 2 by Aubrey Manning and French radio journalist Melina Mielczarek.
Melina Mielczarek (Radio France Internationale); co-facilitator Closing remarks by the Director-General re-emphasized the pivotal importance of the Earth sciences in tackling the many challenges faced in the modern world, the value of Earth science data in anticipating and solving real life problems and the potential that Earth sciences possess for ensuring improved and sustainable management and planning by decision makers. Knowledge of the Earth system is humankind’s insurance policy for the future.
This theme ran through the recorded audio message of the late Sir Arthur C Clarke – his last written work - which sent the delegates away with much to think about and an IYPE organisation optimistic about the taking up of its aims by industry, scientists and politicians. This Event served as a plaform from which other regional and national events will be launched around the world until the end of the IYPE triennium and beyond.

For more information about the IYPE Global Launch Event, please check:

Sir Arthur C Clarke makes his last public statement by audio tape at the launch of the International Year of Planet Earth. He died a few weeks later.