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Public Lecture: Making the most of minerals: sustaining society sustainably?

26 September 2018
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Event type:
Evening meeting, Lecture
Organised by:
2018 Year of Resources, Geological Society Events
The Geological Society, Burlington House
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Humanity’s interest in the solid Earth has long been driven by the desire to extract value from its depths, apparently treating Earth as a limitless resource. Societies and cities are built on rock in more ways than one. Here I will review how minerals have historically provided the understanding and tools that have transformed society. Stages of societal development are often marked out directly in such terms, from stone, to bronze and iron age. 

Industrialisation is as much the steel age as the coal age, and recently silicon has driven the Information age.  With development comes increasing technological complexity and sophistication and these have their own risks. The impacts of such long-term developments are receiving increasing attention, and the need to sustain development in a way that is healthy for all is on the mind of many. 

In this regard, Nature not only provides physical resources and challenges, it also provides routes to solutions. Using examples from modern energy resources including nuclear power generation, greenhouse gas amelioration and solar energy production, I will explore how the minerals that have long represented economic riches for humanity can also yield intellectual treasures that may provide new routes to securing a safe future for all. 


Simon Redfern, University of Cambridge 

Simon Redfern is Professor of Mineral Physics and Head of the Department Earth Sciences at the University of Cambridge. He is interested in linking the atomic-scale structure and properties of minerals to planetary-scale processes on Earth and elsewhere. Currently, he applies experimental and computational methods to understand how minerals and fluids interact at the conditions of the deep Earth. 

He was the founding Chairman of the Mineral Physics special interest group of the Mineralogical Society where he also served as Vice President. Currently he serves on a number of bodies include the UK governments' advisory Committee on Radioactive Waste Management.

All past lectures can be viewed online on our Past Meeting Resources Page.

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