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The International Year of Planet Earth and Geoparks

Published:Feb 29,2008

 - A big event in mutual interest
Werner R. Janoschek 1

The International Year of Planet Earth (IYPE) was proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations for the year 2008, but there is a pre-year 2007 and there will be a post-year in 2009. The organization of the IYPE is well established: A non-for-profit and non-religious corporation under US law was created and is based in the State of Delaware. Ed de Mulder was introduced as Executive Director. There is a professional secretariat located at and hosted by the Geological Survey of Norway in Trondheim, and there exists a Board which is the governing entity of the IYPE.

The aim of the International Year of Planet Earth is to demonstrate new and exciting ways in which Earth sciences can help future generations meet the challenges involved in ensuring a safer and more prosperous world. Our children and grandchildren should live on a safer, healthier and wealthier Earth.

The main activities of the International Year of Planet Earth operate within its science and outreach programmes. Funding for projects in both programmes is sought from industry, foundations and governments worldwide. Both programmes essentially operate in a response, or 'bottom-up' mode.

The Science Programme consists of 10 broad, societal relevant and multidisciplinary themes: health, climate, groundwater, ocean, soils, deep Earth, megacities, hazards, resources, and life. Scientists from all over the world are invited to participate in specific questions within each theme. While we of the IYPE hope that the science programmes and proposals will meet top scientific standards, but the results must contribute to the benefit of the society - a clear societal mandate is therefore requested even in science.

The Outreach programme (the "Greatest Show on Earth") might be of greater importance and comprises the fields of education, media cooperation and, with special emphasis, involvement of politicians and decision makers. Here is a list of some examples, but appropriate items may be added. The best opportunities for a co-operation between the Geoparks and the IYPE should be in line with the Outreach program.

• 'Geoscience for the Public' exhibitions in many countries: There exist already some agreements with natural history museums in various countries, but I could imagine that also the Geoparks may dedicate a small space for a poster or some more detailed material f the IYPE. The IYPE is just now preparing a series of posters which basically show the front pages of the 10 science brochures and the outreach brochure.
 Lecture tours and excursions organised throughout several European countries
 Geology & wine excursions: This might be an interesting field of some Geoparks, especially in Europe: Geology and Wine is a traditional field of interest for tourists. It combines geology, soil science, history and culture and of course leisure and pleasure.
 TV documentary on Earth sciences
 Special books, journals and articles with focus on 'Planet Earth' in many countries.
 International Year of Planet Earth stamps
 Teaching courses for journalists and teachers: This might be organized together with the IYPE in some of the Geoparks.
 New Geoparks will be opened in several countries
 2nd International Symposium on the Development within Geoparks: Environmental Protection and Education in Lushan, China
 Geotourism Conference to be held in Australia, 2008
 3rd UNESCO Geoparks Conference will be held in Germany, 2008
 Geo-bus and -truck, Geo-train and Geo-ship tours in various countries
 Trains and ships painted in the Year's logo colours
 Musical Symphony: Planet Earth
 Geo-Poetry books
 Planet Earth ring-tones
 Geo-Art competitions in various countries

I would like to underline the recently published ideas by Heinz KOLLMANN (Global Geopark Eisenwurzen, Austria) not to overload the visitors of Geoparks with to detailed scientific information, but to enjoy them through really simple and touristic features. Exclusively actually observable geological features should be presented with a minimum of theory. Simple explanations and simple wordings are essential. The Geopark organizers should not be shy to show simple current geological processes with simple wording and simple examples or specimens and should so sensitize the visitors for the geological reasoning. This will create a positive curiosity about geological processes and will contribute to a deeper understanding. Of course this must be based on profound geological knowledge. In this field the intentions of the IYPE and of the GEOPARKS meet perfectly.

The Geoparks organizations, they may be global, national or regional, or may it be individual Geoparks, are kindly invited to cooperate with the IYPE. Both, the IYPE and the Geoparks, should not try to create something absolutely new, but already existing events, ideas and plans could be organized jointly. This may help to minimize the expenditures on both sides. There are plenty of opportunities which the Geoparks may select, it is also possible to add good ideas to the above mentioned, not entire list. The regularly organized Geopark week in the EGN could be organized in close cooperation with the IYPE, details should be mutually agreed. Already existing education programs in the Geoparks could be devoted to the overall educational themes of the IYPE.

The already existing Geoparks Week in the European Geoparks Network and comparable events in other Geoparks could use the proposals of the IYPE as an additional incentive.

 1 Goodwill Ambassador of the International Year of Planet Earth Corporation, Member of the Honorary Committee of UNESCO's "Global Network of National Geoparks" Slatingasse 8, 1130 Vienna, Austria
 2 Heinz A. KOLLMANN: Muss man Geologie lernen? Die Chancen der Geoparks. - JB Geol. Bundesanst. 147, p. 109-113, Vienna, January 2007.