Dec '08/Jan '09

Four Billion Years and Counting

Book to explore Canada’s geology

By the FBY editorial board

The FBY book will feature spectacular photographs such as this one of Rissers Beach, Nova Scotia. 

Inspired by the success of several popular regional geology books, in 2004 a group of Canadian geologists set out to produce a popular book on the geology of Canada. Crucial milestones in this effort included a session at the GAC-MAC conference in 2005 and acceptance of the book in 2006 as a primary Canadian contribution to the International Year of Planet Earth (IYPE).

The book, entitled Four Billion Years and Counting: Canada’s Geological Heritage will be published in English and French by the Canadian Federation of Earth Sciences in association with private publishers. It will showcase this country’s fascinating geology and its impacts on the lives of all Canadians. Over 50 expert authors have contributed to the text and an editorial team is at work, crafting the manuscript into a cohesive story that will be accessible to an interested general audience, as well as to geologists seeking enlightenment outside their specialty. The text will be complemented by eye-catching photographs and drawings, all in full colour.

The book is divided into three parts. The first part, Foundations, introduces readers to key topics such as plate tectonics, geological time and evolution. The second section, Evolution of Canada, unravels four billion years of the country’s geological history as a series of “time slices” with a broad, rather than a regional, perspective, and places Canada in an ever-changing global context. This story is enriched by a set of over 20 new paleogeographic maps of North America from 750 to three million years ago. The third part, Wealth and Health, covers economic, social and environmental issues, including chapters on mining, energy, building stone, water, hazards, environment and climate.

Producing two substantial, full-colour books is an expensive undertaking. Fundraising, carried out mainly by the Canadian IYPE National Committee, has been challenging. Early on, the project benefited greatly from grants from the Canadian Geological Foundation for graphics and from Natural Resources Canada for travel and “in kind” assistance. The book has also received considerable sponsorship earmarked for its production phase. Nexen Inc. generously provided a large cash donation, only slightly exceeded by contributions from 13 individuals and small organizations who are sponsoring individual chapters. The French version has received strong support from the Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune du Québec and Québec Exploration. Nevertheless, more financial support is required and thus fundraising continues.

We are making major strides towards completing the book, all the more satisfying considering the complexity of the project. The editors greatly appreciate the input, enthusiasm, encouragement and patience of all contributors. Everybody is working hard to produce a book that highlights Canada’s geology and its intimate link to our national well-being and our heritage — a heritage that contributes fundamentally to making Canada such a strikingly beautiful and special place.

Contact Rob Fensome ( for further information and the latest project newsletter, or checkout the project website (

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