March/April 2008

United Nations launches International Year of Planet Earth

By D. Lentz

UNESCO flag waves outside World Dome in Paris.

The United Nations International Year of Planet Earth (IYPE) 2008 was officially launched at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France, this past February.

The international program is designed to raise awareness of the importance of earth sciences in achieving this sustainable development of society. The aim is to persuade the public and governments worldwide to make better use of earth science when framing planning decisions.

The International Union of Geological Sciences and UNESCO are the sponsoring partners of IYPE, with all 191 UN member-countries supporting the resolution proclaiming IYPE for 2008. As of the launch, there were approximately 70 member-nations, including Canada.

Attendees were treated to inspiring lectures and moving poems from young people from around the world. However, the highlight of the IYPE launch ceremonies was a speech by British science fiction author, inventor and futurist Sir Arthur C. Clark, most famous for his novel 2001:A Space Odyssey.

An example of one initiative that Canada is helping to lead is the OneGeology project, whereby maps from around the globe are being compiled into one database, thereby making the information more accessible. Within Canada, a key goal of IYPE is to reach out to young people to excite them about potential careers in the earth sciences in the face of the country’s severe shortage of people entering related academic studies.

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David Lentz is a professor of geology at the University of New Brunswick.
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