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Un Declares 2008 “International Year Of Planet Earth”


The United Nations General Assembly, meeting in New York, has proclaimed the year 2008 to be the United Nations International Year of Planet Earth (Note 1). The Year’s activities will span the three years 2007-2009.

The Year’s purpose, encapsulated in it strapline “Earth sciences for society”, is to:

  • Reduce risks for society caused by natural and human-induced hazards
  • Reduce health problems by improving understanding of the medical aspects of Earth science
  • Discover new natural resources and make them available in a sustainable manner
  • Build safer structures and expand urban areas, utilizing natural subsurface conditions
  • Determine the non-human factor in climatic change
  • Enhance understanding of the occurrence of natural resources so as to contribute to efforts to reduce political tension
  • Detect deep and poorly accessible groundwater resources
  • Improve understanding of the evolution of life
  • Increase interest in the Earth sciences in society at large
  • Encourage more young people to study Earth science in university

The Year aims to raise $20 million from industry and governments and will spend half on co-funding research, and half on Outreach activities. It will be the biggest ever international effort to promote the Earth sciences.

Apart from researchers, who are expected to benefit under the Science Programme, the principal target groups for the Year’s broader messages are:

  • Decision makers and politicians who need to be better informed about the how Earth scientific knowledge can be used for sustainable development
  • The voting public, which needs to know how Earth scientific knowledge can contribute to a better society
  • Fellow geoscientists, who are very knowledgeable about various aspects of the Earth but who need help in using their knowledge for the benefit of the world’s population.

The research themes of the year, set out in 10 science prospectuses (Note 2) were chosen for their societal relevance, multidisciplinarity and outreach potential. The Year has 12 Founding Partners (Note 3), 23 Associate Partners (Note 4), and is backed politically by 97 countries representing 87% of the world’s population (Note 5). The Year was promoted politically at UNESCO and at the United Nations in New York by the People’s Republic of Tanzania.

The Year is now open to Expressions of Interest from researchers within each of its 10 themes. The Outreach programme of the year is also now open to expressions of interest, and will work in a similar way by receiving and responding to bids for support from individuals and organisations worldwide.

The Year’s Project Leader, former IUGS President Professor Eduardo F J de Mulder, said:

“Around the shores of the Indian Ocean, some 230,000 people are dead because the world’s governments have not yet grasped the need to use geoscientists’ knowledge and understanding of the Earth more effectively.

“Yet that knowledge is readily available in the practical experience and publications of some half a million Earth scientists all over the world, a professional community that is ready and willing to contribute to a safer, healthier and wealthier society if called upon by politicians and decision makers.

“The International Year of Planet Earth (2007-2009) aims to contribute to the improvement of everyday life, especially in the less developed countries, by promoting the societal potential of the world’s Earth scientists.”

The International Year of Planet Earth has been in planning since 2001.

Prof Eduardo de Mulder | alfa
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