International Geodiversity Day
Despite the multitude of services that geodiversity provides, most people are not aware of how dependent we, as a society, are on it. This is why we need to promote a better understanding of the Earth’s dynamic processes, so that citizens can make informed policy choices that will foster a more sustainable society. Recognizing the importance of geoscience in solving major challenges that humanity is facing today, UNESCO’s General Conference proclaimed 6 October as International Geodiversity Day.
What UNESCO does on Geodiversity
Why is Geodiversity important?
Humanity’s history is intrinsically linked to geodiversity through the exploration and exploitation of Earth materials. These enabled us to move from the Stone Age to the Bronze and Iron Age and later were the driving force behind the various technological revolutions that that radically improved our quality of life, such as the invention of the steam engine, electricity and, more recently, the microchip which enabled us to miniaturize computers.
Geodiversity is present in every aspect of our daily lives in the objects and services we use. It is the source of the raw materials that make up all objects, including those to build towns and cities but also to manufacture solar panels and wind turbines. Geodiversity is the support of all agricultural systems by providing soil and water but also an energy source such as geothermal energy. Through its diverse landscapes, colours and forms, inspires artists and fascinates tourists.
Rocks and geological processes also play fundamental roles in regulating the environment. For example, river flow is regulated by the input of geologically hosted groundwater which enables rivers to keep flowing even in times of drought. Rocks and sediments play a crucial role in filtering polluted surface water before it reaches an aquifer.
Scientific knowledge about how geological and geomorphological processes occur in nature is crucial to reduce the risks associated with earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, flooding, landslides and so on. This knowledge also supports the development of smart solutions with regard to land use planning and land management.
At a time when humanity faces the greatest challenge of modern age – human-induced climate change – geodiversity helps us to understand past changes to the climate. This knowledge will be vital to predict future changes in the climate and help us adapt more effectively.
Geodiversity is the foundation of all biodiversity. It creates the conditions in which life can develop and thrive, and underpins all the environments and ecosystems in earth. As such, conserving geodiversity is an essential condition to protect biodiversity.
Why an international Geodiversity day?
Despite the multitude of services that geodiversity provides, most people are not aware of how dependent we, as a society, are on it. This is why we need to promote a better understanding of the Earth’s dynamic processes, so that citizens can make informed policy choices that will foster a more sustainable society.
In that sense, the proclamation of the International Geodiversity Day provides an annual reminder of geodiversity’s role in presenting humanity with an incredible wealth of goods and services that bring benefits to society and of the importance of sustainably managing georesources and geoheritage. The day is also an opportunity to raise awareness of the critical link between geodiversity and all of life, and to evidence how geoscience education provides humanity with sustainable solutions to the challenges of resource extraction, disaster risk reduction, mitigation of climate change, and biodiversity loss.
International Geodiversity Day emphasizes the essential role that geoscientific knowledge will play in achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals to 2030 that member states of the United Nations adopted in 2015 (Agenda 2030). Geoscientific knowledge will also play a vital role in other international development agendas, such as in reaching the 20 Goals and Priority Areas of Agenda 2063 defined by the African Union and the Samoa Pathway to which Small Island Developing States committed in 2014.
It is hoped that International Geodiversity Day will also serve to enhance international scientific cooperation and to attract the young to the wide spectrum of professional careers in the geosciences, particularly women in developing countries.
How did International Geodiversity day come about?
International Geodiversity Day was approved on 22 November 2021 by the 193 member states attending UNESCO’s General Conference in Paris.
International days are annual observances instigated by the United Nations to generate awareness and action on issues of concern, or to celebrate human achievement. The adoption of International Geodiversity Day follows a proposal from the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) and 108 other scientific organisations.
International Geoscience and Geoparks Programme (IGGP) is responsible for administering International Geodiversity Day.
UNESCO is the only United Nations body with a mandate to support research and capacity-building in geology and geophysics. UNESCO will use International Geodiversity Day to promote the goals of The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as well as the creation of new UNESCO Global Geoparks in Africa, the Arab region and Latin America, in particular.
More than 100 international and national organisations supported IUGS’ proposal to instigate International Geodiversity Day. This group includes 84 national organizations from 41 countries, 17 international organisations such as the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and the International Union of Speleology, the African Association of Women in Geosciences, the Geological Society of Africa and the European Geoscience Union. Over the coming years, these partners will engage with decision-makers, students, teachers and the general public to broaden awareness of the richness of geodiversity.