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Food For Thought:  To Drive Down Reliance on Fossil Fuels, Change Perception of Profession of Geology

Wherever you come down on the political spectrum —  there is no denying that we find ourselves in the midst of a green energy transition.  Followers of ARPN know that the current push towards a lower-carbon future  hinges on sustainable and reliable access to metals and minerals, which are the building blocks of renewable energy technology. 

A new piece for The Conversation looks at the issue from a fresh angle – through the prism of the profession of geologist. Writers Craig Storey, James Darling and Nick Koor, geologists from the United Kingdom, observe: 

“Sadly – and wrongly – the most common view of geology as a profession is that its primary role is in the discovery and extraction of fossil fuels.

But if we are to radically reduce emissions and move towards a low carbon economy, we’ll need geologists. Technologies such as wind turbines, solar panels or electric cars all require a wide range of natural materials that themselves are finite and often buried deep underground. By focusing on these materials, and the challenges of setting up all this new infrastructure, the discipline of geology can transition from being part of the climate problem to being part of the solution.”

The three lament that the rise of the Extinction Rebellion movement has “changed the way young people think about the environment and the possible careers they want to pursue” — and the misunderstood “dirty polluter” image assigned to the geology profession is “not attractive to the many young people who care deeply about the planet and want to pursue a career that does not harm it.”

Their bottom line:  a change in the perception of the profession of geologist is urgently needed — so that a new class of geologists will be trained to “drive down our reliance on fossil fuels.”  

“[t]o transition to a carbon-neutral economy (if that’s ever quite achievable), we need dramatically to increase the available resources of a variety of so-called critical raw materials. Wind and other green sources of energy require significant geological expertise to ensure structural stability together with the raw earth materials needed for construction and power.

Their “‘call to arms’ to unite geologists along with a coordinated effort from industry, professional bodies, learned societies, and the education sector to change the way geology is perceived, away from the ‘dirty polluter’ to ‘environmental guardian’” provides some valuable food for thought In the current policy discourse. Hopefully stakeholders will take note.