CONTENTS Vol. 5 No. 4
p 2 - The rise of animals (Part I)
p 9 - Water education comes to China's schools
p 10 - Mission rallies support for DRC's mountain gorillas
p 10 - Oman's Oryx Sanctuary dropped from World heritage List
p 11- UNESCO joins UN response to Peruvian earthquake
p 12 - A master plan for science and technology in Mongolia
p 13 -Robert Hepworth on why many of the world's most endangered species are migratory
p 16 - The day Mount Manaro stirred
p 21 - Mini-laboratories for the Middle East
p 24 - Diary
p 24 - New releases
Unearthing the truth
Although tragedies like the Indian Ocean tsunami and Hurricane Katrina graphically demonstrated how indispensable geoscientific knowledge can be in mitigating natural disasters, geological knowledge benefits all of society all of the time because everything we cannot grow - all the power and raw materials on which society depends - comes from the Earth and therefore has to be 'unearthed' by geologists. With fewer students opting for geoscience courses, Earth scientists fear we may beheading for a collapse of geological educational infrastructure worldwide. This could happen because, by the time rising prices encourage further exploration, historically low student recruitment may have already led to the closure and dispersal of university departments. Given the central importance of Earth sciences for our future, this prospect should worry everyone.
Over the next 18 months, the International Year of Planet Earth - initiated jointly by UNESCO and the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) - will be urging political leaders to act.
The Year will be officially launched at UNESCO headquarters on 12-13 February.On its list of things to do: reducing vulnerability to natural and human-induced hazards; improving understanding of the medical aspects of Earth science; discovering new natural resources and making them available in a sustainable manner; getting under Earth's living skin: soil; building safer structures and expanding urban areas by utilizing natural subsurface conditions; determining the non-human factor in climatechange; detecting deep and poorly accessible groundwater; and removing some of the question marks surrounding the evolution of life.
There will also be a strong focus on public outreach. Australian palaeontologist Patricia Vickers-Rich epitomizes this spirit. She is the author of the story in this issue of how life evolved on Earth. This fascinating tale encompasses the findings of an ongoing research project involving Prof. Vickers-Rich and others which is sponsored by UNESCO and the IUGS within the International Geoscience programme.
A second story focuses on the Year's geohazards theme. We shall follow the adventures of the inhabitants of Ambae after they discover a plume of steam and black smoke risingfrom the summit of the volcano dominating their island home in Vanuatu.
Major events over the next year include the Planet Earth exhibition at UNESCO headquarters from 16 October to 3 November, the 3rd International Conference on Geoparks in Germany in June and the International Geological Congress in Norway inAugust, under the patronage of UNESCO. A wealth of national events are also planned in more than 60 countries for scientists or the general public.
Meanwhile, entries close on 31 January for the photo contest being run within the Year by UNESCO for 15-20 year-olds around the globe, with 40 book prizes to be won. Look for details on UNESCO's science portal.
Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences