Published:January 01, 1998
In preparing this volume the editors have chosen papers to form chapters of the volume that examine the issues of public health and welfare from different aspects. We have placed the chapters into four major groupings to emphasize these aspects.
The first group addresses issues related to decision-making about land use and natural resources. The first two chapters provide a framework for decision-making—based in part on the variability of temporal and spatial scales in the geologic environment—that can be a tool for resolving environmental complexity. Gerhard calls for establishment of priorities and rejection of spurious issues through a matrix approach that analyzes environmental issues at the global through local level of interest. Pinet et al. apply a hierarchial classification to process-response elements of geomorphic systems to assist in assessing the impact of environmental effect. In the third chapter, Thorson et al. discuss how the public perception of environmental wildness may be incongruous with the true naturalness of wetlands in New England. Their emphasis is on the need to incorporate the geological perspective in the evolution of wetlands and in their attributed value.
Geology and health provide the context for several “voice of warning” discussions. Burns et al. illustrate a case history of public education about radon potential in Portland, Oregon, which empowered citizens to heighten their personal awareness of their relationship to environmental hazards. Jibson et al. document the first case of an outbreak of coccidioidomycosis (valley fever) being related unequivocally to an earthquake and attendant natural phenomena, opening a new area of concern in natural hazard preparation and response.
Figures & Tables
A Paradox of Power
The 13 papers in this volume illustrate issues and opportunities confronting geologists as they bring their knowledge and understanding to bear in matters related to public health and welfare. Public decisions and decision-making processes in the face of geologic complexity and uncertainty are the subject of the first group of papers. In the second group, several “voice of warning” papers illustrate the use of geologic knowledge and research to warn the public of health hazards derived from geologic materials and processes. A third group of papers, in the “voice of reason” section, describes use of geologic knowledge to help lower the costs of mitigation and avoidance of geologic hazards. Finally, ethical and philosophical questions confronting geoscientists are discussed and issues of “truth” as related to the legal process and questions about the adequacy of information in making decisions about long-term radioactive waste disposal are discussed.