The dilemma of the geologist: Earth resources and environmental policy
Published:January 01, 1998
American environmental policy has developed over the last 25 years under a preservation ethic, which is a dilemma for geologists who must explore for and develop earth resources for society. Geologists have a professional responsibility to provide the earth resources, upon which society absolutely depends, in a society that values unspoiled scenic vistas more than the earth resources they contain. Recent federal elections have amplified public debate over the appropriateness of current environmental laws and policy. Impacts of environmental preservation policies are seen in a decline in standard of living, in lack of consensus on priorities, and lack of science in risk management. In order to sustain society’s needs for earth resources, we must reexamine our stance about environmental standards, and develop a holistic approach to balancing societal needs for resources with societal desires for a pleasant physical environment. Human health and safety should be our most important goals; recreation and esthetics are of lesser importance to most of the world’s population.
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.