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Future always to be International Year of Planet Earth

Earth sciences for society

The International Year of Planet Earth aimed to capture people’s imagination with the exciting knowledge we possess about our planet, and to see that knowledge used to make the Earth a safer, healthier and wealthier place for our children and grandchildren. However, in the light of global crises - all societies should stay focused on an International Year of Planet Earth.

What is the International Year of Planet Earth?

The International Year of Planet Earth aims to ensure greater and more effective use by society of the knowledge accumulated by the world’s 400,000 Earth scientists. The Year’s ultimate goal of helping to build safer, healthier and wealthier societies around the globe is expressed in the Year’s subtitle ‘Earth science for Society’.
The International Year ran from January 2007 to December 2009, the central year of the triennium (2008) having been proclaimed by the UN General Assembly as the UN Year. The UN saw the Year as a contribution to their sustainable development targets as it promotes wise (sustainable) use of Earth materials and encourages better planning and management to reduce risks for the world’s inhabitants.


About this logo: In 2002 the German Ministry of Education and Research in 2002 instigated the very successful Jahr der Geowissenschaften. The logo used in the national event forms the basis of the International Year logo, by kind permission of the German Ministry. This consists of an inner circle (red) representing the solid Earth, then the biosphere in green and the hydrosphere in dark blue, above which is the pale blue atmosphere, all constituents of the Earth System.

Who is behind the International Year?

The International Year of Planet Earth is a joint initiative by UNESCO and the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS). Twelve Founding Partners, 26 Associate Partners and a growing number of International Partner organisations from all continents and representing all major geoscientific communities in the world, have embarked on this initiative. The Year also enjoys the full political support of 191 UN countries. By the end of 2007, National Committees have been established in some 70 countries and regions in the world.

How does it work?

The main activities of the International Year of Planet Earth operate within its Science and Outreach programmes. Funding for projects in both programmes is sought from industry, Foundations and governments worldwide. Both programmes essentially operate in a response, or ‘bottomup’ mode.

The Science Programme consists of 10 broad, societally relevant and multidisciplinary themes: health, climate, groundwater, ocean, soils, deep Earth, megacities, hazards, resources, and life. Brochures on each of these themes are available in hard copy, and can be downloaded from the Year’s website. Scientists from all countries of the world are invited to submit Expressions of Interest (EoIs) dedicated to specific questions within each theme.

IYPE National Committees


The International Year will support research projects within the following twelve (12)  broad themes. Each theme will be described in a separate brochure in this series: > Planet Earth in our hands > Brochures - can be downloaded as pdf's.

  • Planet Earth in our hands

  • Groundwater – towards sustainable use

Nearly all the potentially drinkable water on the Earth exists as groundwater. New techniques of exploration and production, and improved understanding of the dynamics of natural water reservoirs, are helping Earth scientists find this most precious of all commodities.

  • Hazards – minimising risk, maximising awareness

The Earth can be a dangerous place, and is often made more dangerous by human intervention. Crucial to minimising the hazard potential from different geological threats facing people all over the world, is the accurate assessment and communication of risk.

  • Earth and Health – building a safer environment

Everyone who lives in a polluted city appreciates that where you live affects your health. Much, if not most of the control over whether an environment is healthy or not lies beneath your feet in the environmental geochemistry of your habitat.

  • Climate – the ‘stone tape'

Understanding climate trends, so vital to our stewardship of Planet Earth, relies heavily upon the preserved record of sedimentary rocks of many types. By studying this precious natural record, using proxy indicators for different aspects of climate, Earth scientists are now understanding in increasing detail how the climate works and how it has behaved in the past. However, these records are rare and precious and must be conserved before development destroys them forever.

  • Resource issues – towards sustainable use

Earth scientists have consistently confounded gloomy predictions about the exhaustion of resources, by improving their understanding of the Earth and of how potentially useful minerals accumulate. However, this does not absolve the world of responsibility to use these resources intelligently, or to find new, cleaner ways of liberating their energy

  • Megacities – going deeper, building safer

  • Urban areas, often concentrated on narrow coastal strips, are running out of space and the price of land is sky-high. More and more, architects will wish to switch from building high to building deep. This is more expensive in the short term, but much more sustainable in the long term.

  • Deep Earth – from crust to core

All of the Earth's long history and evolution right up to its current condition is really but scum on the surface of a vast, heat-driven engine. Consisting of a central nickel-iron core (an inner solid core and outer liquid core, generating most of the Earth's magnetic field) and the mantle, which though solid nevertheless convects and moves the planet's crustal plates, this motor is what makes our planet 'alive'.

  • Ocean – abyss of time

The oceans, which began to be scientifically explored 200 years ago, hold the key to how the Earth works. Although our improving knowledge of the oceans has revolutionised our understanding of the planet as a whole, much more remains to be discovered ­ not only in the use of oceans to the benefit of humankind, but also in preventing disruptions around the continental margins where so much of the human population is concentrated.

  • Soil – Earth’s living skin

  • Outreach – bringing earth sciences to everyone

  • Earth and Life – the origins of diversity.

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