Earth Sciences in the Third Millennium: From Deep Earth to Social Issues

Presentation by Manuel A. Iturralde-Vinent
Academician
Cuban Academy of Sciences, Cuba

Abstract
The exiting revolution taking place in the development of new technologies is providing a highway for basic and applied sciences, among them, to Earth Sciences. Nowadays, within short time lapse are becoming available new techniques, new methods and new equipments of remote sensing, geophysics, images processing, earth tomography, rock and mineral analysis, radiometric dating, and data processing. All these achievements are steaming the possibilities of understanding earth dynamics, as demonstrated by recent achievements in geosciences.
Nevertheless, the cost of acquisition, exploitation and maintenance of these technologies are growing very fast, and the standards are constantly sharpened, making obsolete previous techniques within a short time period. This is producing a widening gap between those countries and institutions that can afford to obtain these techniques and those which are not. In the same road goes the high cost of access to international scientific publications.

Additionally, some very successful organizations providing financial support for interdisciplinary and international earth sciences projects, as the UNESCO´s International Geoscience Program (IGCP) and the Association of Geoscientists for International Development (AGID), have seen a strong budgetary reduction. Along this trend, the UNESCO´s Earth Science Division was closed and fused with the Division of Ecological Sciences, some universities have close or downsized their basic Earth Science programs, and several countries have reduced support for research in Earth Science. This trend was mainly caused by the misconception that we know already what we need to know of our planet, and no geology but other sciences will solve our problems.

On the other hand, natural disasters related to geological processes (earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, landslide, flash flows, among others) are claiming thousands of lives and destroying properties in rapid progression. Reserves of basic metals, natural row materials and energy resources are fast reducing, indicating that humanity is reaching a point of no-return. Only continuous basic and applied research in Geosciences will produce the necessary knowledge to save life and environment, create new resources and, ultimately, improve the quality of life.

These facts lead to applause the INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF PLANET EARTH (http://www.yearof`planetearth.org/). Since the United Nations proclaimed 2008 as the International Year of Planet Earth, subtitled “Earth Sciences for Society”, it is important that all countries and scientists join this initiative, in order to call the attention of governments, states and international organization to support earth science research and educate the people to take the right steps in order to protect humanity from natural disasters and to use the Earth resources more sustainably.

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Speaker’s profile
Geologist, Universidad de Oriente, Cuba, 1975 ,Ph.D, Instituto Superior Politécnico J. A. Echeverría, 1995, Academician, Cuban Academy of Sciences, 1997. Senior researcher, National Museum of Natural History, Cuba ,Adjunct senior professor, Higher Polytechnic Institute J.A. Echeverría Specialization: Caribbean Geology, Paleontology, Paleogeography, Plate Tectonics and Biogeography, Environmental Geology and Karstology. Junior micropaleontologists (1964-1968, Head of the Department of Engineering Geology at the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources (1968-1970), Assistance to Professor of Geology while studying Geology at the Higher Polytechnic Institute and the University of Oriente(1971-1974), Researcher in charge of regional mapping projects, Institute of Geology and Paleontology (1975-1981), Head of Project of Geological Prospecting in Central Cuba (1982-1987), Senior Researcher and Curator, National Museum of Natural History (1988-today). Participated and/or lead national and international research project with the UNESCO/IUGS IGCP Program, the National Geographic Society, the American Museum of Natural History, and other NGOs. Participated and/or organized national and international scientific events in Cuba and many other countries, included the International Geological Congresses of Moscow, Brazil, and Italy. He has published more than 200 research papers, books and edited several monographs