|FROM THE EDITOR||January 1999|
At the beginning of the last year of the millennium (or the penultimate penultimate year for you purists), it’s natural to review ccomplishments and reflect on where we should go next. Our science has made amazing leaps in understanding Earth. From the natural philosophers of the 1700s and 1800s who uncovered the rhythms of Earth’s cycles to the geoscientists of today who, armed to the hilt with technology, can focus microscopically on activity thousands of kilometers beneath our feet, we end this period with a great intellectual inheritance.
Now what do we do? USGS researcher Christine Turner gives us insights into how we can use our unique training to give society a better understanding of natural systems. In her editorial, “Geophilosophy — A Role for Geoscience in Society,” she tells us that combining the disciplines of geology and philosophy can create both a language and the methods to teach the public how to survive on Earth. Turner is concerned that in a land built by “rugged individualists,” we have lost the notion of personal responsibility. In the aftermath of natural disasters, we quickly look for somebody to blame. The real problem is that we have done a poor job of teaching “real-world complexity.” As a result, most people have little appreciation for the nterconnectedness of natural systems and no tolerance for uncertainty. For Turner and her colleagues, the big challenge of the next century will be to teach the citizens of Earth how their planet really works.
In this month’s cover feature, Jay Fleisher, Ernest Muller, Dorothy Peteet, and Matthew Lachniet remind us how persistent and methodical fieldwork can unravel a frustrating geological puzzle. The limited size of Alaska’s Bering Glacier has been viewed for years as a paradox. The lack of conspicuous evidence — foreland moraines and upland glacial drift — led many to think that the ice mass was out of sync with its glacial neighbors during the late Pleistocene. Systematic fieldwork has revealed evidence that the Bering Glacier was actually more in line with other glaciers in the area.
The development of industrial minerals in Europe is the focus of our second feature. Rosario Lunar Hernandez, Jesus Martínez-Frías, Raul Benito, and Dieter Wolf tell us of an important economic activity for Spain and the European Union. Large deposits of industrial-grade garnets have made Spain a major player in the minerals commodity market. As Lunar Hernandez and her colleagues explain, garnets offer a strong alternative to silica-based mineral abrasives — especially in light of some of the health hazards imposed by quartz abrasives. Garnet’s myriad uses and Spain’s high production capacity will keep the country a prominent producer for years.
I am also pleased to introduce a new column in Geotimes called “Core Studies,” written by AGI Director of Education Michael J. Smith. Each month, Mike and his colleagues will present educational issues that are critical to you and the geoscience community.
And finally, a note about a coming change. This year we are moving our geological highlights issue to July. Why? Logistics. We work two months in advance to produce an issue, so during December — one of the busiest months for family activities — you would find us living and breathing the February issue and busier than Santa’s elves. It is also generally difficult to connect with contributing authors. Many insist on writing their summaries after the fall AGU meeting, which normally occurs after our manuscript deadlines. A July highlights issue will allow for an organized compilation process that more closely follows both academic and conference schedules. As always, we will report on research highlights of the preceding year. And, you will have another good reason to have Geotimes forwarded to you in the field.
Good reading and Happy New Year.
Victor V. van Beuren