The International Year of Planet Earth (IYPE, www.yearofplanetearth.org) 2007-2009 provides an unprecedented opportunity for citizens of the Earth to learn more about how our planet functions and to celebrate the contributions made by earth sciences to our society. About 70 nations are ready to celebrate the year under the tag line Earth Science for Society. A Canadian National Committee (CNC) was established in late 2006 under the Chairmanship of John Boyd (see www.iypecanada.org) with former Canadian astronaut, Dr. Roberta Bondar, as the Honorary Patron of IYPE in Canada.
The theme adopted for IYPE celebrations in Canada is: WHERE on Earth, WHERE in Canada in which WHERE is the acronym for Water, Hazards, Energy, Resources and Environment. Canadian earth scientists will focus their effort on increasing public awareness of earth sciences in Canada. To that end, projects have been solicited from across the country and fund raising has been in progress to support the projects. Some projects have already been completed and others are now poised to take the stage in 2008.
Among the completed projects is co-sponsorship of a new Canadian Broadcasting Corporation five-part television series called A Geologic Journey (www.cbc.ca/geologic), which was aired in September and October 2007. An advertisement for IYPE, shown twice during each telecast, served to draw the attention of Canadians to IYPE. This advertisement is available for viewing at www.iypecanada.org.
Also released in 2007 were a series of thirty-two fact sheets on Mineral and Energy resources in Canada, which are available for free download at www.gac.ca/populargeoscience. These are a source of simple information on resource topics including gas hydrates, uranium, oil sands, gemstones, mineral deposits and industrial minerals. The fact sheets were put together by a team of authors based at the Geological Survey of Canada, with contributions from specialists.
A poster on the mineral and energy resources required to build and run a snowmobile was released in late 2007 by Mining Matters, an outreach program of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada in association with staff from the Geological Survey of Canada. It provides information on the minerals required to build a snowmobile and where they can be found. It is currently being formatted for web release.
Another recent release is the Northern British Columbia Geological Landscapes Highway Map, a joint project of the B.C. Geological Survey and the Geological Survey of Canada (see www.geoscape.nrcan.gc.ca). This is a basic geological map with descriptions of key geological regions and a compendium of sixty-eight photographs of a variety of geological localities along the highways of northern British Columbia.
Plans for 2008 and beyond
Among the exciting projects in the planning stage is a major national, web-based challenge for Canadians aged 10-14. This is to be known as “The WHERE Challenge” based on the theme for the year and will run in the 2008-09 academic year. The Challenge will ask participants to identify the source of the materials in the structure and content of their home, school or other meeting place. They will be asked to identify where the resources came from. Are they local, national or global in origin? Entry is electronic but can be a document, a presentation, a web page or a video. Individual and group prizes will be awarded on a regional basis. This project is currently being developed by the Canadian National Committee in partnership with Teck-Cominco, a major mining company and EnCana, a major oil company.
Another of the projects for IYPE is the GeoTime Trail. The prototype has been partially completed in the Waterloo region of Ontario. The GeoTime Trail is 4.5 km long, corresponding to 4.5 billion years of Earth history, with each metre representing one million years of geological time. Interpretive signs elucidate local geology in the context of major planetary events.
One of the major projects to be completed in 2008-09 is a new popular book on the geology of Canada entitled Four Billion Years and Counting: Canada’s Geological Heritage. Lavishly illustrated, the book will be in three parts: the first on fundamental concepts in earth sciences, a second telling the story of the geological development of Canada and a third describing the many societal issues that geology embraces, focusing on health and wealth. The iconic new illustrations developed for the book will be available for free download from a web site that is being developed as a major legacy of IYPE.
For young people who want to know more about the many and varied jobs in earth sciences, there will a segment of the IYPE web site dedicated to careers. This will be the place for Canadians to go for up-to-date information on careers in earth sciences. This project has already been thoroughly scoped by a team from the Canadian Geoscience Education Network and a near final version is ready for development into a web site.
A partnership with National Parks will see development of GeoVistas: site specific information sheets that will provide new insights into the earth science behind the beautiful vistas in some of Canada’s parks.
With all this activity, supported by donations from the private sector, Canada will be a major centre for celebration of IYPE and it is hoped that the legacy of the products will last far into the future.