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Responsible Geosciences, or Geoscience Literacy for Urbanites

Urbanites, i.e., people living in urban environments, should be geoscience-literate. Them living under a ‘veil of geo-ignorance’ is not a valid option for responsible geosciences.

The urban realm is a social-ecological system on a planetary scale. Its complex-adaptive dynamics couple human practices and the geosphere1 2 (e.g., buildings, mines, shipping), causing massive fluxes (e.g., energy, water, materials), implies extensive civil-engineering works (e.g., housing, transport, infrastructure), and applies geoscience expertise. (e.g., foundations, drainage, position) A well-functioning urban realm requires professionals, who design, build and govern it, to apply geoscience expertise.

Urban environments emphasise socio-economic interactions of people sheltered from everyday geosphere phenomena (e.g., weather, climate, slope-stability) and many disasters (e.g. floods, storms, heatwaves). However, most people have little insight into how much urban lifestyles depend on geosphere functions. That ignorance is a systemic risk for modern societies, which geoscience professionals should mitigate3, and meteorology gives an example of ‘how’.

Modern meteorologists combine weather forecasts with information on meteorological phenomena, climate change, and impacts on economic and social activities. They show how forecasts determine people's work and life, demonstrating the wealth of geoscientific information and professional practices.

The yet-to-answere question: How to do alike?

1.         Otto, I. M. et al. Human agency in the Anthropocene. Ecol. Econ. 167, 106463 (2020).

2.        Rosol, C., Nelson, S. & Renn, J. Introduction: In the machine room of the Anthropocene. Anthr. Rev. 4, 2–8 (2017).

3.        Bohle, M., Sibilla, A. & Casals I Graells, R. A Concept of Society-Earth-Centric Narratives. Ann. Geophys. 60, (2017).


Martin Bohle1
1Ronin Institute, Montclair (NJ), USA;International Association for Promoting Geoethics (IAPG), Rome, Italy
GeoBerlin 2023