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October 11, 2009

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As a geological studies student at the University of Southern California, I understand the implications of human actions on global occurrences are considerably more complex than originally thought. While the public may recognize the geoscience issues are becoming more relevant, the scientific facts and information available might not be presented in way that most people would be able to comprehend. I agree that it is our job, as those better educated in these issues, to effectively communicate to the public: (1) skills necessary to separate accurate data from scientific propaganda, and (2) factual information directly related to the quality of human life. This belief that these basic skills and knowledge would allow the public to make better decisions, not only about geoscience issues but other aspects of their lives, stress the importance of Earth Science Week. I appreciate your dedication to this event, one I was not aware of prior to your post.

Your interpretation of the “Big Ideas” presented by the Earth Science Literacy Initiative using sand as a common theme was very thought provoking. I realize this post is an indulgence of your arenophile tendencies, and hope to inspire a different route to Earth Science Literacy, but I wonder if some of the connections made might be over simplifying the actual “Big Idea”. I agree with the example of sand grains, zircons, being used comprehend the chaotic history of change undergone by the Earth as I have done research using U-Pb geochronology. The suggestion of shape-shifting bodies of sand on the coasts, oceans, rivers and deserts reflecting the ever-changing Earth is also a valid model. I know you feel strongly towards sand, and the information it can provide, but do you believe this is a relevant way to present the “Big Ideas” to the public, to make it seem more relatable and visual? I am unsure of the implication of sand being a means of preserving evidence for evolution is as strong of an argument as others used. Also the discussion on humans altering the earth touches upon the dramatic changes we have imposed upon the earth, but doesn’t reflect the effects of those changes, something I would be interested to learn more about. I really value your perspective and it has forced me to look at things differently. Seeing how little understood the geosciences really are, I am constantly looking for examples to simplify the complicated concepts, and I appreciate your suggestions and will probably use them in future discussions.

Hi Sharla - many thanks for your thoughtful and thought-provoking comment. I take your point and I will of course admit that my theme influenced the way I approached this and yes, there are inevitable over-simplifications (perhaps stretching the point somewhat on occasion). Nevertheless, I like to think that my blog is read by non-specialists and I thought that trying to highlight how the compelling "nine big ideas" are illustrated in the world around us through a single, humble, material, provides a different way of looking at and thinking about those ideas. And you're right, the effects of human activity raise topics and issues that go far beyond this.

Thanks again

Michael

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