It’s that time of the year when I, for one, am grateful that the endless reflections in the media on the previous twelve months must come to an end – the events and non-events, the ups and downs, the highs and lows, the progress or otherwise, the marriages and divorces of mediocre “celebrities,” the genuinely positive and the utterly banal. There will be one list here, but of a different nature.
It’s impossible to avoid some form of reflection as we approach the New Year, and, out of curiosity, I have looked at the activity on this blog over the last month, the most recent few thousand visits (from, pleasingly, 117 different countries), and tried to discern why the top ten and the bottom ten posts were ranked that way. I gave up (other than appreciating that critters are always popular). But, since one of the (many) reasons that anyone tries to keep up an entertaining blog is some kind of satisfaction, I reflected on which of the top ten – and, even more interestingly – which of the bottom ten posts I would select as ones that I remain in one way or another pleased with.
Selecting from the top ten was easy – I derive considerable pleasure from the fact that the piece on Gaudi and the sandstones of Barcelona, although written nearly two years ago, seems to have an enduring popularity. As for the bottom ten, this was more of a challenge; some of them are trivial and their lowly rankings quite understandable. But I find it vaguely depressing that the post on last year’s Earth Science Week and Earth Science Literacy attracted 0.02% of the visits.
The headline statement from the Earth Science Literacy initiative is as follows:
An Earth-science-literate public, informed by current and accurate scientific understanding of Earth, is critical to the promotion of good stewardship, sound policy, and international cooperation. Earth science education is important for individuals of all ages, backgrounds, and nationalities.
And here (now for the third time on this blog) are the “Big Ideas” from that program:
Big Idea 1. Earth scientists use repeatable observations and testable ideas to understand and explain our planet.
Big Idea 2. Earth is 4.6 billion years old.
Big Idea 3. Earth is a complex system of interacting rock, water, air, and life.
Big Idea 4. Earth is continuously changing.
Big Idea 5. Earth is the water planet.
Big Idea 6. Life evolves on a dynamic Earth and continuously modifies Earth.
Big Idea 7. Humans depend on Earth for resources.
Big Idea 8. Natural hazards pose risks to humans.
Amid all the reflections on 2012, it’s hard to find evidence for an improvement in earth science literacy – in fact, the evidence seems to argue for the reverse. Loudest among the voices shouting for our attention are those of politicians with axes to grind and elections to win and those of the information-challenged electorates to whom they pander. And it’s easy (assuming, of course, that you agree with me) to focus immediately on the U.S., where the truth seems to increasingly go missing on a daily basis. But it’s not just there – the UK Government axes libraries and science funding and encourages schools to be run by people with an overtly religious agenda; the blitz of misinformation following the Japanese earthquake and tsunami was truly mind-boggling; Germany reverses its position on nuclear power overnight with no reference to science, risk assessment, or the environmental implications. And as for any international cooperation on management of our planet’s resources, well, I rest my case.
So, looking forward (as I prefer to do), here’s my fervent wish for 2012:
A YEAR FROM NOW, MAY A LARGER PROPORTION OF THE EARTH’S POPULATION SUBSCRIBE, SERIOUSLY, THOUGHTFULLY, AND ACTIVELY, TO THOSE BIG IDEAS THAN IS THE CASE TODAY.