I have taught evening classes at the local university for many years, always to science majors. In a way, I view it as therapy from my real job.
However, this past semester I had a different opportunity, teaching an Introduction to Physical Geology class to non-science majors. These were mostly seniors, ready to graduate, majoring in art, English, music and performance, and law enforcement. My goal was to teach them earth science and the broad use of the scientific method to understand their world. It was an eye-opening experience for me as I fully realized that the planet is populated mostly with non-science thinkers. The scientific method approach of observing, questioning, developing hypotheses, testing and theorizing was new to most. However, these students were fascinated with the science and concerned about the popular media discussion of global issues around energy, minerals, water, environment and human interaction. They truly wanted to learn and understand.
Many technical professional organizations are concerned with these issues. The AAPG membership, along and in conjunction with our sister organizations, is greatly involved in research, education and technology in these areas.
EMD's Role in the World
The Energy Minerals Division (EMD) has a very large role, mission and opportunity across all of these global topics, internally within AAPG and externally through meaningful technical reports, scientific papers, workshops, seminars, field trips and our day-to-day personal and professional interactions. Our technical and resource reports are routinely utilized by governmental and international users and our papers, workshops and field trips are important for presenting new ideas and an improved understanding of all earth-sourced energy systems.
The need for the expertise and knowledge of the EMD continues to grow, supporting an ever-increasing global demand in new energy science and utilization. Within the AAPG, the EMD scope covers much, including unconventionals, coal, coalbed methane, nuclear, hydrates and geothermal, and a growing potential role in rare-earth elements critical to technology. Our expanded reach includes the integration of other renewable energy resources such as wind and solar into the overall energy mix from those above.
The EMD is a critical part of the muscle, bone and philosophy of the modern AAPG. The inter-relationship of energy mineral resources, including discovery, extraction, utilization and integration remain more than two-thirds of the global diversified energy portfolio far into the foreseeable future. As energy mineral geologic systems are better understood, the integration and advancement of engineered earth energy systems becomes more probable and the utilization of our resources becomes more efficient.Oil, gas, unconventionals, coal, coalbed methane, nuclear, hydrates and geothermal, when considered together, represents an almost inexhaustible energy future.
A Scientific Approach
To support our membership and to provide the energy minerals science necessary for an effective energy future we must continue the successful practices of our past while developing the methods for the future. Not only must we develop and analyze the data necessary for efficient energy use, we must also analyze and develop new scientists and a better understanding of our energy planet across all peoples.
Utilizing the scientific method might be a guiding approach to do this. Observing what people know, think they know, and need to know, then questioning what they need to understand, developing a hypothesis for an approach to provide them that information, testing that our approach worked or did not work and then theorizing on next steps can help inform both scientists and non-scientists. My class of artists and musicians taught me that there is much the non-scientists want, and need, to know, and that many different approaches are needed.
Although I had mostly seniors waiting until their last semester to take this required science class, I also had two freshmen getting an early start. I encouraged a very open forum class, especially involving geology-related stories on the Internet. During an introductory lecture and overview discussion on tectonics, plate motion and the crust-mantle interface, one freshman asked, very seriously, and citing some story online while holding up their smartphone, "the aliens in Atlantis, did they really move into the (hollow) Earth?”
Obviously, we had not gotten too far into the crust-mantle discussion! I had to be thoughtful and present an appearance of serious professionalism and replied, "While I absolutely hope and believe there are other intelligent beings in the universe, I suspect that if they were intelligent and advanced enough to come here, they would understand the geology of the Earth well enough to make the best choices. Let's talk a while longer and see if we can answer this question.”
There are many more non-scientists than scientists and it is these we must reach, inform, and support while continuing our dedicated energy science efforts. Let's talk a while longer and see if we can answer these questions!
EMD President Doug Wyatt can be contacted at [email protected] and LinkedIn/in/drdougwyatt.