Holding on to Our Sense of Wonder and Awe

Just days ago we, here in North America, experienced a full solar eclipse. As daylight turned to twilight in midday, outside temperatures fell, and we witnessed one of the grandest celestial dances as the moon slipped between Earth and sun.

Awe and wonder is a natural and human response to such an event. It’s hard to escape the reality that we are flying through space on a small planet in an infinite universe. It creates perspective.

This sense of wonder about the natural world is what drew many of us to geology in the first place. Galaxies and planets, mountains and oceans – we wanted to understand how they formed, how nature actually works, and how they changed over time. Understanding the cosmos might just give us a deeper understanding of our place within it.

Rewind a few centuries and it was these same questions that motivated the observations that set the foundation for modern geology.

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Just days ago we, here in North America, experienced a full solar eclipse. As daylight turned to twilight in midday, outside temperatures fell, and we witnessed one of the grandest celestial dances as the moon slipped between Earth and sun.

Awe and wonder is a natural and human response to such an event. It’s hard to escape the reality that we are flying through space on a small planet in an infinite universe. It creates perspective.

This sense of wonder about the natural world is what drew many of us to geology in the first place. Galaxies and planets, mountains and oceans – we wanted to understand how they formed, how nature actually works, and how they changed over time. Understanding the cosmos might just give us a deeper understanding of our place within it.

Rewind a few centuries and it was these same questions that motivated the observations that set the foundation for modern geology.

James Hutton, living and working in Scotland in the 18th century, used both careful observation and reasoned analysis to develop the theory of uniformitarianism: that the planet changes through time due to natural geological processes.

In the 19th century, Hutton’s work was expanded and popularized by Charles Lyell, who published “Principles of Geology,” a volume that influenced the thinking of Charles Darwin on the evolution of both planet and species. Between the two, William Smith, known as the “father of English geology,” produced the first geologic map of a part of Great Britain – the renowned “map that changed the world.”

Event of the Century

The British have played a pivotal role in geology and continue to do so. And so it is fitting that the 2017 International Conference and Exhibition (ICE) in our 100th anniversary year is in Great Britain. London, to be precise, and we’ll be there Oct. 15 -18.

Under the leadership of Honorary Chair Jonathan Craig and general co-chairs Gabor Tari and Ken McClay together with general vice co-chairs Fiona MacAuley and Sa’id Al-Hajri, a stellar organizing committee has developed a program of technical and social events to support AAPG’s dual missions to advance the science of petroleum geology and to connect the global petroleum geoscience community as we seek to find and produce the hydrocarbons that fuel the modern world.

The technical program committee led by Mike Simmons, Andy Whitham and Helen Cromie has carefully selected oral and poster presentations to present the best in petroleum geoscience, organized around twelve themes:

  • 100 years of global exploration: regional geoscience,
  • Polar petroleum potential (3P),
  • Exploration and production in mature basins,
  • New and emerging exploration basins,
  • Deepwater exploration and production,
  • Integration of geophysics with geology,
  • Reservoirs: siliciclastic, carbonate, and mixed,
  • Unconventional exploration and production,
  • Traps and structural geology,
  • Petroleum systems and basin modeling,
  • Health, safety, security, and environment, and
  • History of petroleum exploration.

Staying abreast of what is happening in petroleum geoscience and understanding how our science and our business are evolving in the current market environment are essential to remaining competitive as a professional. But it’s not just technical know-how that’s needed to build your career. It’s also about uncovering and creating opportunities, and that’s where community comes into play.

It’s through professional relationships and connections that you are able to remain plugged into the industry. And that’s not always simple. But, by networking with other professionals in London, you’ll more readily encounter the possibility of a new opportunity.

Even as the downturn in oil and gas prices persists, it seems that world is becoming increasingly unstable and chaotic. Recent months have seen growing social unrest in the United States, terrorist attacks in Europe, nationalism, populism, economic collapse and growing authoritarianism – hardly the recipe for economic growth and resulting growth in energy demand.

We’re all waiting and hoping for a rebound, but this instability may be with us for longer than we’d like or can imagine. AAPG exists as a global association of petroleum geoscientists for just these times. We need each other. We can’t do this alone.

And amid the chaos, let us hold on to the sense of wonder and awe that drew each of us into geology. Let us remember the sense of discovery that motivated Hutton, Smith and Lyell to spend their years observing and studying our natural world. Let us remember our place in the cosmos, and let that be our lodestar, pointing us toward home.

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