An international group of geologists is forming an organization that will provide geological assistance in the event of natural disasters or other worldwide crises, says a Denver geologist who recently attended a professional conference in Spain.
AAPG member David M. Abbott, a consulting geologist in Denver, attended the first International Professional Geology Conference at Alicante University in Alicante, Spain, in July.
The new group, World Geologists, which is headquartered in Spain, plans to work with the Red Cross and other groups in siting refugee camps and providing other types of geological assistance in disasters,
World Geologists was founded 15 months ago. Working much like Doctors Without Borders, the professional geologic group will help to properly locate refugee camps in areas with adequate water and sewage disposal.
"You don't want to put a camp in a place that is subject to flooding or rock falls or other hazards," Abbott said. "Geologic assistance is needed while they are setting up these camps.
"It's not the kind of thing where you have a massive need for numbers of professionals on an ongoing basis, like the medical profession," he added. "It's a different scope of what we can contribute."
He noted that the idea is to set up refugee camps so that victimized people would not be subject to another disaster within the camp itself.
"It's an admirable idea for those with appropriate skills and interest," Abbott said.
(More information on this group can be found at http://tierra.rediris.es/ong.)
While attending the international conference, Abbott made a presentation on ethical concerns. He has served as ethics chairman of the American Institute of Professional Geologists and is the author of Geological Ethical and Professional Practice, published by AIPG in 1998.
In his speech to the international group, he suggested that international geologic ethics is an achievable goal.
"There has been for a number of years a bugaboo that cultural diversity would prevent this," he said. "But I have come to the conclusion that that is rather like the theatrical thunder of The Wizard of Oz. When you look behind the curtain, there are fundamental principles that all cultures agree upon.
"They are the basis of all the ethical codes and guidelines I know."
To further this idea, the organization plans to meet again in four years, probably in Europe, he said. Most of the geologists attending the conference were European, although there were many Canadians and a few representatives from South America.
Australian and Japanese geologists were noticeably absent from the conference, he said -- but Abbott noted that the conference, which focused on the professional aspects of geology, was organized by European geologists. About 100 delegates attended the sessions, he said.
Abbott agreed to chair an e-mail list of participants interested in discussing professional ethics on an international basis.
(Geologists interested in participating can reach Abbott online at David Abbott [email protected])
"I got some names from participants at the conference," he said, "but I don't have many North American names."
The international conference was conducted jointly in Spanish and English and featured sessions on the role of national geological surveys, working opportunities for geologists, the engineering geology practice in Europe, international reporting standards for minerals reserves and resources, the geologist's role in developing aggregate resources, and working with legislatures to protect geological heritage.
Other issues discussed at the conference dealt with:
The role of geology in environmental management and land use planning.
Petroleum geologists in the 21st century.
Whether academic and professional titles have different meanings for the profession and the public.
The Canadian and European perspectives on geologic education.
Understanding natural hazards.
Another big topic for discussion involved the free movement of geologists to work in various areas around the world, Abbott said.
"It's a problem becoming more acute in the United States with state licensing," Abbott said. "The problem is that we are seeing an increasing number of (state) licenses that do not have ready reciprocity."
For example, petroleum geologists may work in several states or internationally, and "the thought of having to get a license in 20 or 30 different states is ludicrous," Abbott said. "We are also seeing a rise of requirements for certification licensing internationally."
Participants discussed whether there could eventually be a national license that can receive international recognition.
"Europeans are ahead of the curve on this," he said. "Once they have national credentials, they can apply for the title of 'European Geologist,' which allows them to be recognized in the European Community."
In fact, Abbott received the title of European Geologist at the conference. He earned the title because he is already certified by a national organization -- he is a chartered geologist with the Geological Society of London.
Abbott is a consulting geologist in Denver specializing in mineral reserves, natural resources and reserves estimation and auditing. He joined the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in 1975 as a geologist and worked there for 21 years. He has been a consultant since 1996 and has written widely about professional ethics.