Episode 214: The Untapped Potential of the Earth’s Hidden Commons w/ Iain Stewart

“I think that selling this idea that if you become a geoscientist in the 21st century, the frontier is not up there in the sky, but is down there underneath your feet.”

In this thought-provoking episode, expert geoscience communicator Iain Stewart opens our eyes to the “hidden commons” of the subsurface. Iain challenges us to rethink our relationship with the subsurface, drawing parallels between the allure of space exploration and the untapped mysteries of our planet’s depths. He shares the greatest value of geoscientists and why studying geology is important.

Listeners will be captivated by Iain’s vision of the subsurface as a new frontier, not just for resource exploitation but as a space for sustainable development and urban innovation. From the governance of the subsurface to the emotional appeal it holds, Iain articulates the need to build empathy and understanding for this hidden realm.

The conversation also tackles the geoscientist’s dual role as Earth steward and resource extractor, emphasizing the importance of conveying geoscience’s relevance to the public and decision-makers. Iain’s expertise in geoscience communication shines as he outlines how geoscientists can contribute to pivotal issues like climate change and the energy transition.

This episode will inspire and help give geoscientists a new language to talk about the importance of their work to the world.

Seismic Soundoff · 214: The Untapped Potential of the Earth's Hidden Commons w/ Iain Stewart

Episode Highlights

  • 1:35 – Introduction to the Royal Scientific Society and the role of the research chair
  • 4:40 – The concept of the “hidden commons” and ownership of the subsurface
  • 8:57 – The emotional and intellectual appeal of the subsurface
  • 11:45 – Geoscientists as Earth stewards and the dilemma of resource exploitation
  • 15:30 – The geologist’s unique perspective in the climate change conversation
  • 18:42 – Engaging the public’s imagination with the wonders of the subsurface
  • 23:10 – The potential of the subsurface in urban development and sustainability
  • 27:00 – Iain’s vision for geoscience’s role in improving the human condition

Episode Links

Guest Bio

Iain Stewart is the El Hassan bin Talal Research Chair in Sustainability at the Royal Scientific Society (Amman, Jordan), a Visiting Professor in Environmental Studies at Ashoka University, India, and a Professor of Geoscience Communication at the University of Plymouth. At Plymouth, he was the founding director of its Sustainable Earth Institute, with research interests in disaster risk reduction and Earth science communication. His geo-communication work has been built on a 15-year partnership with BBC Science, presenting television documentaries about planet Earth. Currently, he leads the UNESCO IGCP project 685 Geoscience and Sustainable Development and holds the UNESCO Chair for Geoscience and Society.

Geoscience in Action

The Geoscience in Action report, jointly published by UNESCO and the American Geophysical Union (AGU), offers a practical roadmap to illustrate how geoscientists can apply their expertise to solving the world’s environmental, social, and economic problems. The report showcases illuminating examples of projects and initiatives in which geoscientists have developed solutions alongside health experts, regional policymakers, educators, community leaders, and other stakeholders. Geoscience in Action also includes a catalog of geoscience competencies and a series of questions and activities for motivating engagement. By sharing how multinational, multidisciplinary initiatives are being shaped with contributions from geoscientists, we hope to inspire and enable the proliferation of similar projects.

Show Credits

Seismic Soundoff showcases conversations with geoscientists addressing the challenges of energy, water, and climate.

SEG creates these episodes to celebrate and inspire the geophysicists of today and tomorrow.

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This episode was hosted, edited, and produced by Andrew Geary at TreasureMint. The SEG podcast team is composed of Jennifer Cobb, Kathy Gamble, and Ally McGinnis. 

Transcription and episode summary support provided by Headliner.

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