GeoLog

Education

GeoTalk: “Grown-ups are not focusing on the plastic problem, not as much as I want them to”

GeoTalk: “Grown-ups are not focusing on the plastic problem, not as much as I want them to”

Lucie Parsons, a ten-year old girl from the small village of Walkington, in England, is on a personal mission to save the environment from plastic pollution. After seeing on the BBC Blue Planet II documentary how litter in the ocean is damaging ecosystems, she decided to take action. Now she gives talks and is co-researcher in her mother’s PhD on climate change and the youth voice. Lucie has come to the European Geosciences Union General Assembly in Vienna with her mother, Katie Parsons, to tell scientists that children want to be involved in addressing environmental issues.

Unless the flow of plastics and industrial pollution into the world’s oceans is reduced, marine life will be poisoned by them for many centuries to come.

David Attenborough, The Blue Planet II: Episode 4, BBC One

 

How did you learn about the impact of plastic pollution in the oceans and marine life?

L: Through Blue Planet. I saw an episode about a whale and her calf, and how the contamination poisoned the whale’s milk. When I saw that I got really, really upset so I wrote a poster about it. Then I asked my mummy and daddy to photocopy it so that I might be able to put it around the village. I read and watched documentaries to learn more, and I found out that it is a big problem. I wanted to do something about it.

So you started giving talks… 

L: Katy Duke, the head of the [aquarium] Deep in Hull, got in touch with daddy because she saw my poster.

K: I tweeted Lucie’s poster to show what she had done after she was so moved by the documentary. The CEO of the Deep saw that and contacted us to ask if Lucie would like to give the opening talk at the European Union of Aquarium Curators Conference, which the Deep were due to host.

What do you tell people in your talks?

L: I have done two conferences and talks, also at schools. I have also been interviewed for the radio and profiled by the Earth Day Network. In my talks I basically tell people how bad the problem is, what it is doing to the animals and what they can do to help.

Here at the EGU General Assembly people were really touched by your presentation. Do you think your talks make people take action? 

K: Gilles Doignon, from the European Commission for Environment, was really moved about what Lucie had said at the Deep. He promised her that he would get the aquariums to sign up to a plastic pledge.

L: And he managed to do it.

K: He said that, thanks to Lucie, thousands of turtles will be saved. This is where she got her inspiration from to carry on. If she can talk and say the things she has done, even if just one or two people do something about it, that creates a knock-on effect.

Why do you think children should be involved in the fight against climate change?

L: Children are the next generation; when they get older they will take over the work grown-ups have done. So they should start now. Children can do the same things as grown-ups, there is not really a difference with helping, you need to get as many people to help as you can get.

K: Getting schools and individual children involved in science will make it real and manageable, part of life. Otherwise much science ends up in dusty journals. We need people to live it and understand it.

Are grown-ups doing enough?

L: I think they should be doing a tiny bit more. They are not really focusing on the problem, not as much as I want them to.

You have talked to politicians before, why do you think it is important to talk to scientists also?

K: When Lucie was affected by Blue Planet she luckily had me and her dad to help her. But other children will have their passion stopped unless they have an adult who supports them. Some schools don’t do environmental education, it is not within many curriculums, and some parents might not carry on informing their children.

There is amazing science going on and some scientists who communicate get through to the children. There is a youth rising at the moment. Children are interested, they want to know and they want to be involved. But, how? Scientists have to continue feeding the information to the children and involve them in citizen science so they will carry on with that passion.

What can people do to help?

L: Inform other people, go on litter picks and map the areas where they found the litter to help prevent more litter. With my friends and my family, we have cleaned three areas so far in my village and we are mapping them to feed in the data about where we found the litter. Also, stop using single-use plastics.

Is there any other documentary, book or podcast you would recommend to people who want to learn about plastic pollution in the oceans?

L: Drowning in Plastic. We have watched about three quarters of that.

K: You are enjoying that, aren’t you?

L: Yes… Well, I wouldn’t say we are enjoying it.

Interview by Maria Rubal Thomsen, EGU Press Assistant

Union-wide events at EGU 2019

Union-wide events at EGU 2019

Wondering what to expect at the General Assembly this year? Here are some of the highlights:

Union Symposia (US)

For events which will have general appeal, regardless of your field of research, look no further than the Union Symposia. The very first session celebrates 30 years of the WMO Global Atmosphere Watch Programme (US5). This session will highlight the need for, and illustrate exciting advances in the translation of atmospheric composition research to support services. The event will also articulate the needs for advances in observing systems, models and a better understanding of fundamental processes.

Following this session will be US4: Promoting and supporting equality of opportunities in geosciences. Under-representation of different groups (cultural, national and gender) remains a reality across the world in the geosciences. This Union Symposium will touch on the remaining obstacles that contribute to these imbalances, with the goal of identifying best practices and innovative ideas to overcome obstacles.

Friday’s first session (US2) pays tribute to the 250th anniversary of the birth of Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859), the intrepid explorer of the Andes and other regions in the world, and the most famous scientist of his time. This symposium will recognise Alexander von Humboldt’s legacy by reviewing the state of the art in studies of the coupled lithosphere – atmosphere – hydrosphere – biosphere system with a focus on the Andean mountain belt

And finally, US3 on Friday afternoon will cover past and future tipping points and large climate transitions in Earth history. The aim of the session is to point out the most recent results concerning how a complex system as the climate of the Earth has undergone many tipping points and what is the specificity of the future climate changes.

Science and Society (SCS)

The EGU is dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in the geosciences for the benefit of humanity worldwide, and the Union’s dialogue with society is one of its priority missions. At the 2019 General Assembly, the EGU is launching an innovative symposium format, Science and Society (SCS), to host scientific forums specifically dedicated to connecting with high-level institutions and engaging the public and policymakers. Here is some information on the two Science and Society sessions taking place this year:

Communication between scientists, institutions, policymakers and the general public is widely recognised as an essential step towards a fair and sustainable society. The Science and Society session Science, Politics and European (dis)integration: A conversation of Geoscientists with Ilaria Capua and Mario Monti (SCS1) will focus on science and politics with a global perspective, and the impact of populism on European integrity and therefore scientific research.

Plastic pollution is recognised as one of the most serious and urgent problems facing our planet. There is a pressing need for global action, backed by sound scientific understanding, to tackle this problem. This additional Science and Society session, Plastics in the Hydrosphere: An urgent problem requiring global action (SCS2), will address the problems posed to our planet by plastic pollution, and examine options for dealing with the threat.

Great Debates (GDB)

This year we’re holding five Great Debates! The topics covered this year are varied, from the safe operating space for the planet and how to ensure it is not passed to Plan-S: Should scientific publishers be forced to go Open Access? The role of scientists in policy-making is another hot topic on the Great Debate agenda, with one debate dedicated to the subject on who is responsible for science in policymaking.

Another Great Debate will focus on Rewards and recognition in science: what value should we place on contributions that cannot be easily measured. At this session a panel of stakeholders will discuss how can we fairly value and credit scientists with harder-to-measure contributions, such as engaging directly with the public and policymakers and practicing open scholarship.

Continuing with the success of last year’s Early Career Scientist (ECS) Great Debate, the 2019 General Assembly invites participants to join a round-table discussion where everyone will be given the opportunity to discuss this year’s chosen topic: “How can Early Career Scientists prioritise their mental wellbeing?” Whether you are in Vienna or elsewhere, be sure to follow and join in the debates using #EGU19GDB on Twitter.

Educational & Outreach Symposia (EOS)

Educational and Outreach Symposia are sessions dedicated to all things education and outreach, and include the Geosciences Information for Teachers (GIFT) workshop, a long-running event for high school teachers that helps shorten the time between discovery and textbook.

Science-Art-Public Events (SCA)

The Science-Art-Public Events give you the opportunity to observe, discuss, and take part in activities focused on integrating art and science and society. This year the conference will feature three events relating to this topic.

The Geoscience Games Night session offers a space to gather, socialize, and play some games based on Geoscience! Bring along your own games or try one of the others in the session and meet the people who created them.

You can also join the OpenStreetMap Mapathon to help put some of the world’s most vulnerable places on the map and learn more about crowdsourcing, open data and humanitarian response. No experience is necessary – just bring your laptop and the session conveners will provide the training.

Finally, the conference will be hosting a screening of the award-winning documentary A Plastic Ocean. Join the event to understand the impacts of plastic pollution around the world, what action we can take to stop plastics entering our natural world and pose your questions to the film’s producer, Jo Ruxton, at the end of film.

Medal Lectures and Lectures organized by related scientific societies (MAL, LRS)

There will be 4 lectures organized by related scientific societies as well as a grand total of 45 Medal Lectures this year!

Stand Alone Lectures (SAL)

the 2019 meeting will also be hosting two stand-alone lectures.

In the first stand-alone lecture, geophysicist Xavier Le Pichon will discuss the possibility of relating plate tectonics and mantle dynamics without ambiguity: Pangea and lower mantle: Are we entering into a new paradigm? From Plate Tectonics to Global Tectonics.

The growing frequency of extreme hydrologic events is becoming increasingly apparent at the global scale. In addition, population increases in flood prone areas intensifies the impacts associated with these extreme flood events. in this second stand-alone lecture, Giulia Sofia from the University of Connecticut will provide an overview about this complex set of interactions, and will showcase some study cases where human drivers, rainfall patterns and floods have been analysed.

Meet EGU (EGU)

Meet EGU does exactly what it says on the tin – these sessions are a great opportunity to get to know your division president and early career representative, put faces to names and find out what’s going on in the Union.

Townhall and Splinter Meetings (TSM)

Townhall Meetings allow participants to take part in a lot of open discussion. This year’s meetings cover a huge variety of topics, from a talk on geoscientific drone (UAV/UAS) applications through to a discussion on how EGU can minimise the carbon footprint of the General Assembly. Like Townhall Meetings, Splinter Meetings are organised by participants, but they are typically smaller and can be either public or by invitation only.

The EGU General Assembly is taking place in Vienna, Austria from 7 to 12 April. Check out the full session programme on the General Assembly website and follow the Assembly’s online conversation on Twitter (#EGU19 is the official conference hashtag) and Facebook.

Imaggeo on Mondays: Watching the world from space with EarthKAM

Imaggeo on Mondays: Watching the world from space with EarthKAM

This photo was taken from the International Space Station (ISS), approx. 400 km above the Earth, in the NASA-led educational project Sally Ride EarthKAM (www.earthkam.org), Mission 58, April 2017. The image was requested by a team of 10th and 11th grade students from the National College of Computer Science, Piatra-Neamț, Romania, coordinated by me. The lenses used on the digital camera mounted on the ISS are 50 mm focal length. The area photographed is a region of 185.87 km wide and approx. 123.5 km long, from Utah, USA. The view is spectacular, a perfect equilibrium between mountains, canyons, lakes and bays.

It’s just one of the pictures that my students had the opportunity to get from the ISS. Even though we weren’t there on the ISS to trigger the camera, all the locations in which the photographs were taken were chosen by us, on the track of the ISS.

The project activities were very complex. The students learned about the Earth, its rotation and gravity, and about the space station and its orbit. They completed their knowledge of physics, understanding how from the ISS orbit we can have another perspective of the Earth. They chose the places on the Earth to be photographed, studied these regions and monitored the weather conditions for better photo opportunities. They identified the places on Google Earth, analysed the photos and then created QR codes for some of them.

Below are the QR codes for the photo “Awesome trip above the Earth”:

 

The ISS became an innovative learning environment for the students. The astronauts’ availability for engaging in educational programmes, sharing their extraordinary experiences of becoming aware of the beauty and fragility of the Earth from the ISS orbit, has increased the attractiveness of learning about space. As Sally Ride, the first American astronaut woman on the ISS, said:

“When I was orbiting Earth in the space shuttle, I could float over to a window and gaze down at the delicate white clouds, brilliant orange deserts, and sparkling blue water of the planet below. I could see the coral reefs in the oceans, fertile farmlands in the valleys, and twinkling city lights beneath the clouds. Even from space, it is obvious that Earth is a living planet.”

The photo was integrated into a photo exhibition called “The Earth’s Colors” that I realised with my students at my college, which led the viewer on a global trip, discovering how beautiful and fascinating the Earth viewed from Space is. Satellite photography offered my students a new world perspective, encouraging them to ask questions and to search for the answers. It was a new and exciting way to travel and discover our planet.

The project was a great opportunity, not only for my students but also for thousands of other students around the globe, to study the Earth in a way that complements different subjects in order to better understand our world. It also has strengthened my conviction that, as the teacher and Challenger astronaut Christa McAuliffe said:

“…space is for everybody. It’s not just for a few people in science or math, or for a select group of astronauts. That’s our new frontier out there, and it’s everybody’s business to know about space.”

By Diana Cristina Bejan, physics teacher, The National College of Computer Science, Piatra-Neamț, Romania

Imaggeo is the EGU’s online open access geosciences image repository. All geoscientists (and others) can submit their photographs and videos to this repository and, since it is open access, these images can be used for free by scientists for their presentations or publications, by educators and the general public, and some images can even be used freely for commercial purposes. Photographers also retain full rights of use, as Imaggeo images are licensed and distributed by the EGU under a Creative Commons licence. Submit your photos at http://imaggeo.egu.eu/upload/.