Geology for Global Development

Professionalism & Responsibility

New Paper: Interconnected Geoscience for International Development

A new paper published in Episodes: The Journal of International Geoscience highlights the importance of geoscience in tackling complex development challenges, and the need for new approaches to overcome barriers preventing greater application of geoscience within development. ‘Interconnected geoscience for international development‘, written by Professor Michael Petterson of Auckland University of Technology (New Zealand) sets out a conceptual model that combines geoscience expertise with an understanding of developmental situations, conditions, and context. 

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction require geoscientists from across all sectors and sub-disciplines to get involved, improve access to their science, and participate in effective and respectful capacity building and knowledge exchange (read more here). In this new article, Petterson (2019) reflects on his experiences as a geoscientist working in two sharply contrasting development contexts (the Solomon Islands and Afghanistan) to synthesise key learning. With one funding cycle starting as another comes to an end, taking time to reflect on and share lessons learned is sadly not always typical. As the SDGs and a renewed focus on science-for-development provide geoscientists with greater opportunities to engage in international development, this reflection is of great importance.

 

One factor discussed by Petterson (2019) is the importance of both understanding and valuing situational context (including local world views), and using this to enrich the design and implementation of projects. Another is the importance of inclusivity, building strong networks and actively including local wisdom. While good technical geoscience knowledge and skills are greatly needed in development programmes, these must be complement by a suite of other skills (often missing from the traditional education of geoscientists). Recognising this, and helping geoscientists to build these skills, is central to the work of Geology for Global Development.

Petterson (2019) notes: “Developmental setting/conditions are the foundation: these will guide how the geoscience is to be optimally applied. Projects are devised with development goals in mind and outputs/services tailored to meet the needs of policy makers and practitioners. Local affected communities must be at the heart of project outcome design. An interconnected approach places importance on issues such as inclusivity, environment and local focus, indigenous and non-conformist world-views, valuing and incorporating traditional knowledge, the possibilities of citizen-science and geoscientist-community connections/relations. The interconnected approach adopts the equal and respectful inclusive approach from the earliest stages of programme conception and development. Interconnected geoscience approaches, provide a conceptual model for the possibilities of science + social science + community + local world views, to feed into policy and communal acceptance of policy. An interconnected geoscience approach stands a better chance of addressing complex, regional and global development issues, including planetary health and global climate change. The approach improves the probability of practitioners using research results, and researchers undertaking research that addresses the highest level needs of development.”

Read the whole article (open access) here.

GfGD Network of Professionals

Geology for Global Development (GfGD) is a registered charity, working to mobilise and reshape the geoscience community to help deliver the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

To support this mission, a network of professionals is being established, aiming to promote GfGD’s vision and objectives, facilitate knowledge sharing and catalyse discussion around geoscience-for-development themes, and support geoscientists in the network to help deliver the SDGs. This group will ensure stronger connections between GfGD and professionals from the public and private sector, research and NGOs, whilst providing additional support to those currently involved in GfGD (predominantly university students).

Professional geoscientists are often placed in a unique position at the interface between government, society and industry. The collective experience, knowledge and insights of professionals has huge potential to make a real and constructive contribution to sustainable development. Furthermore, their engagement can help to inspire and equip early career geoscientists to contribute to sustainable development objectives.

Examples of the types of activity that we would like the GfGD Network of Professionals to partake in, include:

  • Empowering early career geoscientists, mentoring them through the first phases of their career, encouraging knowledge sharing and ideas generation;
  • Communication between GfGD university groups and those employed in different sectors, demonstrating and promoting the positive contributions to sustainable development that can be made throughout diverse geoscience careers;
  • Offering presentations to colleagues, universities and local groups to both promote the work of GfGD and to share stories of geoscientists contributing to sustainable development;
  • Contributing to GfGD international projects, by liaising with partner organisations and project stakeholders, offering a professional perspective;
  • Supporting the work of GfGD through engaging in fundraising;
  • Contributing professional experiences to the GfGD blog, newsletters, conferences and workshops to reach a wider audience; and
  • Distributing relevant conferences, talks, training opportunities, jobs and other opportunities to the wider GfGD network.

To register your interest please complete this form, or contact Allie Mitchell with questions.

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Careers in Geoscience-for-Development: Some Tips and Resources

Careers in Geoscience-for-Development: Some Tips and Resources

One of the most frequently asked questions put to me is ‘how does a geoscientist develop a career linked to international aid or sustainable development?’. Here are some thoughts, recently curated for the 2018 GfGD Annual Conference report, together with examples of how GfGD’s work helps to mobilise geoscientists to engage in sustainable development.

  1. Geoscience matters, is critical to progress towards sustainable development, but is not always recognised. While geoscientists are critical to delivering many aspects of the SDGs, this is not always clear and understood by others engaged in development work. Geoscientists have many relevant skills, and their knowledge of Earth systems means they are well placed to be at the centre of sustainable development decision making, and not on the fringes. In 2018, GfGD were invited to submit a report to inform the International Commission on Education for Sustainable Development Practice Report, highlighting how geoscientists could fill a gap in professionals trained to engage in sustainable development. This report will be published later this year, and we hope that it will note the important role that geoscientists could make to sustainability efforts, raising awareness among other communities of geoscientists skills and understanding .
  2. Research into natural hazards can directly contribute to improved sustainable development decision-making. Photo Credit: Joel Gill

    Two pathways, both equally important. While there isn’t a straightforward career path or graduate scheme into ‘geoscience for sustainability’, we note two general, broad pathways that help geoscientists to put sustainable development at the heart of their career. Both are important and can result in exciting opportunities to see positive change. (i) Work for a traditional geoscience employer (e.g., energy, mining, environmental services, academia, risk modelling, geological surveys), championing the values and ethics GfGD promote. You can devote your career to supporting sustainable development in all the traditional geoscience career routes (academia, industry, public sector), being ambassadors for our values and ethics. For example, championing positive and respectful partnerships that build local science, technology, and innovation capacity, promoting good practice, engaging with geoethics, and taking part in capacity building. Our 2017 papers on ‘Geology and the SDGs’ and ‘Geoscience Engagement in Global Development Frameworks’ (both open access) give examples of how engaging in traditional geoscience sectors can help deliver the SDGs. (ii) The second approach is to work for a non-traditional geoscience employer (e.g., NGOs, DFID, development think tanks), but be prepared to invest in additional skills and knowledge to serve effectively in these roles. There are few jobs in the development sector for those with a pure geoscience background but if you combine your environmental understanding with further expertise in logistics, policy, communications, social vulnerability etc (see #4 and #5 for tips as to how to do this), you could be a very attractive candidate. While geoscience will inform and strengthen you in such roles, it is unlikely that your tasks will involve the day-to-day application of geoscience.

  3. Be in it for the long-term. Getting to where you want to be may take time and involve a winding path. Think strategically about what postgraduate courses may suit your future career plans. For example, ask if there are options to do your dissertation overseas, take modules from other departments, or do placements with those working in development contexts (so you build your network of contacts, see #6). Partnerships with those in the Global South can also take time to develop and build trust. Prove that you treat partners with respect, fulfil your obligations to send them data and reports if they help you with your dissertation. Recognise that it can take time to develop and mature meaningful partnerships.
  4. Invest in new skills and ways of working. The skills required to make an effective and positive contribution to sustainable development are often missing from the traditional education and continued professional development of geologists. Examples include communicating across cultures and disciplines, diplomacy, community mobilisation, social science research methods (e.g., how to do a good semi-structured interview, and how can that data enrich your understanding of water resources or hazard impacts). Demonstrating an understanding of why these are important in development contexts, and some competence in these skills, may help to boost your employability in some roles. In 2016, GfGD published a book chapter on ‘Building Good Foundations – Skills for Effective Engagement in International Development’ that outlines these skills (email for a PDF copy). We believe these skills are vital in many geoscience roles, embedding them into our conferences and workshops (coordinating training at international events in Tanzania and South Africa).
  5. Read widely around development challenges. Development challenges (e.g., access to water, food security, energy poverty, climate change, disaster risk reduction, urbanisation) are rarely solved by one discipline. We get a good understanding of technical geoscience in our degrees but miss out on opportunities to interact with and learn from other disciplines (e.g., engineers, geographers, social scientists, health professionals). Careers outside of the traditional geoscience industries will require you to demonstrate a broader understanding of sustainable development than just the contribution of geoscience. This is a reason GfGD conferences are interdisciplinary with speakers from economics, social sciences, engineering, and public policy. There are texts relating to disaster risk reduction, water management, natural resources, climate change and urban development that will present new ideas from human geography or the social sciences. If another department includes modules on relevant development challenges, but from different perspectives, email and ask for a reading list and start to broaden your understanding.
  6. The GfGD Annual Conference is a fantastic networking opportunity for geoscientists.

    Network, Network, Network. Use any opportunity you can to network – including in person and through appropriate use of social media (e.g., Twitter). The latter can be a good way to find jobs and learning materials and introduce yourself to people in development. Keep online accounts professional and active. Look out for free events and talks at and outside of universities. Organisations such as ODI have free events where you can attend in person or remotely via a webinar. GfGD have previously facilitated networking meetings, arranged placements, and provided conference bursaries and hope to develop further opportunities in 2019.

 

Do you have any further tips or thoughts on mobilising and equipping geoscientists to contribute to sustainable development? We’d love to hear them, so please do use the comments below!

The ethical questions behind the school climate strike. Do we have a place in earth’s ecosystems? Jesse Zondervan’s February 2019 #GfGDpicks #SciComm

The ethical questions behind the school climate strike. Do we have a place in earth’s ecosystems? Jesse Zondervan’s February 2019 #GfGDpicks #SciComm

Each month, Jesse Zondervan picks his favourite posts from geoscience and development blogs/news which cover the geology for global development interest. This month’s picks include: The ethical questions behind the school climate strike; Military worries about the fight against sea-level rise – how will you help? Do we have a place in earth’s ecosystems?

School climate strikes

As school climate strikes inspired by Greta Thunberg spread across the world in the past month, adults are starting to ask ethical questions.

If one would prefer climate activism to focus on conventional electoral politics, rather than civil disobedience, Rupert Read argues one should question the premise that our societies are fully democratic. If adults have failed, how can we support and listen to our children rather than telling them what to do?

The idea that young people are the key to making positive change to the way we live in our environment is not a new one, but did you ever wonder why? Steve Cohen at Columbia University’s Earth Institute considers how the experiences of the next generation support a survivalist ethic and a change in environmental politics.

The fight against sea-level rise

If the urgency displayed by our children leaves you hungry to roll up your own sleeves, paradoxically it may appear you could help by joining the army to help fight sea-level rise. At a conference on climate change and security at The Hague defence leaders from around the world expressed worry not only for a risk for conflict risks but also of stress on military capacity in all countries with a coastline, not just the poorer nations.

Alternatively, if you have a more entrepreneurial spirit, I would recommend looking at entrepreneurial opportunities for addressing climate change in the developing world.

Sea-level rise and it’s cost is a hot topic this month, with climatologist Radley Horton testifying on capitol hill about sea level rise.

“There has been a lot of focus on whether worst-case scenario for 2100 is 4.3 feet, six feet, or even eight feet of sea level rise,” he said. “Even the most optimistic scenario imaginable—of one foot of sea level rise by 2100—would have direct and profound impacts.”

Indeed, the house market has already responded and cost US coastal home owners nearly 16 billion in property value. Buyout programs in flood-prone areas are becoming more common, even as they come with their own shortcomings.

The insurance industry recognises that investors, lenders, insurers and policymakers undertake significant risk management efforts to minimise rising losses from climate-related hazards. Might more geoscientists be needed here?

As usual, I have many more interesting topics on offer for you, such as: humans have been present in ecosystems for a long stretch of time, so is there a place for us? Check out all stories below!

School climate strikes – an ethical debate

School climate strikes: why adults no longer have the right to object to their children taking radical action by Rupert Read at The Conversation

Youth Strike for Climate and the Ethics of Climate Policy by Steve Cohen at State of the Planet

Climate Adaptation

How Entrepreneurs Can Help Developing Countries Hard Hit by Climate Change by Georgina Campbell Flatter at Entrepeneur

Prepare now for accelerating climate threats, military officials warn by Laura Goering at Thomson Reuters Foundation

There’s a place for us: New research reveals humanity’s roles in ecosystems from the Santa Fe Institute at ScienceDaily

Sand from glacial melt could be Greenland’s economic salvation from University of Colorado Boulder at ScienceDaily

Climate Change Is Having a Major Impact on Global Health by Tanya Lewis at Scientific American

How pollution and greenhouse gases affect the climate in the Sahel by Alessandra Giannini at The Conversation

Investors and lenders need better tools to manage climate risk to homes, mortgages and assets, finds new research at the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership

The fight against sea-level rise

Lamont Climatologist Testifies on Capitol Hill About Sea Level Rise by Marie Denoia Aronsohn at State of the Planet

Rising Seas Soaked Home Owners for $16 Billion over 12 Years by Thomas Frank at E&E News

Leave No House Behind in Flood Buyout Programs, Group Says by Daniel Cusick at E&E News

What rising seas mean for local economies from Stanford University at ScienceDaily

Predicting impacts of climate change

The Ocean Is Running Out of Breath, Scientists Warn by Laura Poppick at Scientific American

Disaster Risk

Large-scale hazard indication mapping for avalanches at the Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF

Norway’s Arctic islands at risk of ‘devastating’ warming: report by Alister Doyle at Thomson Reuters

Observing Volcanoes from Space by Emily Underwood at EOS Earth and Space Science News

The U.S. May Finally Get an Early Warning System For Volcanoes by Robin George Andrews at Earther

Deep sea mining

Deep sea mining threatens indigenous culture in Papua New Guinea by John Childs at The Conversation

 

Check back next month for more picks!

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