Why is Earth Science Education So Important?
There is no hyperbole in stating that the future of our nation and our planet depends on how well we understand Earth as a dynamic interconnected system and how responsibly we manage its resources. Addressing climate change, administering planetary resources like land, water, and energy, and coping with such natural events as hurricanes, tsunamis, droughts, and floods all require broad public knowledge of how Earth works.
From energy and agriculture to manufacturing and construction, Earth science lies at the core of billion-dollar industries that drive our economy. The procurement of energy—fossil fuels, solar, hydrogen, wind, and hydro—are deeply rooted in Earth science. Understanding global wind patterns or geothermal dynamics helps us to develop alternative energy sources. Knowledge of sub-surface geology helps us to tap into resources while minimizing long-term impacts. Weather and climate information is crucial to climate-sensitive industries that account for a large fraction of the nation's economy. Earth science is clearly essential to our economic future.
Earth science is vital to our national security and emergency preparedness. The impacts of flooding and hurricane seasons are two examples of the need to understand Earth's processes, improve long-term planning, forecast events, and implement response systems. Knowledge of terrain, weather, and all other Earth systems is critical for our armed forces wherever they are deployed.
Earth science will be indispensable in addressing climate change, one of the most pressing environmental issues confronting all societies. Earth science will also inform effective stewardship of our oceans, which are vital for life. "The ocean is a source of food and medicine, controls global climate, provides energy, supplies jobs, supports economies..." Ocean Steward. By studying Earth science, students learn about our oceans' dynamic processes and resources, the life they sustain, and their integral connection with the rest of Earth's processes and our daily lives.
Space exploration is a similarly large and powerful domain for research, exploration and learning—and for inspiring students. The view from orbit has transformed our understanding of Earth, revealing processes with data and visualizations never before possible. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and easy public access to Earth imagery enables scientists, students, and the public to see our world in new ways. Furthermore, exploring the distant reaches of the universe with new-generation telescopes provide scientists with revolutionary insights into the universe.
These opportunities underscore the crucial need for students, the public, political and business leaders, and scientists to understand our planet, manage its resources and prepare for its future, as well as appreciate its beauty and dynamics as an integrated system. For these reasons, effective Earth science education is essential for the future of our nation and our planet.