As the world celebrates the First International Geodiversity Day this day - October 6, 2022, understanding of geodiversity and the importance of the day is essential. Hence, let’s take a good look at what geodiversity is, its importance and how it is intrinsically linked to our national and cultural identities. A good understanding of geodiversity and its promotion will help in the successful implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
It may be recalled that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), during its 41st General Conference 2021, proclaimed 6 October as International Geodiversity Day. This proclamation was made in recognition of the importance of Geoscience and Geodiversity in solving major challenges that humanity is facing today. It was approved on November 22, 2021 by the 193 Member States attending the UNESCO’s General Conference (draft decision 41C/38).
“International Geodiversity Day is a worldwide celebration, bringing people together on October 6 each year, to promote the many aspects of geodiversity”.
What is Geodiversity?
Geodiversity or geological diversity refers to the natural portion of the planet (earth) that is not alive. The natural portion referred here includes the portions both at the surface and the planet’s interior. By geodiversity, we mean the earth’s minerals, rocks, fossils, soils, sediments, landforms, topography and hydrological features (water bodies) such as rivers, lakes, seas and oceans. This means that it also includes the spectacular landscapes which beautify the planet.
Our planet is such a special place nurturing an incredibly rich biodiversity of floras and faunas. But due to the accelerating degradation of natural habitats and species, “Biodiversity” is in everyone’s lips and yet underpinning biodiversity is its silent hidden partner “Geodiversity”.
Geodiversity is the basis of every ecosystem’s non-living elements of nature: rocks, minerals, soils, gorges, rivers, landforms, landmasses, topographies, hills, mountains, lakes, seas and oceans. This Geodiversity has its intrinsic values worthy of protection and has an essential role for humans in this planet.
Geodiversity provides the building stones and raw materials for our timeless cities, materials for our energy resources including renewable energy, the raw materials (metallic and non-metallic) for our modern day gadgets, automobiles, airplanes, rockets and satellites, and the important raw materials for chemical and non-chemical industries including pharmaceutical industries.
Apart from underpinning biodiversity, geodiversity underpins human diversity. It is the basis of our national and cultural identity. Geodiversity is the foundation of our modern earth, our common home.
Why is Geodiversity important?
There are so many reasons why geodiversity is important, but it can be summarized mentioning just a few of them. Rocks and geological processes play fundamental regulating service roles in river flows, groundwater recharge and discharge, formation of soils which are essential for agriculture, etc.
Human well-being is also based on the diversity of geological resources which have been used since the early years of human evolution, and play an essential role in the economic and social development of modern humanity.
Mineral resources, when used wisely, create: wealth, employment, a vital social and natural environment, and peace.
Scientific knowledge about how geological processes that occurs in nature is extremely important for risk disaster prevention (e.g., earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, flooding, landslides, etc.) and to provide smart solutions on land use planning and spatial management.
Science based on geodiversity contributes to understanding past climate changes, and this knowledge can be applied to understand how climate may change in the future, allowing a more effective adaptation.
The increase in the number and size of megacities worldwide is creating a huge challenge and the application of Geoscientific knowledge to engineering, supports the design and construction of infrastructure at all scales (eg dams, roads, tunnels, buildings, airstrips, ports, pipelines, etc.).
Geodiversity is the basis for the landscapes that underpins geotourism (such as mountains, caves and coasts) which produces and has the potential to produce significant economic benefits for local populations. Landscapes provide an identity for local and indigenous communities and attract individuals to explore the world in their leisure time.
What is the importance of International Geodiversity Day?
The United Nations (UN) has been spearheading the campaign called the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) which includes 17 goals to achieve a new and a sustainable future which would be equitable, greener, healthier and more peaceful.
These 17 goals are: 1) No Poverty, 2) Zero Hunger, 3) Good Health And Wellbeing, 4) Quality Education, 5) Gender Equality, 6) Clean Water And Sanitization, 7) Affordable And Clean Energy, 8) Decent Work And Economic Growth, 9) Industry, Innovation And Infrastructure, 10) Reduced Inequalities, 11) Sustainable Cities And Communities, 12) Responsible Consumption And Production, 13) Climate Action, 14) Life Below Water, 15) Life On Land, 16) Peace Justice And Strong Institutions, 17) Partnerships For The Goals.
Geodiversity plays an important role in many, if not all of these sustainable development goals whether it is about clean water for communities around the world, or securing the copper we need to build the wind turbines for green energy, or protecting our landscapes so that the next generation can enjoy nature.
UNESCO’s important contributions include: International Geoscience And Geoparks Programme (IGGP) and International Geoscience Programme (IGCP). Geodiversity is not just only about really important and internationally significant geological sites or world heritage sites or UNESCO’s Global Geoparks, but, geodiversity is everywhere and influences everything.
Geoheritage Sites in Manipur
Manipur’s Loktak Lake has been declared as a Geoheritage Site by the Geological Survey Of India (GSI). Loktak Lake is indeed an important example of geodiversity and geotourism with its tremendous influence on our citizens. This ancient lake not only plays an important role in the economy of the locals and the state, but also serves as a source of water for hydropower generation, irrigation and drinking water supply. But, for us, not only the Loktak Lake, our hills, our rivers, our valleys and our plains have always been and will always be our heritage sites as they are the bases for our cultural identity.
Geodiversity acts as a natural laboratory and a textbook that teaches our new generations about Earth’s history, sustainable use of the Earth's resources and the science which is necessary to overcome the future challenges. Geodiversity is the foundation of communities, and an intrinsic part of humanity’s relationship with nature.
Despite the multitude of services that geodiversity provides, most people are not aware of how dependent on it we are as a society. For this reason, we need to promote a better understanding of the Earth’s dynamic processes, so that citizens can make informed policy choices that will foster a more sustainable society for the future.
So, for one day a year (6 October) the world comes together to remember the influence that geodiversity has, to educate the new generation, to inspire the new set of geoscientists to solve the problems in future and to help policy makers make the right decisions. So, let us celebrate International Geodiversity Day!