International Year of Planet Earth

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The United Nations General Assembly declared 2008 as the International Year of Planet Earth to increase awareness of the importance of Earth sciences for the achievement of sustainable development.[1] UNESCO was designated as the lead agency. The Year's activities spanned the three years 2007-2009.[2]


The Year aims to raise $20 million from industry and governments and will spend half on co-funding research, and half on "outreach" activities. It will be the biggest ever international effort to promote the Earth sciences.

Apart from researchers, who are expected to benefit under the Year's Science Programme, the principal target groups for the Year's broader messages are:

  • Decision makers and politicians who need to be better informed about the how Earth scientific knowledge can be used for sustainable development
  • The voting public, which needs to know how Earth scientific knowledge can contribute to a better society
  • Geoscientists, who are very knowledgeable about various aspects of the Earth but who need help in using their knowledge for the benefit of the world’s population.

The research themes of the year, set out in 10 science prospectuses were chosen for their societal relevance, multidisciplinarity and outreach potential. The Year has 12 Founding Partners 23 Associate Partners and is backed politically by 97 countries representing 87% of the world’s population. The Year was promoted politically at UNESCO and at the United Nations in New York by the People’s Republic of Tanzania.

The Year is open to Expressions of Interest from researchers within each of its 10 themes. The Outreach programme of the year is also now open to expressions of interest, and will work in a similar way by receiving and responding to bids for support from individuals and organisations worldwide.

The Year's Project Leader is former IUGS President Professor Eduardo F J de Mulder. The Year's Science Committee is chaired by Prof. Edward Derbyshire (Royal Holloway) and its Outreach Committee by Dr Ted Nield (Geological Society of London).

The International Year of Planet Earth project was initiated jointly by the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) and the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). The UN press release reads: "By a draft on the International Year of Planet Earth, 2008, which the Committee approved without a vote on 11 November, the Assembly would declare 2008 the International Year of Planet Earth. It would also designate the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to organize activities to be undertaken during the Year, in collaboration with UNEP and other relevant United Nations bodies, the International Union of Geological Sciences and other Earth sciences societies and groups throughout the world. Also by that draft, the Assembly would encourage Member States, the United Nations system and other actors to use the Year to increase awareness of the importance of Earth sciences in achieving sustainable development and promoting local, national, regional and international action."


The Project is backed by the following Founding Partners: International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG); the International Geographical Union; the International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS); the International Lithosphere Programme (ILP); the National Geological Survey of the Netherlands (NITG-TNO); The Geological Society of London; the International Soil Reference and Information Centre (ISRIC); A consortium of the International Association of Engineering Geologists and the Environment (IAEG), the International Society for Rock Mechanics (ISRM) and the International Society of Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering (ISSMGE); the International Union for Quaternary Research (INQUA); the American Geological Institute (AGI); the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG); and the American Institute of Professional Geologists (AIPG).

The Year enjoys the support of 23 Associate Partners, including all major international geoscientific and other relevant organisations: International Council for Science (ICSU); Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC); International Permafrost Association (IPA); International Association on the Genesis of Ore Deposits (IAGOD); Society of Economic Geologists (SEG); Society for Geology Applied to Mineral Deposits (SGA); International Association of Hydrogeologists (IAH); International Geoscience Programme (IGCP); European Federation of Geoscientists (EFG); African Association of Remote Sensing of the Environment (AARSE); Science Council of Asia (SCA); European Association for the Conservation of the Geological Heritage (ProGEO); Society for Sedimentary Geology (SEPM); Coordinating Committee for Geoscience Programmes in East and Southeast Asia (CCOP); Geological Society of Africa (GSAf); United Nations University (UNU); Association of Geoscientists for International Development (AGID); United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN/ISDR); North-eastern Science Foundation (USA) (NESF); Association of American State Geologists (AASG); International Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ISPRS); Geological Society of America (GSA); North American Committee for Stratigraphic Nomenclature (NACSN).


The Year's Objective, encapsulated in it strapline Earth sciences for society, is to:

Reduce risks for society caused by natural and human-induced hazards, reduce health problems by improving understanding of the medical aspects of Earth science, discover new natural resources and make them available in a sustainable manner, build safer structures and expand urban areas, utilizing natural subsurface conditions, determine the non-human factor in climatic change, enhance understanding of the occurrence of natural resources so as to contribute to efforts to reduce political tension, detect deep and poorly accessible groundwater resources, improve understanding of the evolution of life, increase interest in the Earth sciences in society at large, encourage more young people to study Earth science in university.

The Year aims to raise $20 million from industry and governments and will spend half on co-funding research, and half on outreach activities. It will be the biggest ever international effort to promote the Earth sciences. All living, non living and Human beings on the surface of earth will benefit with activities of this year.


The Year’s research themes are: Groundwater: reservoir for a thirsty planet?; Hazards: minimizing risk, maximizing awareness; Earth and Health: building a safer environment; Climate change: the ‘stone tape’; Resource Issues: towards sustainable use; Megacities: going deeper, building safer; Deep Earth: from crust to core; Ocean: abyss of time; Soil: Earth’s living skin; Earth and Life: origins of diversity. Each is described within an accessibly-written prospectus available on the Web site. In addition, Planet Earth in our Hands, states the rationale for the Year, and Outreach: bringing Earth sciences to everyone, describes how the Outreach programme will work. All these can be downloaded from


  • OneGeology - launch of an international collaborative project that aims to provide free access to the online digital geological world map in the scale of 1:1 million.

Output and Legacy

Since the onset of the IYPE Triennium in 2007, many thousands of activities have taken place all over the globe.

The 80 National and Regional IYPE Committees are among the most important legacy items of the IYPE. At the national level, they united key players from several, sometimes competing organisations into a single campaign dedicated to raising awareness of the Earth sciences among decision makers and the public at large.

The creation of a Young Earth-Science Initiative (YES) has been another major IYPE legacy item. YES provides a platform for young professionals in the Earth sciences and was initiated by two Italian geoscientists, David Govoni and Luca Micucci. It started in 2007 and grew rapidly at the Global Launch Event of the IYPE in Paris (2008) in which many young geoscientists were invited to participate. From there, the YES Initiative expanded, eventually leading to a formal structure, a network of supporting organisations (including IYPE) and an invitation by the Chinese government to host the first International YES Conference in October 2009 in Beijing.

OneGeology is another major IYPE legacy item. That initiative, spearheaded by Ian Jackson of the British Geological Survey, came under the IYPE banner in 2007. This ongoing project aims to bring together geological data from all nations into a digital database and thus transform them into a single computer language.

See also


  1. United Nations General Assembly Session 60 Resolution 192. A/RES/60/192 22 December 2005. Retrieved 2008-09-17.
  2. International Year of Planet Earth: FAQ

External links