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  • Carolyn Hill-Svehla, Ph.D.

International Geodiversity Day



Mark your calendar folks, because there is a new day for scientists, nature enthusiasts, and people of all

ages to celebrate! The UNESCO General Conference recently approved the establishment of

International Geodiversity Day. This annual, worldwide celebration raises awareness across society about

the importance and value of “non-living” nature for the well-being and prosperity of all creatures on the

planet. International Geodiversity Day is held on October 6th, and 2022 is the first year it will officially be observed.


Geodiversity is not a term we hear of often, unlike biodiversity, which most people are likely familiar with.

In reality, these concepts go hand in hand. Geodiversity refers to the abiotic or inorganic components of

nature, including rocks, minerals, fossils, and landforms and topography such as mountains, lakes and

rivers. This part of nature underpins biodiversity and provides the foundation for life to thrive. I hesitate to

use the term “non-living” to describe geodiversity as many cultures hold great spiritual connection and

significance to these natural elements. To many outside the realm of western science, the “non-living”

natural world is alive and imbued with spirits; for example, in Anishinaabe culture, rocks are considered

animate objects (https://tinyurl.com/2nn55pkj).


In general, people are largely unaware of the extent to which we depend on geological diversity, so

devoting a day to celebrating its importance and impact is a great step to raising awareness. Historically,

geodiversity has driven and guided human migration and settlement patterns and played a vital role in

defining cultural identities and spiritual heritage. For example, many large ancient cities were founded

near rivers or along coasts to access food and water, trade, transportation, and defence. It influenced our

earliest beliefs and spirituality, showcased in the prevalence of deities based around natural phenomena

and nature generally. Geodiversity has also influenced international politics and trade, such as in the race

to access coffee and tea, or the development of employment opportunities, as seen in the growth and

decline of mining towns. Differences in bedrock and soil composition also support agricultural systems

and productivity. The success of our energy reserves from oil and gas or hydroelectric power, for

example, are dependent on production facilitated by local geodiversity. Another example is the sourcing

of building materials such as aggregate and masonry stone. Not immune to geodiversity is our

procurement of minerals and metals. These are key resources that we depend on every day, from the

vehicles we drive to cellphones, kitchen appliances, makeup, and toothpaste. Critical and strategic

minerals are also helping to drive green and renewable technologies for a sustainable future. This boils

down to the need to showcase and promote the vital role that geodiversity has played in linking all life

forms and raise awareness of the solutions that the geological sciences can provide to address urgent

global concerns and inform policy choices moving forward.


Besides the tangible value of geodiversity, there is also an intrinsic value worthy of protection. Diverse

landscapes and features that exist in nature have inspired artists for millennia through colour and shape.

The Group of Seven artists are a personal favourite of mine! These elements have inspired countless

myths and folklore. For example, ammonite fossils have evoked tales from around the world

(https://tinyurl.com/5dfh8awv). It is also well-established that spending time in nature is essential for

boosting mental health and maintaining an overall healthy lifestyle (I think most geoscientists would

agree!). The human connection to the Earth lays the foundation for our species, and we should not forget

to reflect on our relationship with the planet, its past and future. We can take notes from traditional

Indigenous teachings to look at Earth, our home, less objectively and re-establish our connection with the

world because we are all united as part of nature.


The International Geodiversity Day initiative has been in the works since 2020. Thanks are due to the

International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) and 108 other scientific organizations

(https://www.geodiversityday.org/supporters), including the CFES and Canadian Geoparks Network, for

their hard work making this global celebration of geodiversity happen. This year on October 6th, keep an eye out for local geodiversity events happening near you, take advantage of natural spaces, or plan a trip to one of Canada’s stunning UNESCO Global Geoparks (http://www.canadiangeoparks.org/our-

geoparks.html)!


Learn more at:

https://www.geodiversityday.org/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FNNd7aihnFw (Why do we need an International Geodiversity Day?)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LtFzkDMsYtI (Geodiversity: Biodiversity's Silent Partner)

https://parks-parcs.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/nature-playbook.pdf