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-
Learn more at:
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)