Earth sciences as a critical factor for the challenges of the twenty-first century

The twentieth century was the age when humanity learned to travel by air, explore space and develop amazing technologies in the fields of energy, health and communications. plane, rockets and interplanetary probes; Electronics, atomic energy, antibiotics, pesticides, the Internet, and countless new materials have made progress unparalleled in human history, opening up great possibilities, but also threats and dangers.

With a growing population, an increasing demand for natural resources, entrenched concerns about food security, and an accelerating scenario of climate change, it is crucial that observations of our planet be fully integrated, thereby improving our understanding of the Earth system and implementing actions that allow sustainable harmonious development for the twenty-first century.

The Earth, as an interconnected system of parts, includes complex connections between the lithosphere outer and solid layer; The hydrosphere and the atmosphere – the outer layers of liquid and gas respectively – and the biosphere – the “living” envelope that includes all ecosystems -. The natural resources we depend on are derived from these layers, so our present and future depend on the responsible and sustainable use of minerals, energy, water and soil, as well as on the care of environmental resources such as forests, coasts and oceans. Additionally, because we are intrinsically interconnected, we are exposed to threats and associated geological hazards, such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, floods, and extreme weather events.

For these reasons, Earth sciences or Earth sciences will play an increasingly important role in understanding our planet during the twenty-first century and Building a path towards sustainable humanity. Perhaps the greatest challenge, to which we invite all of those who devote our work to Earth sciences to contribute, is to ensure a reliable supply of mineral and energy resources, in a world – even though its leaders and populations increasingly recognize the need to reduce consumption of fossil fuels – still dependent on carbon.

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Chile is a world-class natural laboratory for research, development and implementation of many aspects and challenges outlined above. Our country has one of the largest pyroclastic provinces in the world and contains more than 20% of the world’s copper reserves, as well as other strategic minerals such as lithium. These elements are critical to the development of current and emerging technologies for electric mobility and energy transmission, and are therefore essential to achieving the goal of being a 100% carbon-neutral country by 2050. Mineral resources, as well as energy, such as geothermal energy or heat from the earth, are Strategy for Chile and the world, its development You will rely heavily on innovative and sustainable management of geological resources.

These goals cannot be achieved without increasing continuous investment in basic and applied sciences. Our investment in science and technology is about 0.3%, in relation to GDP. A figure well below the average for OECD countries, which comes to an index of 2.3%.

A national increase in science funding will have a direct impact, not only on the knowledge derived from the study of mineral resources, energy and water, as well as on the training of new professionals in the region, but will also allow for diversification of the portfolio of projects and reference to the discipline.

Complex problems require innovative and multidisciplinary solutions. For this, long-term financing is essential, as public-private partnerships that focus on contributing to the development of exploration, production and sustainable consumption of mineral and energy resources, through scientific and technological progress, are strengthened and strengthened.

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Strategic investments in geosciences are essential to integrating scientific understanding of our lands into effective public policies, providing essential scientific information and promoting the formation of advanced human capital necessary to meet the demand for natural resources and care for the environment. In the context of global population growth, it is essential to mitigate risks and increase resilience to the challenges of the twenty-first century. Chile, without a doubt, will play an important role at the global level in achieving this, and geosciences are our best ally.

* Academician and Director of the Department of Geology at the University of Chile.

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