Earth Day was conceived more than 40 years ago in the wake of the horrific Santa Barbara oil spill. On the one year anniversary of yet another major marine oil-spill disaster, it is important for us to remember why paying attention to our planet is so important. The USGS provides scientific understanding to help us do this, and I was reminded recently of the importance of the USGS mission.
I had traveled to Colorado to speak at a weekend symposium in honor of the 75th birthday of one of my Physics professors at Colorado College. I opened the symposium with a presentation on the USGS’s contributions to the response to the oil spill – the wonderful and heroic work so many of our employees accomplished.
I was asked how working on the oil spill had changed me. Without a second’s hesitation, I said that it had raised my expectations for working on issues of significance. I would never again be able to devote my time to something that didn’t matter. For the rest of the weekend, this became the rallying cry of the speakers after me, as one distinguished Colorado College department graduate after another spoke about how he or she was or would devote his or her career to problems that mattered.
Here at the USGS, every day really is Earth Day. Our scientists have devoted their careers to studying and understanding many aspects of Earth and the effects of human activity on our planet. USGS efforts inform decision makers across the United States and around the globe on wise choices for sustainable use of resources and reducing vulnerability to hazards.
There is no doubt that, while much has changed since 1970, the issues Earth Day exists to address are more relevant than ever. Our Nation faces serious challenges, including impacts from global climate change; increased demand for limited energy and mineral resources and the need to develop alternative, renewable resources, increased vulnerability to natural hazards; loss of ecosystems; and the importance of understanding our water resources. At the USGS, we know that our strength as a Nation rests on the health of our planet, not just within the United States’ borders, but across the globe. I urge all of you on Earth Day and every day to make a difference by the wise decisions you make in the use of Earth’s resources, because the sum total of all of our actions really matter!
Dr. Marcia McNutt
Director, the United States Geological Survey
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