Happy birthday, Planet Earth - we're sorry about the mess, we promise to clean it up

January 5, 2007 With robust and creditable disregard for superstition, The Geological Society of London was founded by 13 men on Friday 13th November 1807, in The Freemason’s Tavern, Long Acre, a pub which once stood on the site of what is now the Connaught Rooms in Great Queen Street. In its 200 years the Society has seen its subject achieve maturity (with the unifying theories of plate tectonics and the “Gaian” Earth System) in a shorter time than any other science. With the simultaneous release of 4567 biodegradable balloons from the Courtyard of Burlington House, Mayfair on 10 January 2007, The Geological Society of London will celebrate not only its own 200th birthday, but also the 4567 millionth birthday of Planet Earth. The image comes from NASA and represents sea-level height data from the Jason-1 altimetric satellite last month showing that continuing weaker-than-normal trade winds in the western and central equatorial Pacific have triggered another strong, eastward moving, warm Kelvin wave.

The challenges that lie ahead for Earth scientists are greater today than they have ever been. Everything that humanity needs that cannot be grown, has to be dug from the Earth and therefore discovered by a geologist; nearly all the energy, raw materials and water we depend on come to us thanks to the geosciences. The challenge for the next 200 years is to use our understanding of the Earth system so that we can continue to use the planet’s riches in a wise and sustainable way - to achieve a healthier, wealthier society for all. This is the avowed aim of the International Year of Planet Earth.

The United Nations International Year of Planet Earth is 2008, so that the three years of activity which straddle it can begin with the anniversary of foundation of the world’s first national learned society dedicated to furthering Earth science.

The Geological Society of London, founded 1807, is a learned and professional body, of some 9400 Earth scientists with a remit to investigate, interpret, discuss, inform and advise on the nature and processes of the Earth, their practical importance to humanity, and, in the interests of the public, to promote professional excellence. The Society offers advice to Parliament and Government, at individual and corporate levels. Registered Charity No. 210161. The Platinum Sponsors of the Bicentenary are British Petroleum and Shell.

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