Monday 30 January 2012

The Wise Words of Harry S Truman

“We must embark on a bold new program for making the benefits of our scientific advances and industrial progress available for the improvement and growth of underdeveloped areas. The old imperialism - exploitation for foreign profit - has no place in our plans. What we envisage is a program of development based on the concept of democratic fair dealing.”

Harry S Truman (1949)

Friday 27 January 2012

Wednesday 25 January 2012

A Few Reminders...

Don't forget you can get all of GfGDs blog posts direct to your e-mail inbox by subscribing to our blog using the e-mail box in the right hand column (see red circle in the photo). We are always delighted to have guest-bloggers - so if you're keen to write an article for us, or share a photo get in contact using our website.

You can also keep in touch with all of GfGDs activities by signing up to receive our occasional newsletters. Simply go to the join-GfGD page on our website and input your contact details. Our website is full of information about the work we are involved in and what we hope to do.

Finally, GfGD also have a Twitter account (@Geo_Dev) and a Facebook Page

Monday 23 January 2012

Guest Blog: Earthquake Education in Central Asia

Claire Fyson is in her fourth year at the University of Cambridge, reading Natural Sciences and specialising in Geology. Last year she became one of GfGD's first University Ambassadors - leading the GfGD Cambridge group with co-student Tim Middleton. Claire has kindly written a very interesting guest blog following a GfGD seminar they organised in Cambridge.

Solmaz Mohadjer
 Having been taught bits and pieces about the way the Earth works since I started secondary school, I’ve never quite realised how lucky I’ve been. Natural hazards such as tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, and earthquakes have been explained to me in great detail - I’ve even learnt what to do in the event of such disasters. Sadly, it is often the people who live in regions prone to earthquakes and other natural hazards that are the least informed and prepared to respond appropriately. In the first of our Geology for Global Development seminars at the University of Cambridge, Solmaz Mohadjer from the ParsQuake Project highlighted how little the people of Central Asia know about the earthquakes that they experience on a regular basis. She also talked about how to tackle the problem – how a basic understanding of Earth sciences and local geohazards can save lives if disseminated and used in the right way.

The region of Central Asia is experiencing deformation as a result of the collision between the Indian and Eurasian plates. Unfortunately, regions with the highest strain rates are often heavily populated. As part of the fieldwork for her Masters in geophysics, Solmaz spoke to the locals to find out how much they knew about earthquakes and earthquake preparedness. For a variety of reasons, many people in the region find it difficult to reconcile their cultural and religious beliefs with the need to prepare for earthquakes. For example, some people in Pakistan believe earthquakes are divine punishments for sins. By contrast in Tajikistan, some believe that living or dying in an earthquake is part of a divine plan, and therefore, preparing for earthquakes strikes them as pointless. This seems akin to the evolution debate in the US, but in this case the consequences are considerably greater: – people’s lives are at risk.

Why does the earth shake?
Of the students who participated in Solmaz’s research, none knew how to prepare for an earthquake, and yet all had felt at least one in their lifetime. The locals had become so accustomed to the tremors that two earthquakes felt by Solmaz during her first night in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, went un-noticed by her students and neighbours. When asked how they dealt with earthquakes, 37% of her students took no action – a worrying statistic given how dangerous the consequences of doing nothing might be. As for the mechanism behind earthquakes, a common explanation is that there is a giant bull inside the Earth that shakes its head when a mosquito lands on it.

Using a wooden block model
Here’s where the geologists come in. In response to her research, Solmaz created a 12-step education plan. This included simple but ingenious experiments covering topics such as the unpredictability of motions along faults (using wooden block models, see picture), liquefaction (using sand and water) and how to build an earthquake-resistant wall (using craft sticks). It is easy to see how such a programme could inspire locals to put some of their new knowledge into action.

Teachers Without Borders was asked to address a similar knowledge gap in the education system in Sichuan, China. Many teachers in this region lost loved ones in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, so the task of educating them about such events was a sensitive one. Having been asked to do that by Teachers Without Borders, Solmaz focussed on making her assistance as sustainable as possible: she chose four dedicated geography teachers who she worked with over a year to build and implement an education programme about earthquakes and school safety. This is far better than a fly-in-fly-out approach, which has a much smaller impact. The involvement of local teachers means the education will continue in Solmaz’s absence, and that language and cultural barriers will no longer be a problem.

Returning to her own heritage, Solmaz has recently set up an organisation called ParsQuake ( ParsQuake’s mission is to raise levels of earthquake awareness, education, and preparedness in Persian-speaking schools and communities around the world. Through its website, ParsQuake provides education materials in Farsi, Tajik, Russian and English, and its members conduct training sessions in which the trainees eventually become the trainers. The theme of sustainability is clear, and Solmaz has future hopes of an earthquake education workshop in India, to be run by the trainees from Tajikistan and Afghanistan.

Ye Zhiping
Personally, I found this to be a very inspiring seminar. We hear all too often about the tragedies that result from natural disasters, but little about the wonderful people who are helping to save lives through education and action. Solmaz is one of those people, spreading her knowledge and love of geophysics to those who need it most. One of the stories that she shared at the seminar was of another such person in Sichuan, China. Appalled by the poor construction of his school, Ye Zhiping (right), the principal of Sangzao Middle School, raised over $60,000 for an earthquake retrofit project. The school subsequently survived a magnitude 8 earthquake in 2008 which killed about 10,000 children in classrooms around the region. All 2,323 of Ye’s students survived. This is an excellent example of how a little awareness and perseverance can help to avert tragedy. The message of Solmaz’s talk was clear: we have no excuse not to share our knowledge, especially when a lack of knowledge can have such a high cost.

Friday 20 January 2012

Friday Photo (16) - Open-Pit Mining in Siberia

Geologists using their skills to access natural resources and contribute to economic growth, or an ugly, environmental problem? Which do you think? Is it as simple as one or the other?
Source: PARIS Jean-Daniel , LSCE/IPSL , Gif sur Yvette - France

Wednesday 18 January 2012

DFID - Graduate Scheme

This week the UK Department for International Development have announced that they will be launching a paid 50-week graduate scheme to give recent graduates experience within the development and humanitarian sector. The position is open to UK and EEA Nationals, Swiss and Turkish Nationals and Commonwealth Citizens with an indefinite right to remain in the UK without work restrictions.

The opportunity to work for a year in either DFID's London or Glasgow office (starting in September 2012), with the added advantage of being able to apply for internal jobs, is likely to receive much interest. It is open to all degree backgrounds and those with no relevant experience, making it an excellent opportunity to get a foot on the development ladder. It would be excellent to see some of the positions filled by those with a geoscience background - bringing an interdisciplinary knowledge that would well serve the UK Government's development objectives. The application form can be downloaded from their website, as well as supplementary information.

The scheme opened yesterday, and closes on the 20th March 2012. There will be launch events at a number of universites across the UK over the coming weeks, which give those interested an ideal opportunity to talk with current employees at DFID about their work and this opportunity. These are outlined in detail here, but currently include:

21st January - University of Oxford (with DFID Permanent Secretary Mark Lowcock)
23rd January - SOAS and LSE, London
30th January - University of Glasgow
2nd February - University of Cambridge
6th February - University of Strathclyde
7th February - University of Warwick
8th February - University of Sussex
9th February  - University of Cambridge (with Secretary of State Andrew Mitchell MP)
15th February - Univeristy of Edinburgh
20th February - University of Birmingham
21st February - University of Bristol
23rd February - Queen's University, Belfast
28th February - City University, London
7th March - University of Manchester
15th March - London Universities (at SOAS) (with Under Secretary of State Stephen O'Brien MP)

If you decide to apply for this graduate scheme then please be sure to mention Geology for Global Development when asked where you heard about this opportunity.

Monday 16 January 2012

Haiti Earthquake 2010

Marco Dormino/ UNDP
As many of you will be aware, last week saw the second anniversary of the tragic earthquake that killed more than 300,000 people in Haiti - and left many others homeless. There was much analysis of the event in the media last week, including discussions of the process of reconstruction and how aid money has been (or is not being) spent. For those of you who follow our facebook page a number of these were posted on there - below are a number of these links:

The Guardian 'Poverty Matters' blog and Natural Disasters page both have a number of articles, discussion posts and photos from the past two years:

The BBC News also had a number of posts relating to the anniversary:

Friday 13 January 2012

Friday Photo (15) - Teaching About Water

(c) Geology for Global Development 2012

Tuesday 10 January 2012

In the News: Brazil

Source: Vladimir Platonow/ABr
 Last year Brazil suffered from severe flooding and landslides, leading to what was described by many to be the 'worst natural disaster ever to befall Brazil.' Currently Brazil is back in rainy season and is again suffering from intense rain, flooding and landslides. Last week the intense rains caused a dam burst, leading to the evacuation of several thousand residents who faced the prospect of severe flooding as a result. Dam failure is always a very serious problem communities face, and the video shown within the above link hightlights why, with huge volumes of water being released.

One of the reasons the rainy season causes significant trouble in Brazil is beacuse of the poverty of many people. Poverty drives many people to inhabit the unsafe, unstable slopes surrounding cities such as Rio de Janeiro. Whilst many people know that the ground they live on is potentially lethal, they have little choice or choose to accept the risk in order to be closer to the main city, bringing food and a potential livelihood. 

Over the past year Brazil has invested significantly in measures to prepare for this year's rainy season and reduce the impacts of the rainy season - including better monitoring, forecasting and emergency evacuation procedures. The effectiveness of these measures will be evident over the coming weeks and months. In order to effectively reduce disaster risk in this area the authorities need to combine effective science and engineering with sustainable social development, community participatory approaches and effective governance and town emergency planning. Whilst it is not an easy task, it is encouraging to see how Brazil has invested in these areas over the past year - an investment which could save many lives in future rainy seasons.

Update: Since writing this post mudslides have occurred, killing 12 people (to date) - more information can be found on the BBC Website,

Friday 6 January 2012

Friday Photo (14) - Fancy Drinking This?

Fancy drinking this? How about washing in it, or cooking with it? For some communities in the Kagera Region of Tanzania, and many other places, they have very little choice. GfGD founder, Joel Gill, was involved in supervising the initial surveying for a clean water source in this locality.
(c) Geology for Global Development 2012

Tuesday 3 January 2012

GfGD Archive: Key Themes

Happy New Year, and welcome to 2012. This is not only the first post of 2012, but also the final post looking back at our archives before new posting begins later this week. Today we republish some of the 'key themes' series of blog posts written earlier this year - outlining ways in which geoscientists can contribute to global and international development. The 'Key Themes' series of posts, which can all be found here, include posts on water and sanitation, infrastructure, climate change, natural resources, geohazards and agrogeology. We hope to add to these themes with some posts on geotourism later in the year.

As we continue to develop Geology for Global Development and the blog this year we hope to continue to highlight ways in which geologists can and are already using their skills to fight poverty and improve lives across the world. Please do get in touch with pictures, guest blogs or article suggestions.