Conference Agenda

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Session Overview
10.2 Geoethics – fostering ethical perspectives in Geosciences
Tuesday, 13/Sept/2022:
3:45pm - 5:00pm

Session Chair: Simon Schneider, LMU Munich
Session Chair: Dominic Hildebrandt, ETH Zurich
Session Chair: Martin Bohle, Ronin Institute
Location: D

100 seats

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3:45pm - 4:15pm
Session Keynote
39_10.2: 1
Topics: 10.2 Geoethics – fostering ethical perspectives in Geosciences

Skeletons in the closet: ethics, law, and politics in palaeontology

Nussaïbah B. Raja

Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany

Palaeontology is unique among scientific disciplines in that it thrives on the exchange of information across diverse communities, both academic and non-academic. However, palaeontological research does not always best serve these communities. A practice that is prevalent in palaeontology is "parachute science", referring to the practice whereby researchers drop into, collect data and leave without the involvement or interaction with the local community. Put simply, these parachuting palaeontologists are benefitting from the resources of a country and often, the efforts of local people, without giving anything back. Lack of paleontological and scientific involvement with communities in the Global South may be a remnant of colonial-era palaeontology. The history of natural science is inseparable from the history of European colonialism when local specimens were brought to the homeland of the colonisers to be reposited and studied in museums for the sake of the "greater scientific good". The culture of theft and plunder, a legacy of colonialism perpertuates in palaeontology, even now. The drive for discovering the next new extraordinary fossil can be linked to several ethical and legal issues, where fossils are excavated without record and smuggled across borders to finally end up in collections across the world.

4:15pm - 4:30pm
39_10.2: 2
Topics: 10.2 Geoethics – fostering ethical perspectives in Geosciences

Is there an interdisciplinarity crisis in the Geosciences?

Dominic Hildebrandt

Department of Earth Sciences, ETH Zurich, Switzerland

Modern Geosciences profit substantially from interdisciplinary collaboration across the natural sciences and even beyond. Some recent advances have only become possible through these efforts. Consequently, interdisciplinarity is particularly relevant for the implementation of new research directions and the appointment of professors at Geoscience departments. However, it is common that positions are filled with mathematicians, computer scientists, chemists, physicists or biologists, which use their own methods to solve Geoscience problems. There is no question that this might lead to fruitful collaboration, but in practice this situation often results in severe problems in Geoscience teaching.

First, these scientists are usually hardly able to teach fundamentals of Geosciences or field courses as they were not trained in these areas themselves. Second, highly specialized courses are offered that are often way more appealing to students outside the Geosciences because they heavily rely on concepts and methodology from other natural sciences. Third, the methods used and taught by these scientists are commonly strongly focused on quantitative data, which tends to increase a general development towards generating large data sets without applying a deeper geoscientific thinking for their meaningful interpretation (see also Şengör, 2021).

The core competence of geoscientists – solving complex multi-scale spatio-temporal problems – is unique and not replaceable. Becoming more aware of our key expertise as Geoscientists paves the way for balanced and constructive – truly interdisciplinary – interactions in teaching and research. This will significantly strengthen the role of Geosciences in taking responsibility for solving major societal challenges in the 21st century.

4:30pm - 4:45pm
39_10.2: 3
Topics: 10.2 Geoethics – fostering ethical perspectives in Geosciences

a_Ponte, bridging geosciences and society

Bárbara Zambelli1, Talita Gantus2

1TU Freiberg, Germany; 2Unicamp, Brazil

Science is not good, not bad, or neutral. It is socially built by the subject who operates the research object based on subjectivity (individual and collective).The reduction of reality to a single narrative creates conflicts of interest and sustains games of knowledge and power, leading to a depoliticization of the scientific debate. Considering narrative dispute as being concrete and symbolic, geoscientific researchers must question themselves: our science supports which narrative? Whose interests does it serve? In the context of negationism (e.g. Flat-Earth movement), it is urgent to communicate and disseminate critical geoscientific knowledge, addressing socially relevant topics in accessible language, contributing to the public debate. On this ground, a_Ponte, an online collaborative platform, was born in 2019. With the aim of geoscientific outreach based on geoethical principles, the content produced and disseminated brings light to our role in the construction and management of the Earth System. Given this, a_Ponte exists as a means of circulating materials and ideas (as blog posts, magazines, online talks, training courses, and participation in podcasts and events) through a website (available in Portuguese, English and Spanish) and social media. The topics cover broad themes in geosciences from a decolonial perspective, drawing horizons outside the episteme of Eurocentric-colonial knowledge, questioning privileged spaces and geopolitical boundaries. After all, whoever dominates the discourse consequently possesses the world expressed and implied by it. Finally, it is expected that the actions proposed there promote a reflection on our role in building a more just, equitable and environmentally sustainable society.

4:45pm - 5:00pm
39_10.2: 4
Topics: 10.2 Geoethics – fostering ethical perspectives in Geosciences

Geoethics, applied philosophies of geoSTEM

Martin Bohle

Ronin Institute, NJ, United States of America

The geoSTEM disciplines (Geosciences, Erdwissenschaften, Sciences de la Terre) are relevant to Planet Earth's stewardship in times of anthropogenic global change. Research into ‘responsible geosciences’ recently led geoscientists to amalgamate insights into societal and geoscientific features of the World and Earth. The outcome is a set of geo-philosophical frameworks. As a particular philosophical framework, Geoethics emerged a decade ago as “research and reflection on the values which underpin appropriate behaviours and practices, wherever human activities interact with the Earth system” [1; p. 30].

Experiences show that ethically sound operational practices depend on environmental, social and cultural settings. The composite design of geo-philosophical frameworks enables context-depending practices, hence, a pluralism of socially rational ethical choices; favourable of ‘comparative justice’ [2].

Various epistemic-moral geo-philosophical frameworks (geoethics) can be assembled. For example, Kohlberg’s, Jonas’, and Bunge’s political philosophies about the level of cooperation of agents, the responsibility of agents of change, and the individual balance of agent’s well-being and duty, respectively, offer a geoethics that proposes a realist-materialist understanding of societal fabrics [3]. Consequently, geoethics are multiple, although based on a common epistemic foundation in geoSTEM expertise.

1. Peppoloni S, Bilham N, Di Capua G (2019) Contemporary Geoethics Within the Geosciences. In: Exploring Geoethics. Springer International Publishing, Cham, pp 25–70

2. Sen A (2010) The idea of Justice. Penguin Books, London, UK

3. Bohle M, Marone E (2022) Phronesis at the Human-Earth Nexus: Managed Retreat. Front Polit Sci 4:1–13.

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