Picture it: Dozens of kilometers off the coast of Texas, a giant polygon-shaped cage constructed of steel ribs and mesh netting floats 30 or so meters beneath the waves. The cage, moored to the seafloor, is filled with tens of thousands of teeming, silvery fish. Several kilometers away, offshore wind turbines sprout from the sea surface in a curving line, their spindly white arms churning the atmosphere.
Craig Beasley’s one-year term as president of the Society for Exploration Geophysicists had a challenging start. After about two months in office, a magnitude-9-plus earthquake struck off the coast of Sumatra on Dec. 26, 2004, triggering a powerful tsunami that killed more than 225,000 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless.
SEG members wanted to help, but did not know how to contribute their expertise. “I could encourage members to donate money and time, but how does that distinguish a contribution from SEG from what people would normally do?” Beasley says.
It’s late in the afternoon, and by now, 9-year-old Claire Dworsky has already answered questions like mine many times over. But, when I approach the crowd of people standing by her poster at the American Geophysical Union’s (AGU) annual meeting in San Francisco, Calif., she jumps up from her chair and politely gives me her full attention. I ask her to explain her project, and she launches into her explanation, never turning to look at the poster behind her for backup, or at the adults nearby who are watching her with pride.
Last year’s hurricane season was not kind to Haiti. First, tropical storms Fay, Gustav and Hanna hit the Caribbean nation; then Hurricane Ike pummeled the island, flooding much of the country, wrecking roads and bridges and leaving Haitians desperate for food, water and other basics. To help the battered country, the United States sent hundreds of metric tons of supplies and hygiene kits aboard the aircraft carrier USS Kearsarge. The Navy deployed helicopters, landing craft and personnel to help local residents. And they brought in thousands of gallons of freshwater.
On Monday, a spokesman for Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai, Waheed Omar, told reporters that the USGS survey of Afghanistan's mineral resources found they are worth about $1 trillion. And on Wednesday, USGS will host a press conference in which scientists will discuss water issues in Afghanistan.
"This is our generation’s Sputnik moment,” declared President Barack Obama in the 2011 State of the Union address, challenging the nation to pursue a future of cleaner energy.
As we did a generation ago, we now face significant challenges — challenges that need to be met sooner rather than later to protect and grow our economy, build energy autonomy and preserve our resources for future generations. These challenges center on two resources: energy and water.
Fieldwork in Afghanistan is not like most geology fieldwork. “When I landed, the first thing I had to do was to put on a bulletproof vest,” says Tom Mack. He was part of a U.S. Geological Survey team that evaluated water resources in the Kabul Basin, in the north-central part of eastern Afghanistan, a couple of years ago. “It was strange to wear the vest, but eventually you get used to it.” There was a lot to get used to, he says. No matter where Mack went, he had to get special permission to be there.
If you turn the tap on in Seattle, the water flowing from the faucet likely originated as a clump of snow. In winter, snowflakes fall in the Cascades, accumulating in thick snowpack. The snowpack stores water in winter and slowly releases it in spring and summer as temperatures warm and snow melts. As snowmelt flows down the mountains, some of it is diverted and collected in reservoirs — destined to arrive in the homes of more than 1 million people.
Ravaged by war, drought and natural hazards such as earthquakes and landslides, Afghanistan’s people face many challenges. But the country also has untapped resources — great natural beauty , deep supplies of groundwater and a vast mineral wealth, including coal, gems like emeralds and metals like copper and iron.