International Year of Planet Earth

IYPE Registered TMThe International Year of Planet Earth (IYPE) is another of the several “Year” observances declared by the U.N. for 2008 (I previously mentioned the International Year of Languages [IYL], and will come to the others later). It actually runs from 2007 through 2009, but had its formal launch at UNESCO on 12-13 February 2008.

The aim of IYPE is given as: “to capture people’s imagination with the exciting knowledge we possess about our planet, and to see that knowledge used to make the Earth a safer, healthier and wealthier place for our children and grandchildren.” It is intended to “support research projects within defined themes focusing on Earth Sciences in the service of society.”

IYPE is described as “a joint initiative by UNESCO and the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS)” which involves “[t]welve Founding Partners, 26 Associate Partners and a growing number of International Partner organisations from all continents and representing all major geoscientific communities in the world,” as well as about 70 national committees.

The approach is explained on the IYPE website as:

The International Year of Planet Earth aims to ensure greater and more effective use by society of the knowledge accumulated by the world’s 400,000 Earth scientists. The Year’s ultimate goal of helping to build safer, healthier and wealthier societies around the globe is expressed in the Year’s subtitle ‘Earth science for Society’.

The International Year runs from January 2007 to December 2009, the central year of the triennium (2008) having been proclaimed by the UN General Assembly as the UN Year. The UN sees the Year as a contribution to their sustainable development targets as it promotes wise (sustainable) use of Earth materials and encourages better planning and management to reduce risks for the world’s inhabitants.

This is clearly a substantial and well-organized effort, with important potential benefits in terms of public awareness, organizational networking, and longer-term outcomes.

When considering IYPE and IYL, it is tempting to contrast the resources and planning, but without going into that, the differences seem to derive mainly from IYPE having had a kind of consortium in place fairly early in the process. I think this is an important lesson for the success of any “Year” observance: to have a dedicated organization that can help coordinate observance and activities. I’ll return to this topic later.

I’m also tempted to see potential connections between IYPE and IYL – how can the two themes be linked in specific ways to enrich the impact of each?

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