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Planetary Science
Alex Steffen, 25 Mar 04

The ecological crises impose on us a bunch of planetary imperatives. By no means the least of these is to greatly intensify our scientific study of the Earth and it's natural systems. Simply put, we need to know a lot more about what's going on around us if we hope to prevent, mitigate and counteract huges environmental problems like climate change and species loss. We need to know how our planet works.

Which makes the Group on Earth Observation pretty staggeringly useful. As Robert Cowen remarks:

"Weather radar is nifty. Satellite images are awesome. But geoscientists want a more comprehensive view. So 44 nations, the European Commission, and 26 international organizations will meet in Tokyo April 25 to plan an unprecedented campaign to pull together Earth-monitoring instruments from all over the world into one giant network. When finished, the system would reveal what's happening on Earth from the ocean floor to the tops of volcanoes to the electromagnetic fields enveloping the planet.

Better still, the data collected is to be freely available to all.

The only thing that could make this cooler would be if it incorporated a citizen-science perspective, allowing massively distributed efforts and local field observations, making it planetary not only in scope, but in participation.

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