Geologists dig far too deep

November 15, 1996

University geology courses are largely irrelevant to modern living and should shift their focus from the earth's core and mantle to the inhabited crust, the director of the British Geological Survey told a conference this week.

Speaking at the bicentennial celebration of Sir Henry De la Beche, reputedly the first British earth scientist to grasp the relevance of geology to the economy and everyday life, Peter Cook stressed the futility of much course material. "We spend far too much time talking about depths of hundreds of kilometres under the earth instead of talking about the shallow parts - the area where we live," he said.

This leads to poor usage of the earth's plentiful natural resources, particularly water, he said.

"We don't use the storage capacity of the earth for water," he said. "In many parts of the world, surface water carries disease, and the safest, cleanest, cheapest water is underground. But even though 90 per cent of the available water is ground water, we use reservoirs instead of aquifers (water-holding rock formations)."

In his view, this lack of vision is not limited to developing countries: "One of the most recent claims in Britain is that we need new reservoirs, but we must consider the options first," he said.

Dr Cook is also proposing a method for ridding the atmosphere of carbon dioxide from industry and power stations.

"It can be compressed and pumped into the ground and it will actually stay there," he said.

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