Nature has run a free supplement in this week’s issue, which includes 15 essays written by scientists on their respective areas of Earth science. The overarching theme: “…it is essential that Earth scientists and society interact in mutually beneficial ways[…]it is also crucial that Earth scientists are excited and inspired by science in its own right, and it is this aim that we hope to fulfil through the other articles in this supplement. These informal, sometimes opinionated, pieces look back at recent developments in the Earth sciences and consider where future advances might lie.”
So, these are, in a sense, the scientific OP-ED equivalents of those you might find in the New York Times or Wallstreet Journal. Is Nature turning into more of a magazine, and less of a journal? Anyways, I particularly liked this paragraph from the introductory essay:
Charting the world and naming its sounds and mountains are acts of possession, which efface indigenous history. Victorian geologists, for their part, set about conquering and colonizing the past. The Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian and Devonian periods were all named after localities in the United Kingdom (or their pre-Roman inhabitants). Although the Permian was named after the Russian city of Perm, it had been identified by Roderick Impey Murchison, on his imperially sponsored ‘geologizing’ campaign across Russia. The names of the Tertiary epochs — Palaeocene, Eocene, Miocene and so on — were coined by University of Cambridge polymath William Whewell. ‘Carboniferous’ was just a fancy way of saying ‘coal measures’. Barring a few French interlopers (Jurassic and Cretaceous), the British parcelling of time was effectively a result of imperialism.