Mining and society are intricately connected. We are so dependent upon mining that it is far more realistic to question how, when, and where we will mine than to question if we will mine.
But this brings forth some serious challenges. The resources we depend upon are finite, and we are consuming an ever-increasing amount of them. At the current rate of growth in consumption, it will not be long before we will need more resources than our planet can provide. What will we do then?
More significantly, what can and will we do to prevent this scenario from unfolding?
‘Rethink’ is an exploration into how society can become sustainable and what roles all of us play in achieving this goal. It is a call to action to begin the change now, with the recognition of the factors that can drive or inhibit such change. Most importantly, it is a dialogue on how we get from ‘here’ to ‘there’.
There is something amazing about the human spirit for discovery. Be it climbing the tallest mountains, circumnavigating the globe, or venturing into outer
space, our desire to explore, to discover, and to overcome sometimes incredible challenges to achieve this desire is a defining characteristic of our
Where did you want to explore as a child? Was it here on Earth or up amongst the stars? Was it deep beneath the surface of the ocean?
I ask this because the ocean still remains a largely unexplored world. More people have been to the moon than have been to the deepest known point in the ocean.
Yet, it is the ocean explorers which have provided us with some of the most significant pieces to understanding our planet - in particular, the deep sea explorers.
But before we explored the depths, we explored the surface, and near surface. Early exploration involved more coastline mapping and trade route establishment than understanding what lays beneath. As with charting, early exploration beneath the surface was driven by practical needs and did not go to great depths.
For much of human history, the depths of the ocean were viewed as dark and lifeless. The ocean floor was thought to be flat and featureless. This was driven, in part, by the inability to see into it. In comparison the moon reveals more of its features to the unaided eye than does the deep sea.
Add to this the dangers the seas can present voyagers with, and it can be understood how the depths could be seen as a foreboding place.
Eventually, however, curiosity could not keep us out.
The beginning of modern oceanography is credited to the Challenger Expedition of 1872-76. Over the course of its four year journey, the expedition catalogued over 4000 new species. Where it really broke new ground though was in the first broad mapping of the sea floor and the discovery of two significant sea floor features: the then deepest known point in the ocean at 8,184 metres in the Mariana Trench, and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.
The one thing Challenger did not do, however, was send anyone into the depths. Manned exploration did not occur until the following century.
From 1930-34, William Beebe and Otis Barton performed a series of dives off the coast of Bermuda with the Barton designed Bathysphere. Crammed into the small (4.75 foot diameter sphere), both men descended to a variety of depths, culminating in the first dive to 0.5 miles. While the depth was a milestone, their other dives contributed to further cataloguing the diversity of life at depth as well as mapping shallower parts of the sea floor.
It was not until 1960, however, that people would venture into the depths discovered by the Challenger. It was in that year that Jacques Picard and Don Walsh became the first people to dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, reaching a depth of 10,911 metres. Here, at the then deepest known point in the ocean, life was observed.
This dive ushered in the era of deep-sea manned exploration. Manned dives, which built upon data gathered from unmanned exploration, led to the development of the theory of plate tectonics.
Subsequent manned dives in the 1970s and 80s brought more amazing discoveries to bear, further enhancing our understanding of our oceans, and our world.
Today, ocean exploration remains in its infancy. What will explorers amaze us with next?
This is an important question, for exploration is about amazement. It is also about providing a base knowledge upon which hypotheses can be postulated. It is also about generating knowledge which either supports or contradicts our hypotheses.
Exploration leads to discovery. Discovery leads to knowledge. Knowledge leads to new questions, and new exploration. It arms us with the knowledge to understand our world and to make intelligent decisions about it.
Exploration inspires our future explorers and scientists. It inspires our poets and our painters. It inspires all of us to imagine what is possible. Also, exploration is just cool.
Wouldn’t you rather be an explorer?
Water: Beneath the Surface, is inspired by the work of all those explorers, ocean and terrestrial, that have provided us with this astonishing understanding of the world we live on. To all those that have dedicated their lives to furthering our understanding, thank you.
Photo: NASA / Wikicommons