Paper No. 10
Presentation Time: 3:30 PM


WYSESSION, Michael E., Earth and Planetary Sciences, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO 63130-4899 and ROWAN, Linda, External Affairs, UNAVCO, 6350 Nautilus, Boulder, CO 80301,

This presentation examines the roles of geoscience public policy in the areas of environmental impacts from human activities and geoscience education. Public policy at a national level has played an important role in protecting the environment, dating back to the end of the 19th century. Human impacts are not included in the costs of most goods and services and thus are ignored by market-driven forces, as evidenced by the great extent of pollution of the land, air, and water. In the United States, key acts of legislated environmental protection in the early 1970s have alleviated some of the pollution. For example, the Cuyahoga River has caught on fire at least 13 times, dating back to the 19th century, but not once since the Clean Water Act was passed in 1972. It is not only medical and environmental health that are protected by geoscience legislation, but economic health as well. The Environmental Protection Agency projects that over the span of 30 years the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments will save our nation $2 trillion in reduced health problems and loss of workdays. However, as helpful as this legislation has been, the country and the world face an even larger threat in the changing climate driven by fossil fuel consumption. The largest consumers of fossil fuel, the U.S. and China, did not ratify the United Nations Kyoto Treaty and have no significant policies to deal with climate change in the near future.

Public policy at a national level has had less impact in the area of geoscience education. There are certain aspects of governance that have traditionally been left to the states and have had minimal federal participation. Education, including science education, is one of those areas. While the U.S. federal government has, on occasion, passed legislation to attempt to influence or incentivize state activities in this area, the actual educational policies have always been left to the states. Emblematic of this is the fact that there are no national science standards for K-12 education – each state gets to determine its own science standards and even how many years of science a student should take. While the current K-12 Next Generation Science Standards effort is aimed toward a national audience, adoption is still voluntary on a state-by-state basis.

  • Wysession_GSA2013_125th.pdf (7.6 MB)