Paper No. 9
Presentation Time: 10:30 AM


CALDER, John, Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources, PO Box 698, Halifax, NS B3J 2T9, Canada,

The evolution of the Earth and life upon it define who we are, and apart from mortality, is our one common bond. We share a rich geoheritage on this planet, but geoscientists collectively have not done all we can to share our knowledge of this heritage. The diverse geology and dramatic sea cliffs of Nova Scotia have drawn the likes of Charles Lyell and Stephen Jay Gould to its shores, and while commemoration ranges from interpretive signage to UNESCO World Heritage designation, before the initiation of a geoheritage strategy, no systematic inventory of this rich history existed. The dangers of such a ‘geovacuum’ lie in missed opportunity and in potential for ill-advised allocation of limited resources. A thoughtful strategy, however, has potential to realize the ‘Three E’s” of geoheritage: engagement, education, and economic development.

Geoheritage in Nova Scotia is informed by the World Heritage convention that identifies both natural (geological) sites in their own right, and cultural sites (where human history is involved at the site: examples include historical mining and spiritual sites). Natural sites are ranked by a clear and simple rubric that can be employed in a timely fashion in any jurisdiction: GH1 sites are globally unique, GH2 are globally significant, and GH3 are exceptional examples. This latter category is the most subjective and has the potential therefore to balloon the list, hence the descriptor ‘exceptional’. A guiding question is this: “Who is geoheritage for?” Sites that are meaningful to geoscientists (e.g. type stratigraphic sections) are not in all cases inspirational to the broader public, and can in fact leave a negative impression. A further rubric of appropriateness for the public that includes safety, vulnerability/integrity, and interpretive potential defines a subset of public geoheritage (geotourism) sites. By focusing on geologic age over process, identification of sites where Earth processes and in some cases the history of life are entwined is encouraged, to illustrate the complex system that is Earth. Such an understanding grows ever more crucial as humanity faces global challenges that require the insight of Earth history.