GSA Connects 2023 Meeting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Paper No. 257-12
Presentation Time: 4:15 PM


LEHANE, James, ABS Group, Washington, DC 20003

There are many movies, tv shows, books, songs, artwork, and countless other materials dedicated to the science of geology and educating the people who watch or otherwise enjoy those materials. There are also many media properties that use geology and paleontology as a gateway to entice the public, but offer no real scientific education. People go to the Jurassic Park and Jurassic World movies expecting dinosaurs and carnage, and volcano movies like Dante’s Peak and Volcano expecting death and destruction, but they do not want a scientific lesson (although many times a scientific lesson can be created using these movies). However, there is also a third category, where geology and paleontology are background characters to the stories and do not take a primary role in the storytelling. These are by far the most common form of geological inclusion in storytelling and the one that could be the most successful as teaching tools.

Often times people are already familiar with the media that this third form of geological inclusion is present in, but might not be aware of the geological lessons that lie just below the surface. There are countless examples where the geology is obvious, and other examples where geological lessons can be gleaned from the stories. Movies like The Rescuers Down Under is set in, and around, abandoned opal mines; books like Walden provide methods for creating a bathymetric map; tv shows like Star Trek offer lessons in paleontology; classical art like Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” may have had a geological influence; even through the radio people are hearing about geology like in Bastille’s popular song “Pompeii” or America’s “A Horse with No Name”, which gives an account of a fast acting transgressive event where “the desert had turned to sea”.

Geology provides a fantastic canvas from which to draw on, and many creatives have used this canvas to create some of the most popular pieces of media that millions of people consume each year. Sometimes the geology is accurate and other times it has been twisted to fit their narrative, but regardless there is always a lesson that can be learned. There are countless examples of geology in the art, literature, and other artistic expressions that we all consume every day, and many times these geological tidbits are fun to use as lesson tools because often they are unexpected.