Of the many celebrations of Earth Days, Earth Day 2020 will be remembered.
Not only because it is the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day, but that it occurs during this unprecedented public health crisis; the parades, marches, and demonstrations characteristic of Earth Day have now been moved online, in the form of Earth Day Live. This intersection of Earth Day and COVID-19 is significant, as it comes at a time when we likely have heightened awareness of the power of nature, and its ability to stop humanity in our tracks, and shift our focus to the natural world we live in (which, here in Edinburgh, is springing to life in truly magnificent ways).
Sir Charles Lyell, known as a founder of modern geology, was innately interested in the course of nature, and keenly observed natural phenomena to form and prove theories about the Earth’s age, and continuous processes. Today, our understanding of climate change is built upon the concepts laid down by early geologists
like Lyell. Only with the concept of the Earth’s continuous process of deposition and erosion are we able to understand how our actions have consequences on the Earth and climate. Daryl Green, Head of Museums and Special Collections, writes,
“Lyell made acceptable the theory that the earth was millions of years old and that it was shaped by geological processes still active in the modern era. He made it possible for people to think about the earth as a dynamic and developing planet in the way we do today.”
-Daryl Green, Head of Special Collections, Deputy Head of Centre for Research Collections
In his seminal book, Principles of Geology, Lyell constructed a main, pivotal point: “The present is the key to the past.” This keenly illustrates his outlook on geology, as he observed modern phenomena, data, and formations to interpret the geological history of the Earth. His book was key to implementing evidential methods to geology, but also to illustrating these ideas in a way that the public could understand. Dr. Gillian McCay, Curator of the Cockburn Museum writes,
“He was one of the first to open up the development of science through publishing books aimed at a more general reader, allowing lay people to access ideas, and thus allowed more people to examine the world around them and draw conclusions.”– Dr. Gillian McCay, Curator, Cockburn Museum