Earth Materials in Our Lives

Happy Earth Science Week!  The aim of Earth Science week is to promote the understanding and appreciation of the value of Earth Science research and its applications and relevance to our daily lives. This year’s theme is “Earth Materials in Our Lives”. 

·     Click here for the official Earth Science Week website which has a range of activities, competitions and free resources you can download or order.

Here at Australian Earth Science Education, we have a slight bias towards the celebration and promotion of Earth Science so relish in answering the question of why you would study rocks and earth sciences? Here are a few questions which might help you consider the importance of earth materials in our lives:

  • Where do fertilisers that are put on most crops come from?
  • What are man-made fibres, such as polyester, made from?
  • Where do the materials that make up your mobile phone, computer or TV come from?
  • What provides the energy to power your electronic devices and transport?

This short video might help answer some of these questions for you.

Try these WASP activities to learn more about the importance of rocks in our lives

Although the world is rapidly transitioning to use more low-carbon technologies, this does not mean that the need for earth’s materials will be less.  In fact, in many cases it will be much greater, however, there will be a growing demand for different types of resources.   

Figure illustrating the projected requirements for different minerals in 2050.  (World Bank, 2019)

As you can see from the figure, the demand for graphite, cobalt and lithium is predicted to skyrocket. These are metals which are used in the production of batteries – which will be vital if we move towards using more electric cars and wish to store solar and wind generated electricity for domestic use.  Although the need for long transmission lines can be reduced if people decide to go off the grid and rely on renewable resources, copper wiring will still be needed within solar panels and in wind turbines. 

Some global benefits from the change in demand for earth materials is that different countries may emerge as suppliers for these minerals with many of these being lower socio-economic countries.  Hopefully, the governments of these countries will be able to manage the mining and sales of these valuable resources to support sustainability, environmentally and economically, and improve the lives of their people.

It is vital that while mining for these resources to help create a low-carbon and more environmentally friendly future that safe and sustainable practices are applied, to avoid creating further environmental damage in the long term. It is also important that we are all aware that many of earths materials are non-renewable. Therefore, we should be mindful of how we use them, how frequently we changeover devices that are made of them, and consider if we can recycle goods once we are finished with them.