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Geologisk Museum

December 18, 2009

So today we went to the Natural History Museum of Copenhagen or, the Geologisk Museum under the University of Copenhagen. I was really excited about it actually, recalling the amazing British Natural History Museum where I met Sir David Attenborough last year :). This time I was pretty disappointed cause the museum’s full collections weren’t open to us and a lot of the guests went straight for the reception and alcohol. But as I looked around the open exhibitions, the museum’s tour guide on duty Mr Hans Kloster came up to me and we started chatting about natural history.

Hans Kloster

Hans told me that most of the exhibits were at least 30 years old and asked if I was interested in minerals. I said “yes” and he lit up, saying that he could get me into the mineral section of the museum. So he scuttled off and went to get the key for the mineral section, which was in the adjacent room to the reception area. Meanwhile, the rest (LJ, Ping, Eileen, Yi Tao, Sye Yuet and Zhi Kai) were just arriving at Norreport station so there was time for me to slip away and get into my “Geographer mode”.

I really think I am a physical geographer at heart, but then again I forgot everything that was taught to me during Planet Earth last year but it did serve me well somehow today as I looked through minerals and recognized most of those that Hans showed me.

Silver

Hans showed me the prize of his collection, silver mined from the 16th century. He had categorized and sorted most of the collections there and it was interesting to see how he would search for special ones to show me, those minerals which he thought were great samples or which had, as he put it, “perfect structure”. Also, to showcase how old this building was, I got a photo of a light switch which controlled the lights to the mineral exhibits in the cases. 🙂

I also got the chance to ask Hans what was his take on climate change and how it might affect the mining of minerals today.

He cheekily said, “We already do. There’s more space to mine when the ice melts!”

And so I began probing more into this and asked what he felt about other aspects of climate change and its effects on geomorphology and mineral formation. He added that he was worried about the acidification of the oceans, which have the potential to change the mineral content and metamorphosis may occur. This is due to the fact that a lot of earth’s minerals were “placed” there by tectonic uplift and with increased ocean acidification due to increased oceanic sequestration of carbon and pollution, this has led to the change in rock formation processes as carbonates get dissolved rather than calcified. Similarly, I think that increased erosion and land degradation can result in affected rock samples, which Hans highlighted.

He spoke about a research trip he went on years ago, in which he discovered a ice-soil horizon sample but when it was brought back to the laboratory it had melted. The next year, when he went back, the ice-soil had grown an extra meter high! He added that mineral formation however, is a complex process but he is worried about climate change and its resultant adverse effects on earth processes.

I also got a chance to chat with him about the importance of natural history. I began by asking him if he felt that young people today are forgetting that all our material desires and goods are derived from the earth and he answered, “Yes, many young people today carry around mobile phones while often contain in them rare minerals and they don’t know at all!”. We also talked about how it is important to study and provide funding for the mining of minerals today to continue what has been started in the areas of mineralogy, geomorphology and even physical geography.

So perhaps then the question is how can we ignite interest in these areas? Hans was nostalgic as he told me about the time he decided to come over to the Natural History Museum because they were going to shut the place down due to low visitor-ship. Today, the museum still has few visitors and most of which visit only to get a great view of the next door Botanic Gardens. The crux of the message here is that we need to re-call that we all stem from Earth’s natural history and all the things that we have have been derived in one way or another from the Earth. If we can do that, then we may be able to see the bigger picture, that mankind is but one fragment of Earth’s geologic history and this is exemplified in Alan Weisman’s book The World Without Us

Life will go on without humankind and in order to ensure our survival on Earth, we need to rethink the way we are treating our planet. Lovelock’s Gaia Theory also articulates concern that our Earth is special and we need to treat it like a system, and not tackle the issues individually. Thus the negotiations need to form a collective consensus as to how to tackle this global issue of climate change. We cannot work as individual countries but must act collectively, and remember that we are but only a fragment of Earth’s geological history and only time will tell if we can change the course of history or make history through our actions here at COP15 and post-COP.

Hans Kloster and I

Signing out from CPH,

Mel

Eco Singapore

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