I fell in love with the Earth when I was sixteen. I was in the Southern Carpathians of Romania, in a cave, learning about and doing spelunking. We were crawling through this narrow passage, which at times required exhaling completely in order to be able to fit through and advance. I stayed behind my travel companions for a short while and for a minute I turned off the little head-lamp attached to my hard hat. It was the first time experiencing complete darkness – I was frightened, humbled and thrilled beyond expression. It felt as if the Earth opened up a small space, large enough for me to fit in, and invited me to immerse in her mystery, to experience her secrets, to feel her essence. For a moment there was no ‘me’ anymore, I was one with ‘her’, and in that moment I knew I wanted to be an earth-scientist.
Earth-scientists are experientialists at heart: we have to touch the rocks, to smell them, to (yes!) taste them, to experiment with them, because only then we became intimate with, and understand the stories they tell. We are multi-scale thinkers and have to bend our minds to understand, for example, how fluids pass through micrometer scale pores, but also how mountains form, or how continents travel in space and time, in an endless dance that gives us the amazing landscape we are marveling at today.
Geoscience is about bridging the past, the present and the future, it is about understanding time beyond human scale, it is about seeing the cause in the effect and then being able to visualize the impact of an action at multiple levels and multiple scales, it is about knowing. Knowing of the wind and the wave, the river, the sea and the desert, the deep forces that consume land and ocean floor, only to spew it out later in the form of hot lava that creates the Earth anew, with gentleness or with tremendous, creative force.