Here is the second installment in a series on natural/environmental history from the perspective of what is referred to here as human impact and the geology of the future. The author requires you to work, but it is important work, worthy of the effort to focus the lens of history for the sake of our decisions about the future:
The Geological Society of London, known to its members as the Geol Soc (pronounced “gee-ahl sock”), was founded in 1807, over dinner in a Covent Garden tavern. Geology was at that point a brand-new science, a circumstance reflected in the society’s goals, which were to stimulate “zeal” for the discipline and to induce participants “to adopt one nomenclature.” There followed long, often spirited debates on matters such as where to fix the borders of the Devonian period. “Though I don’t much care for geology,” one visitor to the society’s early meetings noted, “I do like to see the fellows fight.”
The Geol Soc is now headquartered in a stone mansion not far from Piccadilly Circus. On the outside, the style of the mansion is Palladian; inside, it leans more toward mid-century public library. Much of the place is wrapped in plastic, owing to a construction project that never quite seems to reach completion. Near the reception desk, behind a green velvet curtain, hangs a copy of the first geological map of Britain, which was published in 1815 by William Smith. (Smith’s British biographer has called the map “one of the classics of English science”; his American counterpart has pronounced it “the map that changed the world.”) At the top of the stairs, there’s a reading room with a brass chandelier, a few armchairs, some scuffed tables, and a broken coffee machine.
On a sunny morning not long ago, Jan Zalasiewicz, a stratigrapher and longtime society member, was sitting in the reading room, wishing the coffee machine were functional so that he could make a cup of tea. Zalasiewicz is a slight, almost elfin man with shaggy graying hair and narrow blue eyes. He had come down to London that morning from his home, in Nottinghamshire, to give a visitor a tour. His perspective on the Geol Soc, and on the city more generally, was, he had to admit, idiosyncratic. . .
Read the whole article here.