Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Earth Day

I celebrate Earth Day every day of the year. According to Wikipedia, Earth Day was created to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth's environment. I love living in Utah because I get to see evidence of the Earth's geologic history in every direction I look. We get mountains, mineral deposits, rock formations and so much more that. It is a history in the hundreds of millions of years in the making.

When the trilobites were living in Utah about 550 million years ago, what is now the House Range west of Delta, Utah sat on the equator with most of the eastern half of the state under warm tropical water. This is where the trilobites lived and flourished. They weren’t alone. They lived with worms, algae, sponges, and some primitive plants. There were some other creatures but they are rare in the fossil record. Undoubtedly, there were many other creatures that are not seen in the fossil record.

Moving ahead 250 million years, Utah was a little farther north on the equator and was covered in lush tropical plants like cycads and palms trees along with many other types of vegetation. Moving around and living among the lush greens were dinosaurs. There were many types and sizes living in what we could equate to an “African” type jungle.

The earth is a dynamic system and all good things must come to an end. The dinosaurs only lived for 200 million years, then they moved on. The earth continued to change its appearance, making way for us to live further north on the planet and giving us wonderful seasonal cycles. During the transition from the dinosaurs to our time, the record of the dinosaurs and forests were preserved in the rocks. Weathering has re-exposed them in our time for our enjoyment and understanding of our planet.

Many have equated Earth Day as a day to promote different agendas like recycling, global warming, and preserving the planet. While these issues are important, there are other important “earth environments.” Many minerals and rocks used today come from specific geologic environments. Ore bodies must be mined for metals such as silver, gold, copper, lead, zinc, iron, aluminum, molybdenum, and beryllium--to name a few from Utah. If you ever wonder how important these metals are to you, just try to live without any one of them for any length of time.

Other geologic environments worthy of mention include the Utah sand and gravel deposits that began as shore lines. This is where we get our cement. There are also the oil and natural gas deposits in eastern and southern Utah. For recreation and personal enjoyment we have environments that created Topaz, Red Beryl, Petrified Wood, Dinosaur Bone, Marble, Onyx, and Agate.

Then there are the mineral, fossil, and geologic specimens—the samples that come from the different environments that represent the diversity of Utah’s geology. We display a small portion of what is available from Utah in our Museum Cabinets. Many people around the world collect mineral, fossil, and geologic samples from Utah for personal enjoyment as well as research. I hope you enjoy Earth Day as much as I do!

Rick

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