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HOME > PAST ISSUE > July-August 2012 > Article Detail

ESSAY

100 Reasons to Become a Scientist or Engineer

On our 75th anniversary, we collected 75 reasons. Now we've added 25 more

The Editors

81
Sandra Steingraber

Click to Enlarge ImageI am both a biologist and a poet. When asked what these two fields have in common, I usually say that each requires patience. More fundamentally, biology and poetry are both about the mystery of being alive. But whereas biology wants to solve the mystery, poetry simply says, “Behold.”

Lately, I’ve become interested in geomicrobiology, which seeks to understand the ubiquitous communities of microbes that live in the dark heart of the planet, miles below our feet. What energy sources feed them? What are their methods for transferring electrons? How do they cope with high temperatures, extreme pH, radioactivity?

More urgently, what role might deep-life organisms play in carbon cycling and therefore climate stability? And what are the consequences to subsurface ecosystems when we blow up bedrock and pump it full of water and biocides in order to extract oil and natural gas, as during the practice of hydraulic fracturing (so-called fracking)?

These are mysteries that need resolution. At the same time, scientific knowledge about the deep biosphere requires poets to recalibrate our images of the underworld.

A subterranean world exists below our feet. Eurydice lives.

Sandra Steingraber

Distinguished Scholar in Residence

Department of Environmental Studies

Ithaca College




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