All the sciences, mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology, are playing an increasingly important role in our way of life, as the years pass and we become more dependent upon the products of science and technology. Geology, too, has a vital part to play in living today, apart from its value in furthering our understanding of the way in which our Earth began, developed, and is in constant motion to this day. For example, few of us could imagine living now without the vast network of roads and railways that span the land surface. But these roads and railways require bridges and tunnels which cannot be built in some areas or they may collapse.
By careful surveying, the geologist is able to tell what kinds of rocks there are in an area, and can suggest to the engineer the best site for their construction. Before geologists were consulted, huge constructions were often erected on sites quite unsuitable for the purpose with disastrous results. A famous instance is the San Francisquito Dam disaster in America. A quick survey was carried out on the proposed site during the dry summer months and it was decided that the narrowest part of the river channel was ideal. Unfortunately, the rocks on one side of the canyon were clays, with schists on the other. When the water filled up behind the dam the clays became soft and flowed away so that the schists broke away and the whole dam collapsed. Geologists can also help to avoid the terrible loss of life which occurs as a result of earthquakes, but at least with the methods now available people can be warned of a coming disturbance in time to escape.
Perhaps today the geologists’ skill in finding raw material is even more important. Industrialized society depends on the raw materials that the Earth provides – nowhere else can provide our needs. Our society with its demands for more energy, more water, more iron, more aluminium, more chemicals from oil and so on, now asks the geologist to find more sources for all these materials and many others. Obviously it is becoming more difficult and more costly. In time, of course, unless our demands are reduced, not even the cleverest geologist will be able to find new supplies. They will have all been used up.