I recently heard an ecologist describe education in the natural sciences as ‘getting new eyes.’ You suddenly see things that were just not there before. Where there were only trees, now there is a ferocious battle field of interspecific competition with legions of unseen combatants. Where there was only rock, now there is a global drama of power in forms both gradual and catastrophic. Suddenly I am Bruce Willis in the Sixth Sense. Wonder was always there, but I was blind to it.  However, I have found that this gift/neurosis extends beyond the realm of vehicular menace. I ‘see things’ in surprising and enjoyable places. Here are a few of them:
Settlers of Catan is my favorite board game for a number of reasons…but one is a little eccentric. After the board has been laid, I try to reconstruct the geologic history that would result in the physical geography (mountains, deserts, moisture and soil distribution) of the island that did not exist minutes earlier. Are the mountains volcanic or mélange? Why do trees grow on the east while sheep friendly grasslands dominate the west? Does the desert make sense as a rain shadow of the mountains? And when the ‘gold’ expansion pack is used, I rack my brain to understand how mineral rich placer deposits formed. This is problematic because Settlers is won or lost in the first 10 minutes when you place your initial settlements, and I am invest precious mental resources trying to understand how the fictional world came to be rather than focusing on how to victoriously exploit it.
There was a moment during the new Star Trek film, where Spock’s mom was looking from a balcony over the doomed planet Vulcan. We were supposed to be feeling a sense of dread for her safety and the safety of her planet. But I could not emotionally vest in the moment. I was trying to figure out what kind of geologic process would produce alternate offsetting hogbacks ridges, steeply dipping in alternate directions. Surely this location is not tectonically stable enough to be the site for the great repository of Vulcan culture. Also, I have spent nearly the whole Stargate series trying to figure out the geologic origin of Naqata and I can’t tell if Avatar was being ironic or lazy by just mailing in their efforts with ‘unobtanium .’
The idea of a renewed earth as the center of Christian eschatology is kind of new to me. I, like most in my movement, totally misread the text and expected eternal life to be a disembodied state, reflecting an entire and total discontinuity with this life. NT Wright’s Surprised by Hope cured me of this. But as a natural scientist that is geologically trained (and embarking enthusiastically on an ecological education) I have since enjoyed rampant speculation about what the implications of an eternal, renewed, earth and cosmos would be. This has led to an insight I will call ‘eschatological geology.’
The earth is dynamic, and I can not think of any reason why a renewed earth wouldn’t be dynamic. The great city(s) of the renewed earth, would presumably be built in locations such that the earth’s natural rearrangements and perturbations would not translate into human disaster. But it would also mean that the new earth would continue to reveal new glories indefinitely. Yosemite and Glacier would eventually erode into unremarkable monuments to the inevitability of gravity and entropy. But an eternal, dynamic earth would continue to perform endless variations of geologic virtuosity. Only by recognizing how many Yosemities there have been can we contemplate how many are yet to be. Passing eons would bring new wonders and creations which, like their Creator could be indefinitely enjoyed not as a static perfection but as an eternal dance of discovery and wonder.
 In a film that gave such careful effort to imagining a biological system (if taking an unintentional stand on niche ecology and convergent evolution…more on this in a later post) their geologic imagination was on par with that expended on the story and dialogue.
This post was written while listening to Appeal to Reason by Rise Against ___________________________
 Of course, if I was an actuary, I would also include a risk variable for actuaries for throwing themselves in front of busses because their job is so dull. Though, to be fair, I have been studying a fair bit of actuarial theory lately since it is the foundation of Ecological Population Modeling. Many of the original break throughs in Population Biology were made by NY insurance magnates who dabbled in Natural History on the side.
 Pun intended…if someone makes a pun and no one realizes it…did it happen?
 I find the natural science education pitched as a new way of seeing delightfully and subversively similar to the theology of Christian conversion, both theoretically and empirically.
 Two other fun notes about Settlers. 1) My friend Corrie has declared the Cake song Comanche the official anthem of Settlers of Catan because “If you want to build cities you have to build roads.” 2) A couple that my brother and his wife play Settlers made them shirts embroidered with Gen 34:10 "You can settle among us; the land is open to you. Live in it, trade in it, and acquire property in it." Of course there are countless variants of less delicate jest that also accompany the game, mostly surrounding the phrase ‘I’ve got wood.’
 I am not a trecky. This is the first Trek film I have seen. My family watched Next Generation during dinner on Sundays during most of my adolescence, so I get the premise, but have almost no attachment to any of the character from the original series. Still, I appreciate the effort taken to find continuity with the original narrative despite consciously re-writing the it. (That’s right, I’m calling you out Batman and Spiderman). We enjoyed the film. But it had some glaring faults. Kirk and Spock senior’s meeting was far too coincidental, I had trouble buying Syler as Spock, and the whole thing had kind of a Space Camp feel to it (with essentially undergrads rising to positions of prominence to form the Enterprise crew).
 Although one could deduce that JJ recognized that this would be a tectonically unstable configuration and thus, why the Romulan villain (who was a miner and, presumably, geologically savy) chose to drill to the core at this particular site. This theory is corroborated by the fact that when Nero (who Banda hit out of the park) attacked earth, he drilled in the SF bay which the average viewer would recognize as techonically active.
 Though, the text is so clear on this, ‘misread’ is generous. Really, this is medieval theological baggage happily leveraged by dispensationalism. That’s right, I’m looking at you ‘Left Behind’ truther.
 I made this phrase up. In the church we often talk about if someone is ‘theologically trained.’ In music we talk about someone who is ‘classically trained.’ Being ‘geologically trained’ seems like it should be something too.
 One of the things that I find interesting about Biblical eschatology is that it is fundamentally urban. But that makes sense. If the new earth is to sustain an enormous population indefinitely, population will have to be concentrated so resources can be harvested sustainably. Concentrating population minimizes anthropogenic impacts on creation. Eschatological cities would be centers of creativity and would not suffer the ill effects of the endemic nature, so urban life will not be plagued with the ills that are currently associated with it. But, by concentrating habitation and environmental impact in one or a few urban centers, the new earth would presumably be mostly natural and, I suspect, regularly visited in a ‘leave no trace’ practice of redeemed enjoyment.
 credit, the ever quotable Capadocian Fathers.