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Humans are recognized as a “geological force”, capable of modifying natural environments, and in virtue of this prerogative they have an ethical responsibility towards the planet. Indeed, studying and managing the Earth system, exploiting its geo-resources, intervening in natural processes are actions that involve great responsibilities towards society and the environment, of which perhaps we, as geoscientists, are not sufficiently aware. Only by increasing the awareness of this responsibility, can we work with wisdom and foresight, and respect the balances that exist in nature while guaranteeing a sustainable development for future generations. In order to define acceptable solutions to current global challenges, we need to take into proper consideration the ethical and social aspects involved in geoscience issues. Geoethics was born to define a conceptual substratum of categories, useful as framework of reference for geoscientists, to help them develop a new way of thinking and interacting with the Earth system. Geoethics widens the cultural horizon of geoscience knowledge and contributes to orient scientists and society in the choices for responsible behavior towards the planet. The paper provides an overview of the emerging field of geoethics, focusing on theoretical and practical aspects, by showing the trajectory that has led to the current point of development of geoethics and suggesting some cues for thought for further advancements of ethical thinking in geosciences.
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