Tag Archives: geographic information systems
“So many of the world’s current issues—at a global scale and locally—boil down to geography, and need the geographers of the future to help us understand them.”
“What is the capital of Madagascar?”
Unfortunately, that’s what most people think of when they hear the term geography.
“It’s boring,” they say. “It’s the study of useless information. It has no practical relevance to my life.”
In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Geography is one of the most interesting, vibrant, and dynamic fields of study today. It’s also one of the most vital.
Geography has at least one thing in common with other disciplines: it has become fragmented. As our world has become more complex, science has responded by becoming narrowly focused. Thousands of very smart people are making remarkable discoveries in their own disciplines. But who is looking at the big picture?
It’s only logical. When life gets complicated, we often tend to focus on the little things. It helps us deal with being overwhelmed. But at some point we need to take a step back and realize that we can’t understand an entire forest if we’re addressing issues one tree at a time.
We’ve done an admirable job examining and understanding a multitude of component pieces that make our planet work. Now our grand challenge is to integrate all this knowledge so we can understand the “big picture.”
How do we put all of the pieces back together again so that we can understand the whole? How do we defragment geography?
Geography—the scientific foundation of GIS—has for many years been concerned with exploring and describing our world. Historically, explorers lead grand expeditions to the farthest reaches of the globe. This golden age of exploration contributed greatly to our understanding of how our world works.
This was followed by the space age—an era where we left the planet and turned our cameras and sensors to look back on our home, giving us an entirely new perspective. Bound to the surface of earth for millennia, humankind was getting its first opportunity to look at our planetary system as a whole—from a few hundred miles up in space.