geographical relevance. These types of outreach efforts could be incorporated into geography and geographical science graduate programs to make communication with the public and policy makers more central to graduate education rather than a skill acquired later in a research career, if at all.
The entire geographical sciences community—federal program leaders, academic institutions, professional societies, nonprofits—has an important role to play in maximizing the community’s reach and impact. If organized, the community could actively identify opportunities for the dissemination of geographical ideas, information, and research results to specific audiences, including the policy sector. The community could also create a mechanism through which geographical scientists could be put into contact with various foundations and think tanks—enhancing the prospects that partnerships would emerge that would promote understanding of such topics as disease hotspots, human vulnerability to famine or natural disasters, or trends in inequality at the subnational scale. The community could also pursue efforts to make better connections with the media and other key audiences by hosting annual seminars and policy forums.
The coming decade will almost certainly be one in which concerns about resource use and availability, environmental change, socioeconomic divisions, human security, and technological change will figure prominently on scientific and social agendas. The geographical sciences have a critical role to play in elucidating those concerns. A well-developed and well-connected geographical science enterprise is in a position to provide insights of scientific and policy relevance on a range of demographic and consumption issues, the changing character of Earth’s land surface and environmental systems, globalization, the nature and significance of shifting social and political arrangements, and the potential and limitations of geographical technologies. The geographical sciences cannot tackle these matters alone, but without their perspectives and tools, our collective understanding of the changes that are remaking the world will be impoverished.
The time is ripe, then, to forge an increasingly sophisticated, well-organized, and powerful geographical science that is embedded in a progressively more geographically enabled world. A geographically enabled world is one in which a substantial body of scientists has the training and infrastructure needed to advance the frontiers of geographical science. It is one in which the larger community of scientists is aware of, and can build on, the contributions of the geographical sciences. It is one in which policy is informed by the approaches and representations of the geographical sciences, and in which members of the general public have a sufficient grasp of geographical ideas, concepts, and techniques to be able to make intelligent use of the geographical representations and tools that are increasingly a part of modern life. Realizing the vision of a geographically enabled world offers the prospect of new and important insights into the health of the planet and the well-being of the people who occupy it.