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Understanding the Changing Planet: Strategic Directions for the Geographical Sciences
How to Promote Sustainability
How and where will 10 billion people live?
How will we sustainably feed everyone in the coming decade and beyond?
How does where we live affect our health?
Earth’s population is projected to peak at 8 to 12 billion people by 2050, with most population growth in urban areas. Many cities will struggle to accommodate rapidly increasing populations, and the spread of cities into rural areas will alter biogeochemical cycles, hydrological systems, climate, wildlife habitat, and biodiversity. Research on the changing geographical distribution of populations, the processes shaping different settlement forms, and the sustainability challenges facing an increasingly urbanized population are critical to understanding the challenges facing a more crowded world. Ensuring the availability of food resources to feed Earth’s expanding population will be one of those challenges. Because starvation currently occurs not because of global food scarcity but because of unequal geographical circumstances and inefficient or unfair food distribution systems, meeting the critical challenge of feeding 10 billion people will require a better understanding of geographical influences on agricultural production and distribution systems and on changing food consumption preferences. Access to health care will also be stretched by an expanding, increasingly mobile population, and standards in the treatment and prevention of illness will vary according to location. Using spatial analysis, GIS, and spatially explicit models of disease spread, the geographical sciences can advance understanding of the impacts of globalization, migration, environmental circumstances, land use, economics, and government policy on health and the spread of infectious diseases. Analysis of disease and health care patterns through the course of people’s lives is fundamental to understanding both disease behavior and the varying vulnerabilities of different populations. This information will be essential to developing policies that promote greater human well-being around the globe.
How to Recognize and Cope with the RapidSpatial Reorganization of Economy and Society
How is the movement of people, goods, and ideas changing the world?
How is economic globalization affecting inequality?
How are geopolitical shifts influencing peace and stability?
From human migration to the movement of freight, global mobility has increased over the past several decades, affecting transportation, communication, the economy, and even patterns of political conflict. There is a pressing need to understand the causes and consequences of increasing mobility, mobility differences from place to place, and the relationship between virtual (as in the Internet and other media) and physical mobility through in-depth assessments of developments in individual places and more spatially extensive studies that use GIS and geospatial information. Globalization is also exacerbating economic disparities in many places, raising concerns about the plight of the needy and social unrest. Geographical research elucidating patterns of inequality and the processes producing those patterns at different spatial scales can shed light on the inequality impacts of the changing socioeconomic environment, as well as the links between poverty and consumption patterns. The geopolitical framework that dominated the post-World War II era has also come apart in the face of economic and social upheaval, raising the need for expanded research on the territorial agendas of influential governments and groups, the changing significance of boundaries, and the role of resource scarcity in cooperation and conflict.
How to Leverage Technological Change for theBetterment of Society and Environment
How might we better observe, analyze, and visualize a changing world?
What are the societal implications of citizen mapping and mapping citizens?
Since ancient times, observation, mapping, and representation of Earth’s surface have been integral to geographical research, and remain central to the modern