Introduction

On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, and adjacent coastal areas. Strong winds and intense rain raced up the Mississippi River Delta with the eye of the storm immediately east of New Orleans over Lake Pontchartrain (Figure 1). Westward wind rotation forced the surface of the lake toward the city. The massive pulse of energy and water, albeit not extreme by historical hurricane standards, resulted in the failure of multiple levees, which in turn overwhelmed pumping capabilities and produced widespread flooding. The devastation included some 1,500 deaths, $40-50 billion in physical damages, and the largest forced migration of residents in U.S. history, with approximately 410,000 evacuees still scattered across the country as of October 2006 (Groen and Polivka, 2008).

The meteorological and engineering components of the Katrina disaster help us appreciate what happened. Yet bringing the analytical strengths of the geographical sciences to bear on the storm—situating it in the context of a set of evolving human and environmental circumstances near and far—is essential to understanding the larger causes and consequences of Katrina and to making effective plans for future disasters. The perspective adopted by the geographical sciences involves four dimensions.

First, the Katrina disaster was not an environmental event so much as it was a human–environment event. If the storm had encountered a differently organized landscape, then the impacts might have been less severe. A land-use planning process rooted in the geographical sciences would have produced a pre-Katrina New Orleans with a more extensive deltaic and wetlands buffer, with stronger levees and pumping systems, and with more robust evacuation plans for all neighborhoods. In short, coupled physical and human

FIGURE 1 Image of Hurricane Katrina on August 28, 2005, from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Terra satellite. SOURCE: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

FIGURE 1 Image of Hurricane Katrina on August 28, 2005, from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Terra satellite. SOURCE: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.



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Introduction O n August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, and ad- jacent coastal areas. Strong winds and intense rain raced up the Mississippi River Delta with the eye of the storm immediately east of New Orleans over Lake Pontchartrain (Figure 1). Westward wind rota- tion forced the surface of the lake toward the city. The massive pulse of energy and water, albeit not extreme by historical hurricane standards, resulted in the failure of multiple levees, which in turn overwhelmed pumping capabilities and produced widespread flooding. The devastation included some 1,500 deaths, $40-50 billion in physical damages, and the largest forced migration of residents in U.S. history, with approximately 410,000 evacuees still scattered across the country as of October 2006 (Groen and Polivka, 2008). The meteorological and engineering components of the Katrina disaster help us appreciate what hap- pened. Yet bringing the analytical strengths of the geographical sciences to bear on the storm—situating it in the context of a set of evolving human and en- vironmental circumstances near and far—is essential to understanding the larger causes and consequences FIGURE 1 Image of Hurricane Katrina on August 28, 2005, of Katrina and to making effective plans for future from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MO­ disasters. The perspective adopted by the geographical DIS) aboard the National Aeronautics and Space Administration sciences involves four dimensions. (NASA) Terra satellite. SOURCE: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid First, the Katrina disaster was not an environ- Response Team, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. mental event so much as it was a human–environment event. If the storm had encountered a differently or- Katrina New Orleans with a more extensive deltaic ganized landscape, then the impacts might have been and wetlands buffer, with stronger levees and pumping less severe. A land-use planning process rooted in the systems, and with more robust evacuation plans for all geographical sciences would have produced a pre- neighborhoods. In short, coupled physical and human 

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 UNDERSTANDING THE CHANGING PLANET FIGURE 2 The percentage change in the number of households receiving mail from June 2005 to June 2008 in New Orleans Census tracts gives an estimate of changes in population, showing a complex spatial pattern of population gain and loss. SOURCE: Ameri­ can Communities Project, Brown University; mail receipt data from U.S. Postal Service, damage data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. processes,1 rather than simply the physical storm itself, relationships could help residents and decision makers made the Katrina disaster what it was. anticipate and mitigate the human toll from the next Second, the storm’s impacts were not evenly dis- storm. tributed, but instead exhibited important spatial varia­ Third, the processes that led to the Katrina disaster tions and patterns. Although many of the damaged New operated at multiple and interlocking geographical scales, Orleans neighborhoods near Lake Pontchartrain have meaning that processes that led to the outcomes were lost 25-50 percent or more of their pre-Katrina popula- operating at different scales, with each process possibly tions (Figure 2), other neighborhoods in the same area affecting the others. Mapping Katrina’s impacts at dif- have registered much lower population losses, while ferent geographical extents and resolutions highlights some neighborhoods have even experienced popula- the potential for added insights when the same outcome tion growth since the storm. Explaining such spatial is viewed at different scales. A Gulf Coast–scale map variations and patterns requires understanding how of county-level population change from 2005 (before past decisions and practices, including possible socio- the storm) to 2007 shows broad but nuanced patterns economic or racial biases, affected different places (e.g., of post-Katrina population movement (Figure 3). In Did policy differences between neighborhoods produce this map the localized pockets of modest population different impacts within the city of New Orleans? Why loss, and population gain, manifest in Figure 2 are not have some neighborhoods gained population since evident. By contrast, the regional view may provide the storm?). A better understanding of such spatial insights that the finer-scale picture cannot provide, such as the areas where some of the displaced Gulf Coast residents may have moved—namely, areas north 1Coupled physical and human processes are processes that are and west of the damaged areas. A geographical sci- inextricably interrelated, so that the physical process cannot be un- derstood without reference to the human process, and vice versa.

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 INTRODUCTION ence perspective would use this pair of maps to ask dredging/channeling, damming, straightening, levee questions such as the following: Were the locations of building), and agricultural reclamation policies, which population gain the product of Katrina out-migration, together have contributed to significant loss of protec- or of in-migration by people previously not resident tive wetlands in the delta area by altering the natural in the region? What state-level policies, if any, were sediment regime over hundreds of miles of one of the responsible for this pattern of population shifts, and did world’s greatest rivers. Looking to the future, a better those policies and their effects vary by state? Did the understanding of hurricane patterns over time in the emergency response effort by the Federal Emergency Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico can provide Management Agency contribute to some of the pat- insight into how and why hurricanes happen, and help terns apparent from the maps? construct improved climate models that can facilitate Fourth, understanding Katrina and the processes planning for future storms like Katrina. Such forward- that led to its dramatic and yet uneven impacts re- looking research is particularly important given the quires integrating spatial and temporal analyses. Even possible impacts of anthropogenic climate change, though the historical context of urban development sea-level rise, and changing land-use patterns on the in New Orleans was responsible for some of the Mississippi River, its delta, and the Greater New Orleans region. spatial variations in who was most adversely affected Geographical scientists use a suite of approaches by Katrina and what areas were most able to recover and tools (e.g., mapping, geographic information sys- quickly, there are other, less spatially and temporally tems [GIS], remote sensing, spatial statistics, model- proximate, contributing factors. Also responsible was ing, deductive analysis drawing on sociospatial data) a long-term commitment to agricultural development in the Mississippi River basin, which has involved to provide insight into the forces that produce events massive hydroengineering projects and activities (e.g., such as Hurricane Katrina and to understand their FIGURE 3 Mapping population changes for counties along a swath of the Gulf Coast illustrates broader spatial patterns of move­ ment. This pattern influenced and was influenced by processes operating at multiple scales, such as the local, state, and regional (i.e., Mississippi Basin). SOURCE: American Communities Project, Brown University; population data from U.S. Census Bureau, damage data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

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0 UNDERSTANDING THE CHANGING PLANET and ecosystems. These concerns, which have long been BOX 1 central to the discipline of geography, have recently Geographical Science in Action been taken up by researchers in a range of disciplines During Hurricane Katrina who are interested in how the geographical configura- tion and interaction of different phenomena shape the Geographical scientists played an important role in the re- evolution of places, environments, and societies. To cite sponse to Hurricane Katrina. Geographical scientists from Louisiana only a few examples, spatial econometrics has emerged State University occupied the GIS desk in Louisiana’s emergency as a major subfield of economics, environmental studies operations center (EOC), mapping 911 calls, making recommenda- tions for the best places to locate shelters, and processing imagery programs with a focus on human impacts on the envi- to show flood extent. One geographical scientist helped create the ronment have sprung up in universities and research map that became the primary visualization used by the EOC to institutes across the country, a Spatial Pattern Analysis understand situation awareness—a Google Earth mashupa showing Program for Categorical Maps (FRAGSTATS) is in- the flood extent on top of a three-dimensional image of New Orleans. creasingly used in ecological research, and geographical Geographical scientists also used Google Earth to identify possible technologies2 have come to play a central role in fields landing zones close to health facilities for search-and-rescue heli- copter pilots and helped coordinate responses among agencies. In ranging from epidemiology to archeology. addition, they accompanied Red Cross Disaster Assessment Teams The rapid growth of the geographical sciences in the field, helping them understand and map residential changes over the past two decades is a reflection of both in the wake of the hurricane. technological developments and changing research priorities. On the technological side, modern remote aA mashup is a product that combines data from two or more sources into a new single product. sensing systems have greatly enhanced the ability of the scientific community to access increasingly high- resolution, near real-time data on the operations of human and biophysical systems.3 At the same time, a quartet of technologies—GIS, Global Positioning S ystems (GPS), remote sensing, and geospatial visualization—have facilitated the processing, analy- consequences for the Gulf Coast and beyond (see sis, and representation of geographical data. It is only Box 1). The core concepts, methods, and tools of the a modest exaggeration to say that these technologies geographical sciences are essential not only for assessing are revolutionizing everything from the workplace what happened, but also for asking what will become to everyday life—with profound implications for of New Orleans and surrounding areas, for evaluating information management, governance, commerce, alternative redevelopment scenarios, and for develop- and travel. ing designs that will prevent a similar-scale disaster in On the research front, growing concern about the future. human alteration of the environment, the impacts of globalization, and resource depletion has fostered emPirical aNd meThodological a great deal of scientific interest in climate change, aPProaches oF The land-cover change, watershed restoration, sustain- geograPhical scieNces ability, migration, and global inequality. All of these matters raise fundamentally geographical questions. Drawing upon the four core concepts described through How are human and environmental systems linked, the example of Hurricane Katrina, empirical work in the geographical sciences focuses on documenting, 2The adjective geospatial is increasingly used to refer to data analyzing, and explaining (1) the location, organization, about identified locations on Earth’s surface, and the tools used to and character of physical and human phenomena on the manipulate those data. As such it is essentially synonymous with surface of Earth and (2) the interplay of arrangements geographical, which seems more appropriate in the context of this report. and processes, near and far, human and environmental, 3Note, however, that remote sensing provides far more data on that shape the evolving character of places, regions, biophysical systems than on human systems.

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 INTRODUCTION and to what effect? How do phenomena and process reconstructions of trade patterns and commodity vary across the surface of Earth? How do developments chains show how socioeconomic circumstances pro- at particular scales reflect and shape processes at other duce economic change (e.g., Dicken, 2007). Dramatic scales? How are systems evolving across space and changes have occurred over the centuries in the way time? These questions require researchers to wrestle Earth’s surface is understood and mapped. Today, the with geographical concepts, and the new geographical struggles to find an accurate means of measuring lon- technologies described above are often of great use in gitude (Sobel, 1995) are of merely historical interest efforts to address them. as the GPS has reduced the measurement of location The effort to confront the foregoing questions has to an almost trivial exercise (except when extreme given rise to robust transdisciplinary research com- accuracy is required). Yet the importance of identify- munities focused on coupled human–environment ing and analyzing patterns has been fundamental to systems. It has also fostered a powerful conceptual human understanding through the ages—allowing engagement with spatial thinking—a constructive geographical thinkers in Ancient Greece to calcu- amalgam of concepts of space, tools of representation, late the circumference of the Earth and those in the and processes of reasoning (NRC, 2006). These devel- modern world to refine understandings of the causes opments make clear that the geographical sciences and consequences of urban growth. are about much more than simply mapping phenom- The importance of the technological innovations ena and describing variance across places. They are of recent decades lies in their ability to facilitate the instead rooted in a concern with the interaction of collection and analysis of locational information, and phenomena and systems that were long treated as to make it possible to produce sophisticated geographi- distinct (e.g., human and natural systems); an inter- cal visualizations that can aid scientific understanding est in investigating how spatial variance can help and public decision making (Figure 4). These same refine general theories or models, rather than simply technologies can be employed to create improved or being treated as something to be held constant; and optimized designs of a wide range of geographically a recognition that explaining patterns and processes distributed features and facilities, from voting districts on Earth’s surface requires consideration of how they to schools, shopping centers, and mass transit routes. have evolved through time and are shaped by develop- Indeed, the geographical sciences have a long history of ments at different scales. In pursuit of such concerns, being employed not only to analyze the world but also much research in the geographical sciences involves to improve it, and there are many strong links with the some combination of the following methodological disciplines of planning, landscape architecture, opera- approaches: collection, analysis, and visualization of tions research, and engineering in general. The term spatially explicit data; investigation of the relationship geodesign has recently emerged as a useful umbrella for between large-scale processes and local or regional the use of geographical data and tools in support of design.4 Moreover, the geographical sciences hold the outcomes; and landscape analysis. key to a vision of planning that is based more on sound evidence than on judgment. Tools such as GIS can be collection, analysis, and used to subject designs to rigorous analysis based on V isualization of spatial data established and well-tested scientific knowledge, by Efforts to record, analyze, and display spatial infor- simulating the effects of known environmental and mation are central to much work in the geographical social processes. For example, options for new trans- sciences. Maps showing the changing distribution portation infrastructure can be assessed against known of diseases point to environmental factors that can patterns of human spatial behavior, and options for make people sick (e.g., Jacquez and Greiling, 2003), new buildings can be assessed against models of heat historical reconstructions of plant distributions allow loss based on sound principles of atmospheric science. environmental scientists to assess and refine climate 4See, e.g., www.geodesignsummit.com (accessed January 28, models (e.g., Whitlock and Bartlein, 1997), and 2010).

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 UNDERSTANDING THE CHANGING PLANET FIGURE 4 Patrick Bartlein and his colleagues’ geographical visualization provides insight into where and when different fires occur in the western United States. Building on a visualization technique developed by a Scandinavian climatologist (Hovmöller), their repre­ sentation shows that lightning­started fires are temporally clustered (the streaks of fire show that widespread outbreaks occur over a few days, and take place earlier in the West than farther east). In contrast, human­set fires show distinct clustering in space that reflects where people live in the West. Because the distribution of fires is spatially uneven, these sorts of insights cannot be gained from conventional fire maps. SOURCE: Bartlein et al. (2008). Whether enabled by new technologies or not, the col- cause they promote understanding of how phenomena lection, analysis, and representation of spatial data are are related to one another in particular places and across of central importance to the geographical sciences be- the surface of the Earth.

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 INTRODUCTION investigation of the relationship notes that such “policies target the prosperity, equity, Between large-scale Processes and sustainability and livability of places—how well or how local or regional outcomes poorly they function as places and how they change over time.” A central feature of the geographical sciences is the recognition that circumstances existing at the local landscape analysis or regional scale both affect and reflect larger-scale processes. Much work in the geographical sciences Investigation of the tangible human and physical fea- thus proceeds from the idea that there is a great deal tures of Earth’s surface that exist in particular places to be learned from analyzing “place-based” circum- is another common feature of geographical investiga- stances and their relationship to larger-scale processes tion. Landscapes are expressions of the processes and (Massey, 2005). This approach differs from other sci- events that shape places over time; as such, they offer ences where research aims to produce generalizations clues into what has happened and where and why it that require averaging across places (thus relegating has happened (Conzen, 2010). Detailed studies of differences among places to the background). The land-use and land-cover change in different regions geographical sciences, by contrast, frequently focus have shown that population growth and poverty can- on the circumstances and comparative characteristics not alone explain the changing landscape; economic of individual places and regions, and then seek to opportunities and institutional factors need to be develop broader generalizations by exploring what considered as well (Lambin et al., 2001). Similarly, is general and what is particular about the processes studies of continuity and change in urban landscapes observed in those places (see, e.g., Abler, 2003). Tak- have provided insights into the social, cultural, and ing such an approach to the Katrina example cited institutional forces that are shaping the evolution of above, for example, involves looking at similarities human communities (Wyly, 1999). Studies of the and differences among places—politically bounded or material landscape are important to the geographical otherwise—where the processes shaping the impacts sciences because they offer information and ideas of of Katrina (state policy decisions, landscape features, fundamental importance to the effort to explain the upstream land uses, etc.) come together in distinctive physical and human forces that are shaping Earth’s ways. Those place-based differences can then be used surface over time. to assess and refine general models and concepts. The core concepts and approaches of the geo- Place-based analysis has long been important graphical sciences have spread across many scientific in geographical studies (e.g., Cliff and Ord, 1973; disciplines and into the everyday practices of business Anselin, 1995; Fotheringham et al., 2002), but its and government; they are now routinely employed by significance is increasingly being recognized in other archaeologists, economists, astrophysicists, epidemi- scientific realms, especially ecology, and it has become ologists, biologists, landscape architects, computer a core feature of the emerging field of sustainability scientists, and others (Box 2). They are thus not solely science (Kates et al., 2001). Place-based approaches the province of the traditional discipline of geography. have also recently emerged as a key strategic direction Instead, the relationship between geography and the of the Obama administration. In an open memoran- geographical sciences can be understood by using a dum dated August 11, 2009, senior White House biological metaphor. The geographical sciences are staff directed the heads of executive departments and the result of a successful propagation of the graft of agencies to develop effective place-based policies in data, technologies, and ways of thinking onto the their preparations for the FY 2011 budget (Orszag et root stock of geography. The latter continues to be a al., 2009). The memorandum includes language that place where central attention is given to the concepts resonates with many of the themes and principles on and tools employed by the geographical sciences, but which the study committee based its work, and which those concepts and tools have now diffused beyond are elaborated in many parts of this report; for example, the formal discipline. The recent decision to change the memorandum’s section defining place-based policy the name of the “Geography and Regional Science”

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 UNDERSTANDING THE CHANGING PLANET and political activity are being remade; access to re- BOX 2 sources and markets are changing; and technological Spotlight on the Geographical Sciences developments are altering patterns of connectivity among peoples and places (Figure 6). With geographi- In 2008, economist and New York Times columnist Paul cal changes so central to the contemporary scene, Krugman received the Nobel Prize in Economics for his analysis geographical analysis is necessarily fundamental to of trade patterns and location of economic activity.a Krugman won contemporary science. the prize for a mathematical model that helped explain regional Because of its multidisciplinary character, research disparities. His general equilibrium model focused on the interac- tion of economies of scale with transportation costs, which provided in the geographical sciences lends itself to multi- insights into the spatial consequences of increasing returns. His investigator projects, which are becoming increasingly model formalized and placed within the parameters of the general common. The explosive growth in geographical data equilibrium model prior understandings of the economic advan- and technologies can facilitate collaborative projects tages to be gained from the spatial agglomeration of production across vast distances, as researchers tap into shared data and the ways in which such agglomeration contributes to regional banks and make use of virtual systems. The diffusion disparity, as well as to interregional trade. His work has given rise to what is sometimes termed a “new economic geography” among of information and communication technology has also international trade theorists, who traditionally adopted a neoclassi- led to a democratization of science that puts anyone cal economics approach to understanding agglomeration (Behrens with access to a computer terminal and the Internet in and Robert-Nicoud, 2009). the position of being able to collect and disseminate aSee www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/economics/laureates/2008/press. html (accessed December 15, 2009). program at the U.S. National Science Foundation to the “Geography and Spatial Sciences” program reflects the growing transdisciplinary character of geographi- cal research and analysis. The new program represents an explicit acknowledgment of the cross-disciplinary communities that are now dealing with spatial ideas, data, and techniques. The geograPhical scieNces aNd socieTY The importance of the geographical sciences in the 21st century becomes clear when one considers the extent to which many of the central challenges of our time are tied to changes unfolding in the spatial organi- zation and character of the peoples, places, landscapes, and environments found on the surface of the planet. Earth has always been dynamic—constantly in flux as physical systems and human societies evolve (Turner et al., 1990a). Yet the pace and extent of human-induced changes have reached unprecedented levels in recent FIGURE 5 This map of urban growth in Doha, Qatar, from decades. Massive numbers of people are on the move; 1973 to 2007 illustrates the trend of increasing urbanization cities are mushrooming in size (Figure 5); ecosystems occurring in mid­size cities around the world. SOURCE: Karen are being transformed; patterns of economic, social, Seto, used with permission.

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5 INTRODUCTION policy sector (Richardson and Solis, 2004). Because geographical visualizations can render complex data in an understandable form, including data about phenomena that change over time (Figures 7 and 8), policy makers are able to see the concrete implications of different choices. Moreover, the concern of the geographical sciences with the relationships among different phenomena, including the physical and human world, put them in a strong position to enrich policy debates by broadening the frame of reference of the matters being considered (Bebbington, 2004; FIGURE 6 This map shows key intercontinental and regional Internet routes and their bandwidth. Disparities in available Internet bandwidth contribute to the differences in access to information and communication technologies that have come to be known as the “digital divide.” SOURCE: TeleGeography. information. Geographical platforms such as Microsoft Virtual Earth and Google Earth are at the forefront of this development. These developments heighten the importance of geographical investigation—both to harness the flood of new geographical information in productive ways and to explore the possibilities and limitations of the information and ideas coming from the rapidly expanding community of “neogeographers” (nonspecialists involved in the collection and assess- ment of locational data using geographical platforms and technologies). Moreover, when geographical tech- niques that allow for the precise, systematic monitor- ing of phenomena are used to collect information on people’s activities, complex issues of privacy arise that F IGURE 7 R aster hydrographs show average daily dis­ demand careful consideration by researchers who pos- charge (cfs) as a color for each of the 33,969 days of record for Yellowstone River at Corwin Springs, MT (upper) and the sess a significant understanding of the nature and power 36,529 days of record at the Snake River near Moran, WY of the geographical technologies involved. (lower). The raster hydrographs enable visualization of daily The geographical sciences are also well posi- to seasonal variations within a year by noting changes across each row, and variations between years and decades for a tioned to strengthen ties between the science and given time of year along the vertical axis. Key events such as policy-making communities—an increasingly press- the Dust Bowl drought, the low flows prior to and during the ing matter as the need grows to respond quickly to the Yellowstone fires of 1988, and dam closures are shown. The outbreak of disease, manage natural resources in better Yellowstone River has no dams, so flow variations are generally gradual. In contrast, the closure of Jackson Dam on the Snake ways, and improve understanding of complex issues River led to many abrupt changes in daily discharge. Diagrams such as inequality and global climate change. Maps such as this make it easier for the general public, managers, and other geographical visualizations are becoming and scientists to understand the different timescales over which increasingly powerful decision-support tools for the variations occur.

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6 UNDERSTANDING THE CHANGING PLANET clearly a pressing need to understand what is changing where, why, and at what rate, as well as to assess the implications of those changes for different places and regions. The time is ripe for a consideration of how, and in what ways, the deployment of the concepts, tools, and approaches of the geographical sciences can be particularly strategic in the coming years. With these matters in mind, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Geographic Society, and the Association of American Geographers requested that the NRC appoint a committee charged with developing a report that would identify strategic directions for the geographical sciences in the coming decade (Box 3). The committee used the following criteria in select- ing questions that would signal strategic directions for the geographical sciences: • The questions must have clear societal significance. • The questions must be central to the core con- cepts of the geographical sciences. • The questions must relate clearly to the agendas of the larger scientific community. • The questions must be tractable (i.e., there must be a strong likelihood of achieving significant and de- FIGURE 8 Three­dimensional raster hydrographs show the dif­ monstrable progress in the next 5-10 years). ference in flow regime between a river with no dams (above) and a dammed river where the natural flow regime is significantly • The questions must be answerable using either modified (lower). Three­dimensional diagrams of this sort make existing methods and sources of data or methods and it easier for the general public to visualize and understand how data sources that can reasonably be expected to be humans affect the river environment. SOURCE: Strandhagen et al. (2006). readily available within the next few years. Employing these criteria, and drawing on input from the larger community of geographical scientists, the Gober, 2004), directing attention to linkages that are committee developed 11 questions that represent some of interest to a variety of stakeholders (White et al., of the most important opportunities for the geographi- 2008), and helping policy makers understand—and cal sciences to contribute to the task of understanding factor into their recommendations—the irreducible uncertainties that must be considered when confront- ing complex, large-scale issues such as climate change BOX 3 (Gober et al., 2009). Statement of Task An ad hoc committee will formulate a short list of high-priority commiTTee aPProach research questions in the geographical sciences that are relevant to societal needs. The questions will be written in a clear, compel- The massive, rapid changes unfolding on Earth’s surface ling way and will be supported by text and figures that summarize provide a logical starting point for considering strategic research progress to date and outline future challenges. directions for the geographical sciences, for there is

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 INTRODUCTION and responding to the changes that are currently having • How will we sustainably feed everyone in the such a profound impact on the planet (Part II). The coming decade and beyond? committee also spent time discussing what changes in • How does where people live affect their health? infrastructure, training, and outreach would allow the geographical sciences to make progress toward answer- Assessing the impacts of economic and social reorgani- ing the 11 questions (Part III). zation can be advanced by raising questions about the changing human geography of the planet: T he Process of identifying research Questions • How is the movement of people, goods, and The research questions in Part II of this report came out ideas transforming the world? of a committee effort to consider the major scientific • How is economic globalization affecting and societal questions of the day related to changes inequality? unfolding on Earth’s surface, and then to identify some • How are geopolitical shifts influencing peace and stability? of the key ways in which the geographical sciences can contribute to addressing those issues. There is, of Making technological change work for the betterment course, much debate about what qualifies as a major of society and the environment demands consider- scientific and societal question, but committee discus- ation of questions about the collection and representation sions identified four (necessarily overlapping) arenas of geographical information: of inquiry that are widely recognized as being of broad significance: (1) how to understand and respond to envi- ronmental change, (2) how to promote sustainability, • How might we better observe, analyze, and (3) how to recognize and cope with the rapid spatial visualize a changing world? reorganization of economy and society, and (4) how • What are the societal implications of citizen to leverage technological change for the betterment of mapping and mapping citizens? society and the environment. The research questions In broad terms, the contributions the geographi- that lie at the heart of this report were chosen because cal sciences can make to science and society lie in their they raise issues of central importance to these arenas potential to improve understanding of the extent and of inquiry that the geographical sciences are particularly causes of the changes unfolding on Earth’s surface, well positioned to address. U nderstanding and responding to environ- to offer insights into the impacts of those changes, to mental change can be greatly enhanced by bringing promote the development of effective adaptation and a geographical perspective to bear on several key mitigation strategies in response to those changes, questions: and to facilitate the documentation and representation of Earth’s evolving geographical character. The forego- • How are we changing the physical environment ing research questions are strategic because they speak, of Earth’s surface? in overlapping ways, to these contributions. Looking • How can we best preserve biological diversity at changes in the physical environment, settlement and and protect endangered ecosystems? mobility patterns, economic and political arrangements, • How are climate and other environmental and the collection and representation of spatial data are changes affecting the vulnerabilities of coupled human– all critical to understanding the extent and causes of the environment systems? changes unfolding on Earth’s surface. Assessing the im- pacts of those changes requires looking at the impacts of Promoting sustainability requires addressing questions shifting environmental and resource vulnerabilities and that probe the geographical dimensions of population evolving demographic, economic, and social patterns. change, resource scarcity, and health: Developing effective adaptation and mitigation strategies necessitates improved understandings, and better visual • How and where will 10 billion people live? representations, of changing environmental and social

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 UNDERSTANDING THE CHANGING PLANET patterns and threats to human health and well-being. presented. Indeed, there is considerable overlap among Finally, assessments of the potential and limitations of and between the questions, and the last question is of new technologies and new ways of collecting data are relevance to all of the preceding questions. needed to improve the documentation and representa- Part II of this report sets forth each of the research tion of geographical change. questions, identifies prior work in the geographical sci- The individual research questions do not encom- ences of relevance to the question, and outlines particu- pass the full range of issues amenable to geographical larly promising avenues for advancing understanding investigation, but they represent critically important of the question. Because the overarching questions are scientific and societal matters to which the geographical broad, each one is followed by a set of illustrative sub- sciences have much to contribute. The order in which questions that are indicative of more focused research they are presented reflects a movement from overarch- initiatives that could contribute substantially to the ing issues of environmental change and sustainability effort to address the larger question. The report then to matters that bear on particular changes unfolding turns to Part III, which considers the innovations that in the social and technological arenas. This order is will be needed in infrastructure, training, and outreach not intended to suggest that the earlier questions are if significant progress is to be made in addressing the more important than the later, however, or that the research questions. questions should necessarily be addressed in the order