sion Task Force on Natural Resources to the Bureau of the Budget Task Force on Federal Flood Policy.

In recent years, geography and geographers have been less prominent in some aspects of significant national decision making. For instance, the Wilderness System and Wild and Scenic Rivers System were enacted essentially without geographic considerations. Potentially significant and wide-ranging contributions by geography to foreign policy have been hampered by the small size of the Office of the Geographer of the U.S. Department of State. Highly geographic problems—ranging from the designation of formal wine appellations in California to U.S. policy for deciding whether to intervene in regional or national conflicts outside the United States—are sometimes not addressed by geographers at all. When they are, geographers often do not interact with decision makers. In this respect the discipline has fallen short of its potential to make meaningful contributions to American society (e.g., Berry, 1994).

The limited ability of the discipline to respond to the geographic needs of decision makers is a result of at least two factors: a shortage of formal connections between geographers and decision makers and the small size of the discipline. Consequently, the United States lags behind the rest of the developed world in its geographic sophistication in many aspects of decision making. To borrow a Cold War expression, there is a ''geography gap" that may cost the nation dearly in terms of competitiveness and ability to achieve the twin goals of economic prosperity and environmental stability. Closing this gap depends on strengthening the foundations of the discipline along with its research and educational dimensions.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement