• Geography2050

Mounting an Expedition to the Future

19 November 2014 | NYC

An Event of the American Geographical Society

Hosted by The Earth Institute

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Mounting an Expedition to the Future

The world of 2050 will be radically different. It is not at all clear how we will get there from here or how we should navigate through the uncharted waters of the future. Climate change, urbanization, rapid expansion of the Internet and the availability and use of information, the continued evolution of human identity, and changing modes of commerce, cooperation, and conflict from local to global scales are just some of the many trends influencing the future. Each poses many challenges and opportunities for how we perceive and shape our world’s geography now and in coming decades.

To help lay the foundation for exploring these local, regional and global challenges—and the investments in technology, data, laws, policies, and capacities needed to improve our ability to navigate through them—the American Geographical Society is collaborating with the Earth Institute, Columbia University to organize an “Expedition to the Future.”

A multi-year strategic dialog on the vital trends that will reshape our nation and our planet.


The vital trends that will reshape our nation and our planet.

Populations, Shifting Identity, and Well Being 

Over the next few decades, the geography of human populations will change materially. Urbanization will continue, and the concentration of people in coastal zones will increase. The geography of human well-being will be re-written as health and wealth shift radically. And, borders and sovereignty within borders will face and possibly succumb to new pressures as new social movements arise, reshaping identity.

Climate, Risk, and Opportunity

The onslaught of climate change delivers increased volatility in weather patterns and the resulting natural hazards, will impact populations along the coasts, on islands, in river basins, and in inland agricultural areas. The secular rise in sea level will only magnify the effects of these natural hazards. Additionally, climate change will fundamentally remap the Arctic, opening it up to intercontinental transportation, energy and mineral exploitation, and geopolitical competition.

The God's Eye View

In the 21st Century, human society came to understand its world geographically through a technical lens. Satellite and airborne remote sensing transformed how we observed and understood our planet. The rise of the Internet and social media opened up wholly new ways of thinking about the geography of human expression and activity. And, as every living human becomes a sophisticated, location-aware sensor, ground truth can be provided to validate broad-scoped change observed from above. How we understand our world’s geography in 2050 will be fundamentally different from how we knew yesterday.

The Future Energy Landscape

With huge changes in the geography of humanity, the future energy landscape will also change enormously. The geography of global energy demand will evolve as developing nations increase energy consumption to present-day first-world patterns. The acceleration of renewable energy development will change the nature of energy dependency between different regions as well as the landscapes on which we live. And, the emergence of new fossil fuel resources will fundamentally alter the global network of exploitation, distribution, processing, and consumption – re-writing power relationships across the globe.

The Emerging Geography of the Internet of Things

The Internet remapped the geography of human access to knowledge and what it meant to be connected to the global society. The Internet’s initial geography, connecting government labs, agencies and universities has expanded to touch billions of computers and mobile devices, remapping the distribution of societal capabilities. However, this geography is far from ubiquitous, and the spatial distribution of this digital divide materially shapes how societies can develop. The recent emergence of the Internet of Things promises to yet again reshape the geography of technical capability that societies have access to and can leverage to meet their goals.

Creating an Investment Roadmap

In order to successfully navigate our way to this new future, deliberate action will be required in the realms of investment, legal and policy development. The ability to properly observe and anticipate changes to our world’s geography - at a local, regional and global scale – will require investment in new geospatial technologies, data, and methodologies. Thoughtful engagement in legal and policy development (at local, national, and international levels) is required to ensure these techniques and technologies are leveraged to meet societal goals and not become technics out of control. Geography 2050 will not just happen. It will be the sum of many thoughtful, and perhaps thoughtless, actions by the private, public academic, and social sectors.

Speakers & Presenters

Trends Reshaping the Geography of Our World
Download Speakers and Moderators Bio

Dr. D. James

Former Under Secretary of Commerce for Atmosphere and Oceans and Administrator of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA),
Director, Global Carbon Measurement Program, William J. Clinton Foundation

Prof. Deborah

Institute for Demographic Research
Professor at the Baruch School of Public Affairs and the CUNY Graduate Center

Dr. Michael

Thought Leader in SensorWebs and the Internet of Things
CEO, Botts Innovative Research

Prof. Michael

Professor of Global Energy
Economic Modelling & Forecasting, Global Energy Research Network

Prof. Lawson

Distinguished Professor of Geography and Arctic Policy
University of Alaska, Fairbanks


Vice President for Product Development


National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency

Prof. Jerry

President, AGS
Professor, University of Kansas, Department of Geography


Head of the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery Secretariat
The World Bank


Vice President External Affairs
Shell Oil Company

Margaret Elizabeth

Director, Better Health Systems Initiative
Associate Professor of Health Policy and Management
Columbia University


Vice President

Prof. Alexander

Professor, Department of Geography, University of Oregon

Matthew M.

President of MOC Partners
Former CEO, GeoEye
Director, USGIF


Spatial Networks

Barbara J.

Secretariat Director
Group on Earth Observations


Planet Labs

Dr. Lee

Geographer of the United States
The State Department


National Solar

Dr. Christopher K.

The MapStory Foundation


Chief Technology Officer,


Morning Session
7:30 - 8:30 Registration & Breakfast
8:30 - 8:40 Welcome

Professor Jerome Dobson, President, American Geographical Society

Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, Director, The Earth institute, Columbia University

8:40 - 9:00 Introductions

Dr. Christopher Tucker, Symposium Chair

Dr. Lee Schwartz, Geographer of the United States, The State Department

9:00 – 10:00 Population, Identity, and Well Being

Professor Deborah Balk, Associate Director, CUNY Institute for Demographic Research

Professor Alexander Murphy, Professor, University of Oregon

Ms. Margaret Elizabeth Kruk, Associate Professor of Health Policy and Management, Columbia University

10:00 – 10:15 Break and Caucus
10:15 – 11:15 Climate, Risk, and Opportunity

Dr. D. James Baker, Director, Global Carbon Measurement Program, William J. Clinton Foundation

Mr. Francis Ghesquiere, Head of Global Facility for Disaster Reduction & Recovery, World Bank

Professor Lawson Brigham, Distinguished Professor of Geography, University of Alaska

11:15 – 11:20 Interlude: The AGS Bowman Expeditions

Professor Jerry Dobson

11:20 – 12:20 Future Energy Landscape

Mr. Niel Golightly, Vice President, Shell Oil

Mr. James Scrivener, President and CEO, National Solar

Professor Michael Bradshaw, Professor of Global Energy, University of Warwick

12:20 – 1:00 Lunch
Afternoon Session
1:00 - 1:45 Keynote

Mr. Robert Cardillo, Director, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency

1:45 – 2:45 The Future Geography of the Internet of Things

Dr. Michael Botts, President, Botts Innovative Research

2:45 – 3:00 Interlude: The AGS Medal Award Ceremony

Professor Edward Malecki, 2014 Recipient, Van Cleef Memorial Medal

3:00 – 4:15 The God’s Eye View

Mr. Brian McClendon, Vice President, Google

Mr. Robbie Schingler, Co-Founder, Planet Labs

Mr. Anthony Quartararo, President and CEO, Spatial Networks

Mr. Abe Usher, Chief Technology Officer, HumanGeo

Mr. Josh Campbell, Vice President, Boundless

4:15 – 5:15 Creating an Investment Roadmap

Barbara Ryan, Secretariat Director, Group on Earth Observations

Matthew O'Connell, Director, USGIF

5:30 – 7:30 Closing Reception

Partners & Sponsors


Our Sponsors

Friends of Geography 2050

Event Details

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Low Memorial Library

Columbia University

116th Street and Broadway, New York City

Parking info

Hotel info

Contact Us

(571)-266-4211 for registration concerns

(718)-624-2212 for all other issues


Rates & Registration

    • Early

    • until 29 September

      • $250 AGS Business Member
      • $2,000 Friend of the Symposium**
      • $400 Non AGS Member Business
      • $100 AGS Government Member*
      • $250 Non AGS Member Government
      • $100 AGS Academic Member*
      • $200Non AGS Member Academic
      • $100 AGS Non-Profit Member
      • $200 Non AGS Non-Profit Member
      • $100 AGS Humboldt Club or Galileo Circle Member*
    • Closed
    • Regular

    • 30 Sept - 18 Nov

      • $275 AGS Business Member
      • $2,000 Friend of the Symposium**
      • $425 Non AGS Member Business
      • $110 AGS Government Member*
      • $275 Non AGS Member Government
      • $110 AGS Academic Member*
      • $225Non AGS Member Academic
      • $110 AGS Non-Profit Member
      • $225 Non AGS Non-Profit Member
      • $100 AGS Humboldt Club or Galileo Circle Member*
    • Register Now
    • At Door

    • 19 November

      • $300 AGS Business Member
      • $2,000 Friend of the Symposium**
      • $450 Non AGS Member Business
      • $120 AGS Government Member*
      • $300 Non AGS Member Government
      • $120 AGS Academic Member*
      • $250Non AGS Member Academic
      • $120 AGS Non-Profit Member
      • $250 Non AGS Non-Profit Member
      • $100 AGS Humboldt Club or Galileo Circle Member*
    • Not Available

*If you are currently not a member, you can register as a member now and receive the member rate. Sign up here.

**For those who select this premier registration, your organization will be acknowledged as a friend and participant of this strategic dialog.