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Exploring Our Future in an Urbanized World

November 19-20, 2015 · Alfred Lerner Hall, Columbia University, NYC

An Event of the American Geographical Society
Hosted by the Earth Institute, Columbia University

Exploring Our Future in an Urbanized World

In 2014, AGS mounted an “Expedition to the Future”, and a topic that prominently recurred through much of the dialog was “urbanization.” An ever increasing proportion of the world’s population will dwell in urban areas by 2050, even as the world’s total population swells by billions. The geographies of our urban habitats are poised to change radically by 2050, and the implications of this for local, regional, and global decision makers are significant and paramount to our well-being. The spatial-temporal processes and patterns that will reshape our cities – and the rest of the planet - are many and interrelated, and will manifest differently in different places over time. In short, there is no single “urban habitat” and it is imperative that we, as a global society, understand the variety and interconnectedness of the world’s towns, cities and mega-cities as they evolve by 2050

The AGS Fall Symposium brings together leaders in business, government, science, and education that might not otherwise have the opportunity to interact, and provide opportunities for discussion, debate, and collaboration to further the understanding of the future of our cities.

At the AGS Symposium, Enjoy a World Class Hotel, and Offset Your Carbon Footprint for Free

Sometimes the best way to improve your impact is to reduce your impact. So this year the American Geographical Society has partnered with TripZero, who will calculate and offset our entire carbon footprint—including attendee travel. As we gather to discuss the future of our urbanized world, AGS is taking an active role in bringing the conversation outside of the room, and implementing a sustainable strategy for Geography2050. Visit TripZero to calculate you carbon footprint, and explore the ways they will offset it through projects around the world.

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Speakers & Presenters

Keynote Speaker
Dr. Joan Clos
Executive Director of UN-Habitat
Dr. Joan Clos is the Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), at the level of Under Secretary General by the United Nations General Assembly. He has held this office since October 2010.Dr. Clos was twice elected Mayor of Barcelona, serving two terms from 1997 until 2006. He was Minister of Industry, Tourism, and Trade of Spain between 2006 and 2008. Prior to joining the United Nations, he served as the Spanish Ambassador to Turkey and Azerbaijan.He is a medicine graduate from the Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona (UAB), and specialized in Public Health and Epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh (Scotland).Dr. Joan Clos then joined the Barcelona Municipal Government as the Director of Public Health in 1979.

Special Plenary Speaker
Dr. Dickson Despommier
Professor Emeritus of Public Health and Microbioloby, Columbia University
Dr. Dickson D. Despommier is an emeritus professor of microbiology and Public Health at Columbia University. From 1971-2009, he conducted research on intracellular parasitism and taught courses on Parasitic Diseases, Medical Ecology and Ecology. In recent years, Despommier has received considerable media coverage for his ideas on vertical farming. He developed his concept of vertical farming over a 10-year period with graduate students in a medical ecology class beginning in 1999, with work continued by Ontarian eco-architects like Gordon Graff from the University of Waterloo's School of Architecture.

Special Plenary Speaker
Ms. Susan Gordon
Deputy Director, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
Susan (Sue) Gordon became the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s (NGA) sixth Deputy Director on Jan. 1, 2015 after more than 25 years of service with the Central Intelligence Agency. As deputy director of NGA, she assists the director in leading the agency and in managing the National System of Geospatial Intelligence. Ms. Gordon previously served concurrently as Director of the CIA’s Information Operations Center and as the CIA Director’s senior advisor on cyber. She was responsible for fully integrating advanced cyber capabilities into all of CIA’s mission areas, while protecting against the cyber threat to the CIA’s information, operations and officers. Sue began her career with the CIA in 1980 as an analyst in the Office of Scientific and Weapons Research in the Directorate of Intelligence, responsible for technical analysis of foreign space and missile systems. She later held several engineering development positions in the CIA’s Directorate of Science and Technology, working both national systems and new concepts before moving into a succession of analytic and technical management positions. Ms. Gordon served later as the executive assistant to the Executive Director of the CIA and then became the architect and first director of the Office of Advanced Analytic Tools. In 1998, she was named special assistant to the Director of Central Intelligence and was responsible for designing and implementing In-Q-Tel, a private, non-profit company whose primary purpose is to deliver innovative technology solutions for the agency and the intelligence community.


All sessions and registration will take place in Alfred Lerner Hall, 2920 Broadway, New York, NY 10027
Closing Reception on November 20th will be held at Low Memorial Library.

Day 1: November 19th

8:00 - 8:40 Registration & Breakfast
8:40 - 9:00

Opening Remarks: Geography is Everywhere

Dr. John Konarski III, Executive Director, American Geographical Society
9:00 - 9:45

Plenary Session: Breakthrough Trends in Urban Sustainability

How urban sustainability strategies will be harnessed in the future, and their impacts on the shape, dimensionality, and dynamism of our future cities.

Dr. David Kaplan, Professor, Kent State University
Mr. Colin Reilly, Director, Geographic Information Systems, NYC Dept of Information Technology and Telecommunications
Dr. William Solecki, Professor, Hunter College
Dr. V. Kelly Turner, Assistant Professor, Kent State University
9:50 - 10:35

Special Topics Session A:
The Geographic Implications of Migration, Immigration, and Resettlement

The forces and factors driving the movement of people to cities, and between cities, and how this will reshape the demography and geography of our urban centers and the planet.

Dr. Marie Price, Professor, The George Washington University
Ms. Nisha Agarwal, Commissioner, NYC Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs
Dr. David Rain, Director of Undergraduate Studies, The George Washington University
Dr. Audrey Singer, Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution

Special Topics Session B:
The Future of Urban Infrastructure

How new physical and digital infrastructures will reshape urban geography and the connections between cities.

Mr. Norman Anderson, President and CEO, CG/LA Infrastructure Inc.
Ms. Andrea d'Amato, Vice President, Kleinfelder
Mr. Nicholas Davis, CEO, GridMarket
Dr. Michael Yoder, Professor, University of Arkansas
10:35 - 11:00 Break and Caucus
11:00 - 11:45

Special Topics Session A:
The Future Geography of Economic Exclusion and Integration

How mechanisms of economic exclusion shape the geography of our cities, perpetuating and even magnifying poverty, inequality, and stunting development and stability.

Dr. Deborah Popper, Professor, College of Staten Island
Ms. Claudia Juech, Associate Vice President, Rockefeller Foundation
Mr. Patrick Ellis, Human Geographer, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency

Special Topics Session B:
Secondary Cities Shaping the World's Urban Future

How the rapid growth and development of thousands of secondary cities in the global south will dominate urbanization over the next several decades.

Dr. Lee Schwartz, The Geographer, USA
Dr. Shlomo Angel, Senior Research Scholar, New York University Stern Urbanization Project
Dr. Somik Lall, Lead Urban Economist, The World Bank
11:50 - 12:35

Special Topics Session A:
Complexity, Multi-dimensionality, and Vulnerability: The Future of Urbanization

How the transnational and multidimensional nature of our future cities will create immense complexity in terms of control and governance.

Dr. Richard Wolfel, Professor, US Military Academy
Dr. Amy Krakowka Richmond, Professor, US Military Academy
Dr. Mark Read, Deputy Head, Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering, US Military Academy

Special Topics Session B:
Smart Cities, Urban Sensor Webs, and Robotics

How technology will remake future urban landscapes and employment and what it means to be human.

Mr. George Percivall, Chief Engineer, Open Geospatial Consortium
Mr. Terry Bennett, Senior Industry Program Manager, Autodesk
Mr. Michael Heimbinder, Executive Director, HabitatMap
Dr. Laxmi Lamasubramanian,Deputy Director, CUNY Institute for Sustainable Cities at Hunter College
Dr. Mor Naaman, Associate Professor, Cornell Tech
12:35 - 1:30 Lunch
1:30 - 1:45


Dr. Jerome Dobson, President, American Geographical Society
1:45 - 2:00

Introductions and Mapping the Symposium

Dr. Christopher Tucker, Symposium Chair, CEO, MapStory Foundation
2:00 - 3:00

Plenary Session: Emerging Urban Forms

How we should think about emerging urban forms that will serve as the basic building blocks of our future cities, changing the fundamental geographic dynamics that shape the process of urbanization.

Dr. Christopher Tucker
Ms. Story Bellows, Co-Director, Mayor's Office of Urban Mechanics, City of Philadelphia
Mr. Christopher Curry, Senior Executive Vice President, The Howard Hughes Corporation
3:00 - 3:30 Break and Caucus presented by OGSystems
3:30 - 4:30

Special Plenary Session: Future Game Changer - Vertical Farming

What happens when cities become self-sustaining in food production, and vertical farms generate all the fresh local food people need? What happens to the traditional urban/rural relationship?

Dr. Antoinette WinklerPrins, Director, Environmental Programs, John Hopkins University
Special Presentation:
Dr. Dickson D. Despommier, Emeritus Professor of Microbiology and Public Health, Columbia University
4:30 - 5:30

Plenary Session: Big Cities = Big Data

Whether MegaCities or Secondary Cities, these fast growing large urban areas will be generating enormous volumes of data that create opportunities for smart management and governance of cities. How will big geodata shape the future of our cities?

Mr. Anthony Quartararo, CEO, Spatial Networks
Mr. Anthony Calamito, Federal CTO, Boundless
Mr. Mikel Maron, Data Team Member, Mapbox
5:30 - 5:45

Review of the Day and Planning for Tomorrow

Dr. Christopher Tucker

Day 2: November 20th

7:30 - 8:30 Registration and Breakfast
8:30 - 9:15

Special Plenary Session: The Future Role of Cities in the Geo-Strategic Landscape

In the future, cities and urbanized mega-regions will take on entirely new geostrategic value. And, traditional states will need to concern themselves with the security, stability, and conflict of these urban centers. How will geography matter, from a national security perspective, as urbanization goes in to overdrive between now and 2050?

Mr. Keith Masback, CEO, United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation
Special Presentation:
Ms. Susan Gordon, Deputy Director, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
Dr. Alexander Murphy, Professor, University of Oregon
8:30 - 9:15

Plenary Session: Cities at Risk of Disaster

How will the future geography of urban vulnerability to natural, technological, and health hazards change across our planet. What are approaches to building resilience, and how will geographic knowledge and analysis be harnessed to help address this?

Dr. Robert Chen, Director, Center for International Earth Science Information Network
Dr. Ebru Gencer, Executive Director, Center for Urban Disaster Risk, Reduction and Resilience
Mr. Jacob Rosengarten, Chief Enterprise Officer, XL Catlin Group
Dr. Cynthia Rosenzweig, Senior Research Assistant, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies
10:00 - 10:30 Break and Caucus presented by PIXIA
10:30 - 11:45

Plenary Session: Sensing Urban Change from Above

In the future, what are the different modalities of overhead remote sensing that will emerge, and how will they help us understand our cities and the urbanization processes that continuously reshape them.

Hon. Jeffrey Harris, Chairman of the Board of the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation and the Open Geospatial Consortium
Mr. Omar Balkissoon, CEO, OGSystems
Mr. Brian Follmer, Vice President, Leidos
Mr. Lawrie Jordan, Director of Imagery, ESRI
Mr. Bryan Lane, Product Owner, Pixia Corporation
Mr. Andrew Zolli, Plante Labs
11:45 - 12:05

Interlude: The AGS Medal Award Ceremony

The Alexander and Ilse Melamid Medal: Dr. Martin Pasqualetti
12:05 - 1:00 Lunch
1:00 - 2:00

Plenary Session: Human Security in the Future Urban Habitat

Human security in urban areas requires many different institutions with different capabilities investing in different strategies for shaping the landscape of stability and security. How should we think about these challenges from both a military and a development/diplomacy perspective?

Mr. Al Di Leonardo, President and CEO, Human Geo
Dr. Melinda Laituri, Director, Geospatial Centroid at Colorado State University
Col. Patrick Mahaney, Director, US Army Strategic Studies Group

Keynote Address

Dr. Joan Clos, Executive Director, United Nations Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat)
2:45 - 3:15 Break and Caucus presented by Planet Labs
3:15 - 3:45

Special Plenary Experience: Urban Social Research and Technology Design

Special Presentation:
Mr. Mitchell Sipus, Co-Founder, Symkala
3:45 - 4:45

Plenary Session: Investing in an Urban Future

Our urban future will not just happen. Everything that happens will be the result of both public and private investment. What investment strategies are likely to reshape the global urban landscape, and how will geographic data, technology, and thinking play a role in this process.

Ms. Adrianne C. Dicker Kadzinski, CEO, Structuring Strategic Capital LLC
Mr. Dylan Hixon, President, Arden Road Investments
Mr. Josh Wilkes, Portfolio Manager, Pine River Capital Management
Mr. Andrea Zanon, Risk Management Business Development Coordinator, The World Bank
4:45 - 5:00

Call to Arms

Dr. Lee Schwartz
Dr. Christopher Tucker
5:30 - 7:30 Closing Reception: Exploring the Streets of New York City

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2014 Fall Symposium Recap

Geography 2050: Mounting an Expedition to the Future

The American Geographical Society, an organization with a 163 year history of geographic exploration, recently mounted a new expedition: An “Expedition to the Future.” The Geography2050 conference, held on November 19, 2014, by the AGS and the Earth Institute of Columbia University, provided a unique glimpse forward at the Earth and its inhabitants in the year 2050. Many “geo” conferences stress that “geography matters,” but Geography2050 offered details on why and how for a prestigious group of industry, government and academic geographers, and interested citizens. Read more...

Watch the videos

Read Geography 2050: Mounting an expedition to the Future article

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Event Details

Reserve the dates today...Registration coming soon!


All sessions and registration will take place in Alfred Lerner Hall, 2920 Broadway, New York, NY 10027

Closing Reception on November 20th will be held at Low Memorial Library.

Columbia University

116th Street and Broadway, New York City

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917-745-8354 for information

Rates & Registration

All registrations include 2 breakfasts, 2 lunches, all breaks, Closing Reception, Symposium Proceedings, and Symposium materials.
    • Early

    • until 2 October

    • Early Reg Ended
    • Regular

    • 3 October - 18 November

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    • At Door

    • 19 November - 20 November

    • 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.