National Academies Press: OpenBook
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1997. Rediscovering Geography: New Relevance for Science and Society. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4913.
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Rediscovering Geography

New Relevance for Science and Society

Rediscovering Geography Committee

Board on Earth Sciences and Resources

Commission on Geosciences, Environment, and Resources

National Research Council

NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS
Washington, D.C.
1997

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1997. Rediscovering Geography: New Relevance for Science and Society. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4913.
×

National Academy Press
2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W. Washington, DC 20418

NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.

This report has been reviewed by a group other than the authors according to procedures approved by a Report Review Committee consisting of members of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine.

Support for this study was provided by the Association of American Geographers, Environmental Systems Research Institute, National Geographic Society, National Science Foundation (NSF Grant No. SBR-9319015/R), U.S. Bureau of the Census, U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Geological Survey. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Rediscovering Geography: New Relevance for Science and Society is available from the
National Academy Press,
2101 Constitution Ave., NW, Box 285, Washington, DC 20055 (1-800-624-6242; http://www.nap.edu).

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Rediscovering geography : new relevance for science and society / Rediscovering Geography Committee, Board on Earth Sciences and Resources, Commission on Geosciences, Environment, and Resources, National Research Council.

p. cm.

Includes bibliographical references and index.

ISBN 0-309-05199-1

1. Geography. I. National Research Council (U.S.). Rediscovering Geography Committee.

G116.R43 1997

910—dc21 97-4630

Cover art by Y. David Chung and James Lee.

The cover art represents the transformation from the traditional view of geography as a fact-based discipline to the one focused on the concerns of society and the scientific enterprise at large. The top image of an historical sea chart represents geography's long history and its roots in the discovery of facts about places. The middle image of a landscape and the bottom image of a crowded city scene represent the subject matter of modern geography: the environment and human society. The arrows represent geography's concerns with place and the flows of processes and phenomena between places. The dynamic globe represents the tools and techniques that have been developed by geographers and that are now being used in science, education, business, and government: geographic information systems, spatial analysis, and geographic visualization.

The crowded city scene is a detail from Mr. Chung's mural "Metropolitan Scene."

Y. David Chung is a graduate of the Corcoran School of Art and has exhibited widely throughout the country, including the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Copyright 1997 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

Printed in the United States of America

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1997. Rediscovering Geography: New Relevance for Science and Society. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4913.
×

REDISCOVERING GEOGRAPHY COMMITTEE

THOMAS J. WILBANKS, Chair,

Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee

ROBERT McC. ADAMS,

Smithsonian Institution, Emeritus, Basalt, Colorado

MARTHA E. CHURCH,

Hood College, Emerita, Frederick, Maryland

WILLIAM A.V. CLARK,

University of California, Los Angeles

ANTHONY R. de SOUZA,

Southwest Texas State University, San Marcos

PATRICIA P. GILMARTIN,

University of South Carolina, Columbia

WILLIAM L. GRAF,

Arizona State University, Tempe

JAMES W. HARRINGTON,

George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia

SALLY P. HORN,

University of Tennessee, Knoxville

ROBERT W. KATES, Independent Scholar,

Trenton, Maine

ALAN MacEACHREN,

The Pennsylvania State University, University Park

ALEXANDER B. MURPHY,

University of Oregon, Eugene

GERARD RUSHTON,

University of Iowa, Iowa City

ERIC S. SHEPPARD,

University of Minnesota, Minneapolis

BILLIE LEE TURNER II,

Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts

CORT J. WILLMOTT,

University of Delaware, Newark

Staff

KEVIN D. CROWLEY, Study Director

JENNIFER T. ESTEP, Administrative Assistant

SHELLEY A. MYERS, Project Assistant

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1997. Rediscovering Geography: New Relevance for Science and Society. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4913.
×

BOARD ON EARTH SCIENCES AND RESOURCES

J. FREEMAN GILBERT, Chair,

University of California, San Diego

THURE CERLING,

University of Utah, Salt Lake City

MARK P. CLOOS,

University of Texas at Austin

JOEL DARMSTADTER,

Resources for the Future, Washington, D.C.

KENNETH I. DAUGHERTY,

E-Systems, Fairfax, Virginia

WILLIAM R. DICKINSON,

University of Arizona, Emeritus, Tucson

MARCO T. EINAUDI,

Stanford University, California

NORMAN H. FOSTER, Independent Petroleum Geologist,

Denver, Colorado

CHARLES G. GROAT,

University of Texas, El Paso

DONALD C. HANEY,

Kentucky Geological Survey, Lexington

SUSAN M. KIDWELL,

University of Chicago, Illinois

SUSAN KIEFFER,

Kieffer & Woo, Inc., Palgrave, Ontario

PHILIP E. LaMOREAUX,

P.E. LaMoreaux and Associates, Inc., Tuscaloosa, Alabama

SUSAN M. LANDON,

Thomasson Partner Associates, Denver, Colorado

J. BERNARD MINSTER,

University of California, San Diego

ALEXANDRA NAVROTSKY,

Princeton University, New Jersey

JILL D. PASTERIS,

Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri

EDWARD C. ROY, Jr.,

Trinity University, San Antonio, Texas

Staff

CRAIG M. SCHIFFRIES, Director

JONATHAN G. PRICE, Director1

THOMAS M. USSELMAN, Associate Director

INA B. ALTERMAN, Senior Program Officer

WILLIAM E. BENSON, Senior Program Officer

KEVIN D. CROWLEY, Senior Program Officer

ANNE M. LINN, Senior Program Officer

CHARLES MEADE, Senior Program Officer

LALLY A. ANDERSON, Staff Assistant

VERNA J. BOWEN, Administrative Assistant

JENNIFER T. ESTEP, Administrative Assistant

JUDITH L. ESTEP, Administrative Assistant

1  

Through February 1995.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1997. Rediscovering Geography: New Relevance for Science and Society. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4913.
×

COMMISSION ON GEOSCIENCES, ENVIRONMENT, AND RESOURCES

M. GORDON WOLMAN, Chair,

The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland

PATRICK R. ATKINS,

Aluminum Company of America, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

JAMES P. BRUCE,

Canadian Climate Program Board, Ottawa, Ontario

WILLIAM L. FISHER,

University of Texas at Austin

JERRY F. FRANKLIN,

University of Washington, Seattle

GEORGE M. HORNBERGER,

University of Virginia, Charlottesville

DEBRA KNOPMAN,

Progressive Foundation, Washington, D.C.

PERRY L. McCARTY,

Stanford University, California

JUDITH E. McDOWELL,

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Massachusetts

S. GEORGE PHILANDER,

Princeton University, New Jersey

RAYMOND A. PRICE,

Queen's University at Kingston, Ontario

THOMAS C. SCHELLING,

University of Maryland, College Park

ELLEN K. SILBERGELD,

University of Maryland Medical School, Baltimore

STEVEN M. STANLEY,

The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland

VICTORIA J. TSCHINKEL,

Landers and Parsons, Tallahassee, Florida

Staff

STEPHEN RATTIEN, Executive Director

STEPHEN D. PARKER, Associate Executive Director

MORGAN GOPNIK, Assistant Executive Director

GREGORY SYMMES, Reports Officer

JAMES MALLORY, Administrative Officer

SANDI FITZPATRICK, Administrative Associate

SUSAN SHERWIN, Project Assistant

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1997. Rediscovering Geography: New Relevance for Science and Society. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4913.
×

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Bruce Alberts is president of the National Academy of Sciences.

The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. William A. Wulf is interim president of the National Academy of Engineering.

The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Kenneth I. Shine is president of the Institute of Medicine.

The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy's purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Bruce Alberts and Dr. William A. Wulf are chairman and interim vice-chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1997. Rediscovering Geography: New Relevance for Science and Society. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4913.
×

Foreword

The discipline of geography has been undergoing a renaissance in the United States during the past decade. Geography's research focus on the study of human society and the environment through the perspectives of place, space, and scale is finding increased relevance in fields ranging from ecology to economics. At the same time, many of its research tools and analytical methods have moved from the research laboratory into the mainstream of science and business. Geography is undergoing a rebirth in education as well—it has become an organizing framework for presenting a wide variety of classroom subjects. It is recognized as an important subject in American schools, and enrollments in geography programs in American colleges and universities are increasing sharply to meet demands from employers for geographically literate students.

Rediscovering Geography: New Relevance for Science and Society is the first comprehensive assessment of geography in the United States in almost 30 years. It provides a broad overview of the discipline and shows how its perspectives and tools are being used by educators, business people, researchers, and policy makers to address a wide range of scientific problems and societal needs. It also provides recommendations for strengthening the discipline's intellectual and institutional foundations to meet growing demands for geography-based knowledge, education, and expertise. The report illustrates that good science and societally relevant science need not be mutually exclusive endeavors, and it enables us to see clearly the societal benefits of scientific research.

The National Research Council very much appreciates the support this study received from the Association of American Geographers, the Environmental

Page viii Cite
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1997. Rediscovering Geography: New Relevance for Science and Society. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4913.
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Systems Research Institute, the National Geographic Society, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Bureau of the Census, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Geological Survey.

BRUCE ALBERTS

CHAIRMAN

NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1997. Rediscovering Geography: New Relevance for Science and Society. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4913.
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Preface

Any academic discipline is a means, not an end. It is a means for such intellectual ends as learning, knowing, and understanding. It is a means for such social ends as progress and problem solving. It is a means for such individual ends as opportunity and fulfillment. Sometimes, we get so caught up in a search for paradigms that perpetuate our disciplinary identities that we forget why it is that we are supported to do the jobs that we do. But we can expect to be reminded in coming years that, just as the U.S. federal government is rethinking functional subdivisions that date back many generations in preparing for a new century with limited resources, the academic world will also be rethinking how it is subdivided and whether new approaches might be better for reaching our collective ends.

In such a time of reflection and change, this report is about geography as a means rather than as an end. It is about subject matter, tools, and perspectives rather than about an academic discipline as such, directed mainly toward readers outside geography whose interest is more in what geography can offer to their concerns than in how geography thinks of itself.

The reason for carrying out this assessment at this particular time is a well-documented growing perception (external to geography as a discipline) that geography is useful, perhaps even necessary, in meeting certain societal needs. As a result, many parties concerned about the ends of academic science have been asking more from the information, techniques, and perspectives associated with geography than the nation's scientific and educational systems are delivering; and the gap between demand and supply may be widening. The most salient

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1997. Rediscovering Geography: New Relevance for Science and Society. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4913.
×

aspect of this demand is in education reform, especially in grades K-12, where geography education is indeed expanding rapidly. An expansion in classroom instruction without a strong foundation in knowledge and skills, however, does not serve the ends of education well; and it is important to balance this one kind of response to external demands with an assessment of the knowledge base that undergirds it.

More generally, in fact, it makes sense to start seeking answers to the geography demand-supply gap by getting better informed about what geography as a scientific discipline is and does, both to understand the place of the disciplinary infrastructure in meeting broader needs and to understand some of the dimensions of the still inchoate questions arising externally. Furthermore, in struggling with relationships between transdisciplinary ends and disciplinary means, in this case where geography is concerned, the broader scientific and societal communities can advance the process of reconsidering the relevance of conventional academic disciplines as we all look toward the future.

With these objectives in mind, the Rediscovering Geography Committee was established in 1993 to perform a comprehensive assessment of the discipline of geography in the United States. The assessment is intended to convey to a wide range of readers, especially scientists and decision makers who are not geographers, the substance of geography as a subject—which is generally not well understood beyond a relatively small group of professional practitioners—and to identify ways to make the discipline more relevant to science, education, and decision making.

In performing its assessment the committee held five meetings during a period of about 12 months to gather information, debate the issues, and develop this report. The committee made a special effort to communicate with the geography community during the study and to solicit the advice of individual geographers. To this end, the committee published notices in the monthly newsletter of the Association of American Geographers (AAG), held special sessions at the 1994 and 1995 AAG annual meetings, and met with several groups of geographers who indicated concerns about the committee's deliberations. Although many geographers provided valuable input to our assessment, this report is a consensus document of the committee, and the committee is solely responsible for its content, conclusions, and recommendations.

On behalf of the committee, I would like to recognize the efforts of many individuals and organizations who contributed to the successful completion of this report. First of all, the committee would never have come into existence without the leadership of the U.S. National Committee for the International Geographical Union, and especially Melvin Marcus, its chair through 1992, who first identified the need for this reassessment given the mounting scientific and societal demands on geography as a discipline. Mel, Bill Turner, and Tony de Souza contributed to developing the project concept, and Reds Wolman, Julian

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1997. Rediscovering Geography: New Relevance for Science and Society. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4913.
×

Wolpert, and Ron Abler were instrumental in refining it and obtaining approval for the study to be carried out under the auspices of the National Research Council.

The committee's effort would not have been possible without generous financial support from a variety of agencies and organizations interested in both geography's ends and means. We gratefully acknowledge support from the Association of American Geographers, the Environmental Systems Research Institute, the National Geographic Society, an initial grant for planning purposes from the Governing Board of the National Research Council, the Anthropological and Geographic Sciences Program of the National Science Foundation, the Decennial Census Program of the U.S. Bureau of the Census, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics of the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Mapping Division of the U.S. Geological Survey.

The committee also expresses its gratitude to the many geographers who provided advice and materials for the report, too numerous to list, to several colleagues who provided informal reviews of early drafts of selected chapters (Ron Abler, Brian Berry, Michael Dear, Rodney Erickson, Susan Hanson, and Joel Morrison), and to the anonymous reviewers enlisted by the National Research Council. We were assisted by the AAG Employment Forecasting Committee—Pat Gober (Chair), Amy Glasmeier, James Goodman, David Plane, Howard Stafford, and Joseph Wood—who, at the request of the committee and with the support of the AAG, produced materials on the employment trends in geography that appear in Appendix A. We are grateful to the AAG for its permission to include copies of journal articles by that committee in the appendix.

Finally, the committee and I thank the staff of the Board on Earth Sciences and Resources of the National Research Council for its help in obtaining financial support for the study, facilitating the meetings, and working closely with the committee to produce this report. In the early stages we were ably assisted by Bruce Hanshaw and Shelley Myers. In the latter stages of committee meetings and throughout the period of report preparation, we benefited from the superb administrative assistance of Jenny Estep, who was a model of professionalism, productivity, and grace under pressure. Most profoundly, we are indebted to Kevin Crowley, the study director. Kevin went far beyond the call of duty in contributing to the report intellectually as well as administratively, in improving its communication to audiences external to geography, and in caring about the quality of both the process and the product. We on the committee consider him a colleague and a friend in the fullest sense—and an honorary geographer who sometimes helped us to see things in our own messages that we ourselves had missed. His conscientious, diligent, and thoughtful participation reflects great credit on the National Research Council.

Thanks to you all, and my personal thanks to a fine committee who very quickly overcame differences in subdisciplinary acculturation and personal self-interest to join together so effectively in a common enterprise. Every individual

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1997. Rediscovering Geography: New Relevance for Science and Society. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4913.
×

member made a significant contribution, and I believe that all of us were enriched by the opportunity to work together with such distinguished colleagues and interesting people. None of us is entirely happy with every detail that emerged from the consensus process, but the overall orientation of the report represents a unanimous judgment, and the report itself speaks for a strong consensus among a disparate group of strong-minded individualists, all of them experts in some part of geography's intellectual territory. We trust that our assessment will serve as a stimulus for a continuing discussion of the ends and means of geography, together with strategies for strengthening their connections, because we certainly do not consider it the last word.

THOMAS J. WILBANKS, CHAIR

REDISCOVERING GEOGRAPHY COMMITTEE

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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Research Council. 1997. Rediscovering Geography: New Relevance for Science and Society. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4913.
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