Humans as a Species Have Been Highly Successful

Let’s face it, as a species, humans have been highly successful. Our innovations and achievements in science, technology, and culture have supported the overwhelming success that has also led to an exponential growth of the human population, currently estimated at more than 8.0 billion.

The impact of this ever-burgeoning population has also led some people to call the current era the Anthropocene Epoch. This domination of the planet is now threatening Earth and our collective existence. Human-induced climate change is stimulating ecological instability.

It’s my sense that we humans are living recklessly—that we’re living beyond our means and our collective actions are substantially altering our Earth’s surface, atmosphere, and oceans. This simply isn’t sustainable. Some say we may not even have a future.

But I believe humanity is at an inflection point. We must choose to stand up and create a sustainable future. We must take collective responsibility for imagining, designing, developing, and implementing solutions that sustain the planet.

In the foreground, a seated individual writes in a notebook while looking off in the distance. In a separate foreground image, four people look at a laptop. Background images include a snowy and forested mountain, stars, a city skyline, a map, and the planet Earth.

However, we need to move quickly. There is no time for political polarization or ceaseless discussion. We have very little time to choose before there will be no choice available.

Fortunately, we already have a powerful tool: the geographic approach. It’s the key to holistically solving problems and the foundation for positive action. Sustainability starts with geography—it begins with seeing the world as a single ecosystem.

The technology for implementing the geographic approach is GIS and it is advancing rapidly. The work of organizations using GIS is becoming interconnected into a geospatial infrastructure of distributed servers—a system of systems. This is making information pervasively available and expanding the capability for action.

GIS furnishes the tools for integrating and analyzing data; devising and evaluating solutions; and collaborating and communicating the information that can guide the actions that create a sustainable future. As GIS professionals, we will continue to have an essential role to play in creating this future.

Let us strengthen our shared commitment to the planet. It is more important than ever.

About the author

Jack Dangermond is President of Esri, and is recognized as one of the most influential people in the field of geographic information system (GIS) technology. Jack, along with his wife Laura, founded Environmental Systems Research Institute (Esri) in 1969 with a vision that geographic analysis and computer mapping could help us design a better future. That vision has continued to guide Esri in creating cutting-edge GIS and Geodesign technologies used in every industry to help our users be successful and to make a difference worldwide. A graduate of Harvard University Graduate School of Design, Jack also has received 14 honorary degrees for his contributions to the fields of geography, environmental science, planning, and GIS. He is the author of The Power of Where: A Geographic Approach to the World’s Greatest Challenges. Jack remains closely connected to projects, clients, and the company vision, and is personally committed to promoting GIS methods to improve environmental stewardship and sustainability for communities across the world.