A Letter from Jack Dangermond
Given the rapid pace of human impact on their surroundings, it remains clear that our world is increasingly environmentally challenged, and humans must take more responsibility for creating a sustainable future. This collection of maps illustrates the interesting work of the GIS community. They tell stories and show how organizations around the world address diverse and complex geographic problems. Although humans have been around a long time, our world is still not well known. Many of these maps reveal previously unknown information and, in some cases, identify a problem and provide greater context. Even more interesting are the maps furnishing a decision-making framework.
One of these efforts, featured on the cover, is a visualization by the Half-Earth Project, a program of the E. O. Wilson Foundation. The layer shown indicates the scale of land conservation needed to protect Earth’s biodiversity. Despite E. O. Wilson’s passing, his call continues for us to truly consider the value of our planet and preserve it for future generations.
Collectively, we as humans, and particularly as GIS users, possess the tools to consider the future impact of our work. Our capacity to make better choices is unprecedented. Taken as a whole, Esri Map Book, Volume 37, offers a vision of the world as a single ecosystem. Consider the insights that would be possible if all of these maps, and millions like them, along with their underlying data and the unique perspectives of their authors were brought together and used to address the great sustainability challenges of our time. This is happening rapidly and, to my mind, will be essential for our future. I refer to this as geospatial infrastructure, a new pattern of GIS deployment where users share their work and allow others to easily discover and integrate social, economic, and environmental data from many sources. The vision of a global geospatial platform is emerging rapidly on the web, and is already being used by millions of professionals as a living atlas of our planet.
Organizations are increasing applying GIS and the geographic approach as a holistic way of thinking and collaborative problem solving. In the future, this technology and approach will need to be integrated into every sector of society, facilitating an inclusive and more sustainable future.