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Fall 2003
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My First Foray Into Urban Forestry

By Jack Dangermond

If I could do anything, I would want to inspire young people. And a part of me believes I can do anything, and I want young people to believe that about themselves too. There is a great world out there, and if you get involved, you can shape it to reflect your own ideals and passions. GIS is the tool that can help you understand your environment—and with understanding, the sky's the limit.

I was lucky—I received excellent educational opportunities throughout my life for which I am grateful because I believe they inspired me to envision creating a company like Esri. But before that happened, I was getting involved in community environmental projects, and that was before GIS was around to help. When I was nineteen, I saw an article in the local paper for a "Redlands Beautification Contest" the night before the submissions were due. At the time, I was in college studying to be a landscape architect so I stayed up all night with my brother, and our ideas ended up winning. Today the trees that we planted on State Street have formed a wonderful canopy that still shades shoppers in the Redlands town center. That was one of the first times I ever made a difference in my community, and I liked it. I learned something simple but profound from that experience—I understood clearly that the world is shaped by seemingly small ideas that are acted upon. It sounds too simple, but it's the truth—we have a good idea and we act on it—that is how we create a better world.

Adapted from the foreword to the Esri Press book Community Geography: GIS in Action by Kim Zanelli English and Laura S. Feaster. Explore Esri Press Books at

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