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Barbara Laskin
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How to promote sustainability and respond to environmental change are two of 11 questions a Macalester professor helped identify for the next decade of geographical sciences

William Moseley

April 5, 2010 – St. Paul, Minn.– “How to understand and respond to environmental change” and “How to promote sustainability” are just two of the 11 questions Macalester Geography Professor William Moseley co-authored in a National Academy of Sciences report, “Understanding the Changing Planet: Strategic Directions for the Geographical Sciences,” identifying the most pressing questions for the next decade of geographical sciences.

“Over the next 10 years, the planet, as we know it, will undergo tremendous change,” said Moseley.  “Populations are moving and natural resources are being depleted, and we have to identify, for example, how we will sustainably feed everyone in the coming decade and beyond?  As the Earth’s surface continues to transform, these 11 questions should help us manage and adapt to these critical changes.”

The committee that wrote the report solicited input from the geographical science community to identify research priorities and the approaches, skills, data, and infrastructure necessary to advance research.  The strategic directions span from overarching issues of environmental change and sustainability to specific areas in the field that are transforming.  They are grouped by topic area, but are not ranked in any order of importance.   Bullets precede the questions.

How to understand and respond to environmental change:
·      How are we changing the physical environment of Earth's surface?
·      How can we best preserve biological diversity and protect endangered ecosystems?
·      How are climate and other environmental changes affecting the vulnerabilities of coupled human-environment systems?

How to promote sustainability:
·      Where and how will 10 billion people live?
·      How will we sustainably feed everyone in the coming decade and beyond?
·      How does where we live affect our health?

How to recognize and cope with the rapid spatial reorganization of economy and society:
·      How is the movement of people, goods, and ideas changing the world?
·      How is economic globalization affecting inequality?
·      How are geopolitical shifts influencing peace and stability?

How to leverage technological change for the benefit of society and environment:
·      How might we better observe, analyze, and visualize a changing world?
·      What are the societal implications of citizen mapping and mapping citizens?

Macalester College, founded in 1874, is a national liberal arts college with a full-time enrollment of 1,958 students. Macalester is nationally recognized for its long-standing commitment to academic excellence, internationalism, multiculturalism and civic engagement.