Can Geospatial Innovation Save the World?
Despite the recent proliferation of brainy electronic gadgets, computers on steroids and robots that can perform better than humans, innovation in its broadest sense could be facing significant headwinds. From roughly the late 1800s to today, a 2 percent output-per-person annual growth rate has enabled America to enjoy a standard of living that roughly doubles every 35 years.
Economist Robert J. Gordon, however, points out that much of this robust growth was possible due to an
incredible tidal wave of innovation occurring within very tight timeframes. Between 1875 and 1900, this included Edison’s electric light bulb and power station; Karl Benz’s internal combustion engine; and the telephone, phonograph, radio, running water and indoor plumbing. Following World War II, another innovative spree quickly spawned jet plane travel, television, air conditioning and the interstate highway system—game changers with impacts difficult to duplicate.
We Can’t Afford to Slow Down
One discipline that must continue to innovate for any hope of a sustainable planet is geospatial technology. Much as a physician must closely observe an indisposed patient before rendering an effective diagnosis and remedial strategy, so it is with our ailing Earth. It begins with a system of sensors capable of collecting data critical to our understanding of Earth’s dynamic interactions with humans, so researchers and policy makers can make the tough choices necessary to preserve essential ecosystems, large and small.
Addressing the Planet’s 800-Pound Gorilla
China presents a huge challenge to the planet’s overall health. Human progress always carries an environmental price tag, but we’ve never witnessed anything close to the scope of China’s environmental issues. The country literally is choking on its own economic success, and it’s large enough to impact the entire world. The Pacific Ocean’s worst polluter is home to 16 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities and ranks 116th of 132 countries on the Environmental Performance Index created by researchers at Yale and Columbia universities. Meanwhile, around 14,000 new cars emerge on China’s roads each day.
Early this year, air quality meters at the U.S. embassy in Beijing recorded particulate densities (micrograms per
cubic meter) of 755. Readings between 301 and 500 generally are considered hazardous. NASA scientists, aided by a host of satellite sensors, are working night and day to understand how such particulate matter impacts Earth’s critical processes, including its effect on climate change.
Ongoing geospatial innovation can help enable the creation of policies and procedures vital to sustaining a
planet now bearing the burden of more than 7 billion humans. Fortunately, the industry comprises some of the
world’s brightest minds. From battle-tested visionaries, such as Esri’s Jack Dangermond and GeoCue’s Lewis
Graham, to rising stars like GCS Research’s Alex Philp and Thermopylae’s A.J. Clark, the future of geospatial
innovation appears to be on solid ground.
A Rewarding Journey Continues
This issue of Earth Imaging Journal inaugurates our 10th consecutive year of covering the prodigious world of
remote sensing. Our seasoned staff traces its roots to the early 1990s, when we collectively pioneered several industry publications responsible for assisting many of today’s prominent geospatial firms achieve early success.
Today, it’s still gratifying to receive an e-mail or phone call from a colleague telling us he or she presented a
copy of Earth Imaging Journal to a customer, and a specific article or advertisement prompted that person to
inquire about—and often purchase—a particular product or service. These are the testimonials that keep us going, and we humbly thank our Editorial Advisory Board, advertising partners, authors and readers for the staunch support that has made this initiative possible.