“Geospatial Revolution”. A high-quality documentary produced by Penn State University. To be released episodically on the web in response to a constantly changing technology, after all, location is everything.
Suppose you live in California and want to know the risk of losing your home to a fire? We put sensors like our eyes in satellites, collect information and then computers create maps. Ok, now, with the map, you analyze it. You look at information about the landscape. Are you in a dead end street? Are there high concentrations of fuel near your home? We put all this information on a computer and estimate the risk.
It’s a new way to see. Since Babylon in 2300 BC, when the land was recorded on clay tablets maps, humanity needed accurate representations of the Earth. In 1800, maps were made on horseback and took too long to be done. We evolved to aerial photography, and the way humans understand the world changed a lot. In the 60’s, people started the idea of recording geography on computers. Then, they could look at this information and make conclusions. This was a magical idea.
This idea is now capable of building informed leaderships! The Obama campaign has evolved the use of technology for political purposes to a new level thanks to maps. They knew in which voters focus, knew where undecided voters were and, frankly, who used it more effectively was elected.
Geospatial intelligence provides precise information for precise missions! After the terrorist attack of September 11, US troops entered Afghanistan with Russian maps. Who would imagine that one day the US military would need maps of Afghanistan? Now, it has really become the basis of everything that happens in the military.
This idea, of course, is also capable of making a more sustainable planet. More than half the world’s population now lives in urban areas. 13 of the 20 largest cities in the world are on seashores. How to model the potential risk of sea level advance because of climate change? Simply, we would not be able to understand how the Earth works without geospatial technologies to tell us where things are, how they are related and the information about what is really happening. In the Darfur conflict in 2009, 400,000 people had died in 5 years. The Amnesty International, Science for Human Rights Project, tried to collect local testimonials, take pictures… but the Sudanese government had no interest in receiving them. Then, the project got satellite images showing entirely destroyed villages. These images were sent to the government to let them know that people around the world are watching these villages, even remotely.
It’s a revolution of thought! For the “insiders”, people in the geospatial area, the transition to digital geography has been truly revolutionary. We can navigate through our world with much more confidence than before. It changed the science agenda and the technology and even created new professions. Still, there are those in the “outside”, the rest of the people that have no idea that geospatial study field exists. It made geography ordinary! The location of anything is becoming EVERYTHING!