Geographers can help to understand inequities, a first step toward their reduction, says Michal Meadow, the president of the Internatioal Geographical Union.
Pursuit of geography as a basic science is much more about things which help us to understand the nature of the relationship between humans, people, and the environment. The main activities of the IGU revolve around the commissions and they extend discipline. Geography is very broad. I sometimes say that it goes from physics to philosophy.
How are your activities related to sustainable development?
The discipline itself really sits at the nexus between the social and the natural sciences, exactly where sustainability lies. Because in order to achieve sustainability, and it’s by no means an easy concept to understand or an easy feat to achieve, but in order to make progress on that, we have to have an understanding of the connections between the human and the natural, or, if you like, the social and the environmental. In other words, fundamentally, geography is a spatial science: it recognizes, identifies that these relationships differ from one part of the earth to another, they differ sometimes from one suburb to another, that really geography tries to address those relationships in the context of space.
What is your best wish for this International Year?
There are day to day events which take place, which are on people’s minds and I think of what’s just happened in Turkey and Syria, for example.Geographers have dealt with issues around hazards. They normally are thought of as environmental hazards, but actually, the cause may well be environmental, but the impact is horrifically, catastrophically social. It just emphasizes the spatial inequities that exist around the world. And one hopes that scientists and geographers can at least help us to understand those inequities with a view to persuading governments and decision makers and the United Nations to help to resolve them. And one hopes that the Sustainable Development Goals will make better progress than they have done. And insofar as the International Year can help to accelerate that, then all well and good.