Volume XXIII, Number 1, March 2003

Extreme Fieldwork

by Mary Lynne Bird, Executive Director, The American Geographical Society

When the first, sickening word that shuttle Columbia might be in trouble came over National Public Radio, I immediately thought about Tom Jones, astronaut and geographer-veteran of four shuttle missions, one of them on an earlier Columbia flight.

Dr. Thomas D. Jones was one of the many extremely impressive NASA professionals the AGS Council was privileged to hear from and to talk with when it visited the Johnson Space Center in 2000 for a full day of briefings. Initially Tom stood out to us because of his Ph.D. in geography. As we stayed in touch with him, however, he became special to us for many more reasons, as our respect for him, what he does, and the spirit in which he does it grew. We have felt that he was part of the AGS family ever since.

It was natural, then, that Geographical Review Editor Paul Starrs would invite Tom to write one of the 56 essays by geographers to appear in the special double issue of the journal devoted to fieldwork (published in late 2001) . Tom’s piece was entitled, “A Globe That Fills the Sky: Geography from the Space Shuttle.”

When Paul first mentioned his intentions, it took a few minutes to wrap my mind around the concept of NASA missions as fieldwork. But, of course, Paul, with his broader vision, had it right. The astronauts are indeed doing fieldwork, expanding human knowledge, not in the safety of the laboratory or library stacks but out the field. Their “field” just happens to be as far out in the cosmos as the technology of the day makes possible.

The fieldwork of the astronauts also happens to take place at the outer extremes of danger, as the event of February 1st has reminded us.

Of course, fieldwork always involves at least some degree of danger. Encountering people, places, or things that are different--the “other”--means knowingly to take risks actually physical or “only” psychological.

What is amazing is how much those doing fieldwork--including astronauts like Tom Jones--seem to focus on their goals, their projects, and what they want to learn, and how little they say about the danger involved in what they are doing.

Yet, danger there is, and they know it. When one reads between the lines of the essays in the GR fieldwork issue, it is clear that scholars out in the field do run risks of one kind or another. But that is not where their minds are. In reading the fieldwork essays, one cannot help but be struck by the fact that only one of the authors chose to make personal danger the focus of his article. All the other contributors to the volume were too excited by the constructive experience that fieldwork meant to them to say much about risks they and the reader could see were there.

The American Geographical Society has a globe that has been signed by almost 70 fliers and explorers over the past century. We are glad we have been able to honor those people, each of whom has pushed back the boundaries of human knowledge and discovery out in the field. But one can not look at that globe without thinking of how many more people attempted similar feats and did not live to come back to put their signatures on it. There is a cloud of ghosts attending on that globe.

So, as we thank all those who go out in the field and place themselves on the line to add to our fund of knowledge, we especially honor, in sorrow, the crew of the Columbia and all the others who have not returned safely home. Their passion for learning, even at risk, is one of the best qualities that make us human.

Travel the AGS Way - Adventure, Education, and Fun

by David J. Keeling, AGS Councilor and Travel Program Lecturer

Understanding the world through exploration and discovery has been a constant theme throughout the American Geographical Society’s 150-year existence. The AGS has a long tradition of sponsoring expeditions, travel adventures, and educational opportunities both to remote and to familiar destinations. From Pole to Pole, through steaming jungles and across scorching deserts, and from bustling world cities to remote villages, AGS explorers and travelers have crisscrossed the planet, writing about, mapping, photographing, and disseminating information on some of the world’s most fascinating peoples and places. In the 21st century, this tradition of exploration and discovery continues with the AGS Travel Program. The 2003 and 2004 AGS travel seasons are jam-packed with fabulous itineraries and intriguing destinations, and they feature outstanding lecturers and educational opportunities (visit the travel program website at: http://www.amergeog.org/travel.htm.

What can AGS travelers expect from these expeditions of discovery and exploration? To those unfamiliar with AGS educational voyages, my personal reflections on recent and planned adventures as an AGS lecturer may serve as an introduction to the world of AGS travel, and perhaps as an enticement to come along on one of these amazing journeys. I have lectured on AGS voyages since 1995, and each trip has addressed one or more of the myriad cultural and physical elements that shape the complex geographies of places we visit. For example, sailing through the Rhine-Main-Danube canal on the Heartlands of Europe voyage several years ago, we explored the historical geography of the Main Canal project and its roots in the political ambitions of Charlemagne in the 8th century. The completion of this 100-mile-long link between the Rhine and Danube rivers in 1992 allows vessels to travel 2,200 miles from Rotterdam on the North Sea, across the heart of Europe, to the port of Sulina on the Black Sea. Such grand engineering projects, of course, are not without their human and environmental implications, and many spirited conversations were had during the voyage on these and other weighty issues.

ci1This past November, I sailed aboard the Clipper Adventurer, an A-1 ice class vessel, through some of the world’s narrowest and most scenic waterways in southern Chile. The AGS Chilean Fjords itinerary features some of the most spectacular scenery anywhere on the planet, with the Clipper venturing into narrow, glacier-draped valleys, isolated islands, and awesome Cape Horn. Even the Clipper’s captain couldn’t contain his excitement upon reaching Cape Horn, and was among the first to jump into one of the yellow Zodiac landing crafts and rush ashore to stand, wind-swept, at the very southern tip of the South American continent. Such enthusiasm can be infectious, as the passengers demonstrated during the voyage, eagerly participating in lectures, briefings, zodiac excursions, and wilderness walks. Each morning, one passenger who had sprained her ankle before joining the tour could be seen hobbling rapidly down the deck, eager to jump into the zodiacs and, in her words, “suck the marrow out of the day’s adventures!”

The schedule for AGS educational voyages typically includes a series of lectures by well-traveled geographers on themes and places of interest. On the Chilean Fjords trip, I gave lectures on the role of Chile and Patagonia in the world economy, the importance of ecology and ecotourism in shaping livelihoods and landscapes in southern Patagonia, and on the Falklands/Malvinas conflict and the role of sovereignty and resources. Lectures are typically illustrated, often with slides, and they provide passengers with an overview of a specific region, issue, resource, or cultural characteristic. However, learning does not stop with the lectures, as wonderful discussions continue on during the day and well into the evening, over meals, in the zodiacs, on wilderness walks, and even over a glass of one’s favorite beverage in the ship or hotel lounge. Passengers also have access to sample AGS publications and are provided a reading list that is specific to the itinerary. On the upcoming Historic Normandy and Siene River tour (July 2003), for example, selected readings encompass the D-day landings, the historical geography of Normandy and Normans, Monet’s life, and the region’s rich landscapes of cathedrals and castles.

Besides lectures, expedition briefings, and other informative on-board activities, our intrepid AGS travelers are treated to a full program of land-based excursions and expeditions. In Normandy this coming July, we’ll become acquainted with the spectacular cultural iconography of Paris (the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, and Musée Jacquemart-André, for instance), visit the estates of Emile Zola and Claude Monet, soak up the tragedies and triumphs of the D-day landing sites, and explore amazing Mont-St-Michel, seemingly suspended out to sea atop a stunning granitic outcropping. This past November, in Patagonian Chile, we explored rustic Chiloe Island, rode zodiacs past crumbling glaciers, journeyed through the famous but little-visited Torres del Paine National Park, and watched rockhopper penguins in their breeding colonies on the Falkland Islands. Each bend in the road or curve in the track seemed to reveal a more stunning vista, a more fabulous bird or mammal, or a more enchanting cultural landscape. Such visual and intellectual experiences on AGS voyages provide levels of enjoyment and satisfaction that, in my humble opinion, are unparalleled in the educational travel realm.

ci2The AGS travel program offers a varied set of itineraries that appeal to a cross-section of place-specific and theme-specific interests. In addition to the Normandy tour this July, I’m also lecturing aboard the vintage American Orient Express in October on a rail journey across America from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles. Other AGS tours this year will visit several great Baltic cities, cruise through the Alaskan fjords, discover the hidden treasures of Italy’s Po River, and explore the antiquities of Greece and Turkey. As all AGS tours are hosted by an experienced AGS lecturer, passengers are assured informative and entertaining analyses of the peoples and places encountered on these voyages of exploration and discovery. I invite you to come along with me or another of our AGS lecturers on a travel experience that is quite unique. We’ll travel the AGS way - adventure, education, and fun!

For more details about the AGS Travel Program, call 1 (888) 805-0884 or visit the AGS travel website at http://www.amergeog.org/travel/travel.htm.


by Peter Lewis

Christopher Camuto is agog at the pure happiness he feels when abroad in the Blue Ridge countryside he calls home, in awe of its venerableness. He endeavors in Hunting from Home (Norton) to join the landscape, and hunting is one of his vehicles: poking about with his dog through "a funky patch of mulish mountain farmland wildly reasserting itself," or probing more deeply, as when "bow hunting requires slipping into the not-there, getting so close to deer that you are where they are, within the space of their awareness without them being aware of you."

Camuto is at his best when he is simply out there and reveling, which is where we find him most of the time. But he can also be a bore, trotting out China's 10th-century Fan K'uan or Ortega y Gasset (when will this poor man be given a rest by tortured hunters?) to justify hunting, when it would be so much easier, and honorable and believable, for him to say it makes him feel good and natural, that he does it with respect, that his take is modest, for it is difficult to imagine anyone who walks on the land with greater circumspection and appreciation than Camuto.

He also likes to think out loud on the page, which results in some best-kept-to-himself reverie: "The musty wing revives the memory of an odor ancient as pine sap," (11) or "I watch day and night exchange gifts." But then he will win you back by revealing the times he thought he was onto something deep and mystical, only to discover it is a robin or a dogwood without leaves, and thus getting to the heart of the matter: it's all in the seeing.

Camuto is inviting and encouraging to partake in your own country, a day, a week, if lucky enough, one of those country years.

The Living Great Lakes (St. Martin’s) is a fine guide, borne along with a storyteller's sense of pacing and blend of fact with picaresque, from longtime Lake Michigan resident Jerry Dennis.

"Though I've lived near the Great Lakes most of my life," writes Dennis, "there came a day a few years ago when I realized how little I knew about them. To get better acquainted, drove around each of their shores." More than once, with frequent dallyings, and so this story of five lakes and a handful of waterways came to be. Though Dennis will spend a good amount of time on both developed and wild waterfronts---telling of the broad and curious array of people who lived there, tracking the paleo-past through to the industries of sand and salt and honeycomb stone, describing the evolution of coastal geomorphology, its vivid geology matched by an equally vivid history of bad weather---he spends greater time out on top of the waterscape aboard a schooner, the tall-ship Malabar.

These are burly waters, with their own weather systems and tragic tales resulting therefrom, as well as a thousand landscapes to pass on the Malabar's progress from Traverse City, Michigan to New York City, and Dennis writes about them in a polished and alluring style, though its pants aren't fancy; not homespun, but comfortably worn. He also pushes about sections of the lakes he doesn't visit on the Malabar, from canoeing the northern shore of Superior like a modern day voyageur to swimming off the shore of his house on Leelanau Peninsula.

Then there is the environmental history that threads its way through the book, from the utter degradation of the mid-20th century, when the country all but wrote the lakes off as dead, to what can only be considered their resurrection (though don't be deceived by that alarming clarity---thank the zebra mussel, which trails botulism, toxic algae, and species loss).

Dennis throws what feels like a homecoming for the Great Lakes, a welcome back and an invitation for readers.

A skimming visit to the cultural-political dichotomy experienced in the Napa and Sonoma valleys comes in A Tale of Two Valleys (Broadway) from journalist Alan Deutschman.

They may be neighboring valleys, but they have gone their separate ways: Napa went upscale, elegant and refined; Sonoma kept its shitkickers and welcomed the bohemians. Deutschman embraces this bifurcation, the irreverent and anachronistic vs. New Money, the innocents vs. the soulless, elitism vs. small town, residents vs. weekenders, Sebastiani vs. Mondavi.

Quickly, he throws his lot with the freespirits and iconoclasts, and they are an appealing group, subversive and mischievous and fully aware that they are on to something very special in their Sonoma Valley home. The Napa-ites are far less attractive, typified by the notorious Wine Auction and restaurants where the farmers who supply the tony vegetables couldn't afford to eat, and excruciatingly easy targets: "The plutocrats…could they ever imagine that they are making pilgrimages to listen to trailer people?"

Readers may be irked or uncomfortable with this neat parting of the waters, figuring that maybe there is something under the crust that ought to be poked at. Not Deutschman, who operates in only a small amount of the acreage he could explore, spending most of his time following the local election and the fate of a couple of land-use initiatives. Not that these are uninteresting: their impact will be critical to the future of Sonoma. But readers will wish for other impressions than that radiated by Deutschman's small circle of friends, as when a small-scale farmer suggests that a ballot initiative isn't "as simple as people are making it out to be. People haven't looked at it from a whole perspective." Unfortunately, Deutschman fails to pull that comment up and thoroughly examine its roots.

The characters and mindsets featured here are overly flogged at this point, easily pigeonholed, and one longs to get a sampling from the ruck and everyday, where its democratically messy and---who knows?---maybe revelatory.

ci3Dilip Hiro, a writer with a well-earned reputation for evenhandedness, has written a scrupulous and discerning, vest-pocket history of Iraq, (Thunder’s Mouth) with an emphasis on the last 15 years.

Hiro does an elegant job here of situating Iraq within the political economy of the region, its recent and current role in American foreign and domestic policy, and the effects of the embargo, with its multifarious implications. This is no easy matter, for it requires Hiro to make sense of a tangle of connections, both subtle and obvious, many of them---not surprisingly, considering the degree of its involvement in the area---leading back to actions taken by the United States.

The background material becomes more detailed with the Iran-Iraq War, and then the reasons for the Gulf War and the geopolitical decision not to remove Saddam from power at that time. Hiro leads readers down the path of the sanctions: how the blame for their effects, once hoped to be laid at the doorstep of Saddam Hussein, has now shifted to the United States; how that will influence any unilateral act of war on America's part; how the shortages of medical and food supplies have hurt the Iraqi citizens, and how an embargo on news and literature have isolated the Iraq middle class and kept them out of touch with the rest of the world.

He examines the evolution of the Baath party from progressive to repressive institution, and he explains the reasons behind the conflicts of U.S. officials and the U.N. inspection teams. Hiro doesn't question that Saddam is a murderous blot on the political landscape of the Middle East, but he does question the United States' aggressive pursuit of the embargo, its activities outside the U.N. mandate, and its neoconservative agenda of "increased spending on defense under the rubric of enhancing national security"; after all, U.S. hawks have never satisfactorily established Iraq's terrorist threat, and now they are willing to openly flout international law.

In Hiro's steady and searching lights, no political interest emerges from Iraq's recent history without blood on its hands or egg on its face, and interest in the Iraqi people has simply fallen off the radar.

ci4Miles Hordern’s is a pleasant, single-handed sailing mooch across an unequalled expanse of water---New Zealand to South America, the Southern Ocean---in Sailing the Pacific (St. Martin’s).

It is a little sailboat for so formidable an ocean, a 28-footer that Hordern is remarkably unsentimental about, just as he is unspooked by the legendary weather regularly dished out in such latitudes. Not that he is smug or stupid; it's that he finds himself inextricably one of the threads woven into the history of sailing about the South Pacific---"a few of those strands are mine, bound up with Greek cosmologers, medieval mapmakers, poets, and whalers"---that his equipment is simple and efficient, that he likes what he is doing, that he trusts the auguries.

He won't ignore a storm warning, but what really raises the hair on his neck is reading that a set of reefs or shoals are doubtfully positioned on his chart, perhaps phantoms altogether, despite having been spotted numerous times, then failed to be spotted an equal number: Davis Land, Sophie Christiansen Shoal, Emily Rock.

While GPS is well and good, part of the routine he comes to relish when he gets his noon fix, he's much more impressed on how he has become a sea creature in his own right: "You have an agility, a set of physical skills, that aren't needed on land." Falling overboard during a squall is a worthy little story, but more fascinating to Hordern, in an event easy to describe, but not easy to explain, when he got to Easter Island after some serious sailing, he scooted on past. Through it all, he is a master of deadpan: "I made landfall on the coast of Chilean Patagonia in mid December, after a six-week passage."

On the return, within hailing distance of New Zealand, Hordern turned his boat around and took a course to nowhere. He confides to a friend that he thinks it was a nervous breakdown. His friend concurs. Readers, on the other hand, will be happy to spend a few more days in his company.

Rosemary Mahoney affectingly visits the ancient, humbling act of pilgrimage in The Singular Pilgrim (Houghton Mifflin).

Having witnessed pilgrims from afar, Mahoney had sensed the spiritual weight of their deed. She was awed by their faith, these vulnerable souls confronting the natural fears of uncertainty and obscurity, and felt a twinge of envy, an envy fueled by her own flirtations with belief. So she took to the pilgrim's road---6 of them, for that matter: Walsingham, Lourdes, El Camino de Santiago, Varanasi, the Holy Land, and St. Patrick's Purgatory (she notes there is a shrine to a dead outlaw where drug dealers pay homage, but she gives that one a miss)---to see if the difficulty of the journeys might be redemptive and renewing for her.

With each pilgrimage, Mahoney gains in appreciation for the process; each had its own cosmos, beginning with Walsingham, a rough start where Paisleyites hurled curses at vicars venerating the Virgin. On the long walk to Santiago, she gets a first taste of the worldly experience a pilgrimage offers, where once there were "bandits and charlatans, kooks and cheats, festivals, toll bridges, romances, sideshows."

At Varanasi, things turn more sublime---"so many people standing half naked in the river accentuated both the frailty and the grace of the human body. Their devotion refined, soft, slightly wry"---while by the Sea of Galilee she discerns the compelling nature of Jesus, his "generosity and charity, the effort to see God and bring forth the highest virtue in man." Her "little stump of reverence for the Catholic Church" is in evidence, so too her skepticism, as well as her conviction that faith requires a leap, may indeed live in that leap. Doubt, too, and risk and daring; reason could ignite faith, but trust sustained it.

Spiritual solace remains elemental, Mahoney finds, the urge for direct personal experience with the divine. She conveys a genuine sense of spiritual mindfulness on the road and there is no denying these pilgrimages paid her back in full.

ci5If the gods couldn't get enough of Sicily, figures Francine Prose, then the island ought to have plenty going for it. She's right, and she gets it right in Sicilian Odyssey (National Geographic Directions).

This latest in National Geographic's sophisticated, fleet, and intelligent series of travel writing finds Prose seeking "that Sicilian gift for extracting beauty from the harshest and most painful truths, for compelling death to admit its debt and allegiance to life, for creating an enduring---a vital and living---masterpiece," and doing a good job finding it all.

She writes with a cautious lyricism of a land where natural and manmade splendors coexist with sustained and terrible bloodshed (also of both the natural and manmade varieties), calling up a colorful, brutal history seen in a remarkably preserved Greek Temple or Roman mosaic; a giddily baroque Palermo and the stinking, fuming Gela; the sweep of ocean and hills below Erice, that severe, frosty town that suggests how "it must feel to be inside a diamond; its perfection is almost physically painful," an exquisite corpse.

Prose has a descriptive touch, whether she is summoning a ghostly Phoenician outpost, the pink and ochre palaces of Ortygia, a raw and primal fish market, the distinctiveness of the island's regional cooking despite the use of only a few, common ingredients, or the disorientation that comes when organized crime simply becomes the law.

Prose is also very good with history, and Sicily has a furious history, which she treats with a light hand for all the action and misery, with Romans being chased out by Vandals, who are in turn conquered by Ostrogoths before the island is annexed by Byzantium, only to fall to the Saracens, who built Palermo's 300 mosques and turned it into the capital of Islamic civilization, which was soon to be overwhelmed by Normans, "the Hell's Angels pf the medieval world."

Prose's stay on the island was brief but intense, sublime in its transience, always peering behind or underneath the deceptively obvious.

AGS Website Update

by David Keeling, AGS Webmaster

Almost on a weekly basis, it seems, the American Geographical Society website is revised, enhanced, and “spidered” to ensure that its content is current, interesting, and relevant (“spidering” is the process whereby a search engine robot visits a webpage, follows all the links on that page to see if the pages go where they say they go, and submits updated webpages to the search engines). As the AGS’ electronic information portal to the world, the website contains detailed information about AGS publications, the AGS travel program, and many other aspects of the organization.

Over the past 12 months, some significant enhancements have been made to the various information pages available on the AGS website. First, a complete index of every issue of FOCUS on Geography magazine published since 1950 has been created, with a table of contents that lists the title of each article. Second, a searchable index for the Geographical Review includes every issue since July 1995, along with article titles, abstracts, and some graphics. Visitors to the AGS website can search for specific information within the site by keywords using the internal search function located on the homepage or in the publications section. Third, past issues of Ubique are indexed from December 2000 onwards and are now available for review online.

Finally, a complete overhaul of the travel section has taken place. This section now provides details, along with photos, of the AGS travel itineraries for the 2003 and 2004 seasons, along with full-color brochures of the travel program and biographies of many AGS lecturers. A calendar of upcoming events for 2003 is available and online forms are available for subscriptions to the AGS publications, donations and gifts, and news from the membership. We would appreciate hearing from you with suggestions for material to add to the AGS website, with information about your own geographic activities, and for contributions to the AGS timeline and archives. You can email the AGS webmaster directly or you can submit material by mail.

The Helen and John S. Best Research Fellowships for 2004

The Helen and John S. Best Research Fellowship program is intended to help bring to the AGS Library scholars who reside beyond commuting distance of UWM, and whose research would benefit from extensive use of the AGSL. John S. Best was, for many years, a prominent Milwaukee attorney, book-collector and conservationist. The Best family members are longtime supporters of UWM and the UWM Libraries. Fellowships can last up to four weeks and provide a weekly stipend of $375.00 ($1,500 maximum) to help defray the travel and living expenses relative to the residency.

Research projects supported by the Fellowship program must fall within the wide range of subject areas that could be supported by the Library. Examples include history of cartography (including cartobibliography), history of geographic thought, discovery and exploration, historical geography, and other history themes with a significant geographical component.

The awards will be made by the UW Milwaukee Director of Libraries, based on recommendations from the AGS Library Curator and the AGSL Advisory Committee.

On the conclusion of their tenure, fellows will be expected to submit short written reports on their research and to make acknowledgment of the Fellowship program in any publication or dissertation issuing wholly or in part from the Fellowship.

Eligibility: Candidates for Fellowships are either established scholars, or doctoral students who have completed their course work and are at the stage of writing their dissertations.

To Apply: Application must be made in writing to the AGSL Curator. The application shall include 1) a two page letter describing the project to be pursued, the proposed end result of the project (publication, dissertation, etc), an explanation of how the AGS Library will be utilized in completing the project, and the number of weeks of support requested (up to 4); 2) a brief curriculum vitae; and 3) a letter of support from a reputable scholar in the field.

Timetable: Applications must be postmarked by September 15, 2003. Awards will be announced on or before October 31, 2003 for fellowships to be held between December 1, 2003 and November 30, 2004.


by Steven Cusumano, AGS Technology Manager & Controller

Technologically we have traveled a long way at AGS and still have further to go.

When the year 2000 came to a close, AGS had an assortment of separate, outdated, and extraneous computers with small hard drives prone to crashing.

Information and file transfer was dependent on time consuming and laborious downloading onto 3.5 floppy discs. Virus protection needed serious upgrading. There were several versions of different software in our computers, not necessarily compatible with each other. A painstakingly slow, costly, and outmoded dialup Internet connection was our mode of electronic communication. Better information and file backup procedures were needed, but were not practical to establish in some cases. Predictably, a loss in late 2000 of all accounting and financial information then computerized required voluminous hours of financial information reconstruction, and several financial reporting delays were inevitable.

The road traveled brings a new computing appearance at AGS.

But there was the dawn of a new horizon at the beginning of 2001. A determined upgrading program was begun to streamline and increase the efficiency of all existing equipment so that more stable and orderly administrative controls could be put in place. Our goal was to automate as much as possible of previously labor-intensive tasks so that more of our resources could be focused on our programs and so that technological mishaps that occurred in the past would be minimized in the future. Although most of the equipment looked the same externally, it hardly performed the same. All computers have been upgraded with larger, 20 to 40 GB hard drives, greater capacity RAM’s expanded to their maximum, and standardized and compatible operating software: Windows 98SE and 2000, Windows 2000 professional and XL information processing software and a new accounting and financial reporting system. But the best part is that now all of the information in any computer can be shared across our new network with a simple click of a mouse.

All that would be for naught if our system were to crash. Without adequate file management and backup procedures, a hard drive crash or a virus that invades and corrupts our operating system could wipe out all of our accomplishments. We have taken steps to help minimize these kinds of problems. Our system is protected by the latest version of Norton Antiviral Software, removing most worries of file transfer corruption or infected information being downloaded through our new (cost-saving and efficiently-speedy) DSL Internet connection and infecting all of our computers across our network. We have also instituted vastly improved backup procedures that will allow us to bring back programs and data in case of a computer crash and be up and running with minimal loss of valuable information or time.

Many provided the fuel needed for our journey.

The generosity of many helped accomplish all of this. Dr. William Doyle, in particular, contributed much of our hardware; in fact, we lovingly refer to our computers as the “Doyle boxes.” Our network printer was donated by Brian Baxter of amfAR, another not-for-profit here at 120 Wall Street. Brian, through amfAR, also donated several sorely needed legal sized file cabinets. Xerox donated other printers, a combo scanner/copier and a printer copier.

Under supervision, several of our interns carried out all of the hardware upgrades, keeping the costs down to only the cost of replacement parts. Our upgraded operating and word processing software was purchased through Computer Mentor, a San Francisco based not-for-profit computer software outlet, that receives the most current software technologies donated to them by top rate software providers such as Microsoft, Intuit, Norton and others. They then redistribute, but only to not-for-profits that meet preset donor criteria. We met those criteria set by Microsoft and purchased software and licensing at deeply (I mean VERY deeply) discounted prices.

Not only has innovation taken place at 120 Wall but also on the Internet highway. David Keeling has done a fabulous job on our website. It would be difficult to find any site on the web that looks better or is more efficient, including many commercially designed at the cost of thousands of dollars. The look, feel and content are superb, and I love to hate his trailing banners and popup dialog boxes.

ci6There is no stopping on this road.

We used to process credit card payments in several arduous steps using a separate dialup credit card terminal. No computerized record of the transaction was kept, and the entire process had to be repeated each time someone paid via a credit card. All information had to be put in manually each and every time. However, we now process credit card payments from a computer terminal directly into the account records of the member, subscriber, donor, or purchaser. All redundant information, name, address, etc. is stored and recalled each time a transaction is needed. This saves a considerable amount of inputting time and effort and is more accurate as all information is directly input at one time, and a detailed record of each member’s activity is now available.

We have come far and our members are on the journey with us.

Some of the new innovations our members will soon see are the convenience of making credit card payments directly from their computers, without the need to return any paperwork to us. On line billing will be available, for members who choose to use it. They can receive newly designed renewal forms, via E-mail and can elect to pay by credit card or simply write a check and enter their predetermined subscription renewal number on it and print or save the form for their records. They will have access to their own account information where they can see their account activity at anytime. All of this can be done conveniently from their own computers.

Flag us down; help us contact you by contacting us.

To all members, please send a message by E-mail to: myemail@amergeog.org.

This account was set up expressly to record your E-mail address. This step is extremely important and will help us organize and update our E-mail contact list. Just E-mail to us your name and address, zip code, and telephone number to insure a proper record for you. Your cooperation will help you as well as us.

Don’t junk it; donate it, and speed up our trip.

As you could imagine, all of these enhancements cost money to implement. Yet all of these advancements will save money in paper, printing, personnel time and especially postage. If you are upgrading to newer hardware and have leftover equipment, please consider giving it to AGS. We constantly need equipment to upgrade and maintain our current equipment and network. If you have a working computer, Pentium II or better, extra Simms, scanners, read/write CD hardware, software, laptops, monitors (17 inch or better), or anything else in working order, please call or contact us by E-mail and give us a description of what you have before you junk it. We may be able to use it, and you may be eligible for a tax deduction. We will also pay for the shipping. We will supply a UPS pickup tag, which will bring UPS right to your door. Or, if you would consider purchasing new equipment to donate, now is the time while prices are down. Please call, and we will happily tell you what we need most. Of course, money is always good! If you wish to give a monetary donation toward our goal, please indicate so on your check, and we will apply that gift toward our goal of better serving you, our members, and supporters-through technology.

The goal of our journey is to serve you.

It is our goal to automate and streamline our operations as much as we can. This enables us to focus our resources efficiently where they most count, on our members, and to provide a greater level of service and program development.



Note: What Steven neglects to mention is that his arrival at the American Geographical Society is what brought about the dawn of the new technological horizon here at the beginning of 2001. He has led the campaign to institute these changes, executing most of them himself and supervising the rest. Above all, he continues to educate the rest of us to change our ways and make fuller use of the tools he has created for us.

Mary Lynne Bird, Executive Director


Gratefully, Mary Lynne Bird, Executive Director

The story of the American Geographical Society cannot be truly told without recognizing those who contribute to the AGS each year, because they play a crucial role in whatever the society accomplishes.

Almost a third of AGS’s income is donated by its friends. That crucial third ensures the health of the society and the progress of its programs. The importance of their role in the life of the society cannot be overstated. We thank them for their generosity and their belief in the goals of the American Geographical Society.

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In Memoriam

AGS in the News?

Please Tell Us!

Working with a public relations consultant for the past few months, AGS has been sending press releases to more than one hundred media outlets, both national and regional, around the country.

So far, the press releases have been about articles appearing in the Geographical Review or in FOCUS on Geography, the consultant has selected as most newsworthy. Other AGS activities will be highlighted in the future.

Now we need a little help from our friends.

Without hiring a clipping service (very expensive!), there are only two ways we can judge whether or not this public relations campaign is having any impact or not: 1) If members of the press call us for further information. 2) If our friends let us know they have heard or read something about the American Geographical Society in their local media.

So, if you run across something about AGS in the news, please let us know what the story was about and where and when you encountered it. Either call (212)422-5456, email, fax to (212) 422-5480, or mail to 120 Wall St., Suite 100, New York, NY 10005.

Thank you for being our eyes and ears around the country.


by Mary Lynne Bird

On Friday May 23rd the AGS Council and Galileo Circle will visit the EROS Data Center of the U.S. Geological Survey in Sioux Falls, South Dakota for a day of private briefings on work underway at the center.

The group will have an inside look at a functioning satellite operations center and a tour of the world’s largest archive of Earth images. They will hear about such topics as the rates, causes, and consequences of land use and land cover change in parts of the United States; wildfires-predicting fire danger and monitoring post-burn recovery; the changing face of the African Sahel; geospatial data in the USGS National Map; and the aesthetic side of remote sensing.

Each year the AGS Council, accompanied by members of the Galileo Circle, visits some facility where geographers play a key role in the work of the institution and, to quote our president Jerome Dobson, “where geography is practiced as an integral part of organizational missions directly affecting science and society.”

In 2002 the Council went to Woods Hole, Massachusetts for briefings at the Oceanographic Institution and at the Marine Biological Laboratory. In previous years the Council has visited such places as the Johnson Space Center, Fort McNair-Industrial College of the Armed Forces, the Central Intelligence Agency, Environmental Systems Research Institute, Office of the Geographer in the U.S. State Department, Map & Geography Division of the Library of Congress, and the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, among others.


Please feel free to fill out the information sheet electronic or regular versions available) with your news, event notifications, and other activities of interest to the membership.

Fellows of the American Geographical Society play an important role in helping our programs succeed. Please forward news and information about your activities, plus announcements of events or conferences of interest to AGS members, to the AGS Webmaster or to the AGS Office.

Posted April 18, 2003.