• Geography2050

Exploring Our Future in an Urbanized World

November 19-20, 2015 · New York City

An Event of the American Geographical Society

Hosted by the Earth Institute, Columbia University

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Exploring Our Future in an Urbanized World

In 2014, AGS mounted an “Expedition to the Future”, and a topic that prominently recurred through much of the dialog was “urbanization.” An ever increasing proportion of the world’s population will dwell in urban areas by 2050, even as the world’s total population swells by billions. The geographies of our urban habitats are poised to change radically by 2050, and the implications of this for local, regional, and global decision makers are significant and paramount to our well-being. The spatial-temporal processes and patterns that will reshape our cities – and the rest of the planet - are many and interrelated, and will manifest differently in different places over time. In short, there is no single “urban habitat” and it is imperative that we, as a global society, understand the variety and interconnectedness of the world’s towns, cities and mega-cities as they evolve by 2050

The AGS Fall Symposium brings together leaders in business, government, science, and education that might not otherwise have the opportunity to interact, and provide opportunities for discussion, debate, and collaboration to further the understanding of the future of our cities.

Speakers & Presenters

Get to know the Speakers of this year's Geography 2050

Click on the speaker's photo to check out their bio.

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Dr. Lee Schwartz

Chief of Staff at U.S. Army Strategic Studies Group

Dr. Lee Schwartz is the Geographer of the Department of State and the Director of its Office of the Geographer and Global Issues in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Schwartz is the Department’s 9th Geographer, a position that was established in 1921 and that, according to federal regulations, is responsible for providing guidance to all federal agencies on questions of international boundaries and sovereignty claims. Previously, he held positions in the State Department as Division Chief for Global Issues and for United Nations and Humanitarian Concerns. Prior to joining the Office of The Geographer, Dr. Schwartz was a member of the faculty of The American University’s School of International Service.

Prof. Marie Daly Price

Professor, George Washington University

Dr. Price is a Professor of Geography and International Affairs at the George Washington University where she has taught since 1990. A Latin American and migration specialist, her studies have explored human migration, natural resource use, environmental conservation, and regional development. She is a non-resident fellow of the Migration Policy Institute, a non-partisan think tank that focuses on immigration issues based in Washington, DC. Her publications include the co-authored book Migrants’ Inclusion in Cities: Innovative Urban Policies and Practices (2013, United Nations) that was a collaborative project with staff from UNESCO and UN-Habitat, a co-edited book Migrants to the Metropolis: The Rise of Immigrant Gateway Cities (2008, Syracuse University Press), and the co-authored textbooks Diversity Amid Globalization: World Regions, Environment and Development, 5th edition (2011, Pearson) and Globalization and Diversity: Geography of a Changing World, 4th edition (2013, Pearson). She has also published some 40 refereed articles and book chapters.

Dr. Antoinette Winkler-Prins

Director for Environmental Programs, Johns Hopkins University

Dr. WinklerPrins is the Director for Environmental Programs at the Johns Hopkins University Krieger School of Arts and Sciences Advanced Academic Programs. She also holds an appointment in the JHU Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and remains an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Geography at Michigan State University where she was on the faculty for 13 years. She recently served a three-year term as a Program Officer in the Geography and Spatial Sciences Program of the National Science Foundation. Originally from the Netherlands, Dr. WinklerPrins has lived and worked in a number of places around the world. Trained as a people-environment geographer, her research focus has been on agricultural livelihoods and soils, environmental knowledge, and urban agriculture, especially in tropical locations. She has published in a wide variety of outlets and continues to conduct research with projects in Mexico and the Brazilian Amazon.

Colonel Patrick J. Mahaney, Jr.

Chief of Staff at U.S. Army Strategic Studies Group

Colonel Patrick J. Mahaney, Jr. is an Army Special Forces Officer currently serving as Chief of Staff of the Chief of Staff of the Army's Strategic Studies Group. He most recently served as a Military Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He commanded the Asymmetric Warfare Group, where he was responsible for global support in countering asymmetric and irregular threats. He also commanded a Special Forces battalion and a Special Operations Task Force in Afghanistan. Colonel Mahaney has served in the 7th Special Forces Group, Joint Special Operations Command, the Special Warfare Center and School, the Combined Forces Special Operations Component Command-Afghanistan, and in a range of combat and operational assignments. Colonel Mahaney holds a B.A. from New York University, and Masters degrees from Columbia University and the University of Perugia. He is a graduate of the Army War College's Fellowship in Italy.

Prof. Dickson Despommier


Prof. Dickson D. Despommier is an emeritus professor of microbiology and Public Health at Columbia University. From 1971-2009, he conducted research on intracellular parasitism and taught courses on Parasitic Diseases, Medical Ecology and Ecology. In recent years, Despommier has received considerable media coverage for his ideas on vertical farming. He developed his concept of vertical farming over a 10-year period with graduate students in a medical ecology class beginning in 1999, with work continued by Ontarian eco-architects like Gordon Graff from the University of Waterloo's School of Architecture.

Dr. Audrey Singer


Audrey Singer is a senior fellow at the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program. Her areas of expertise include demography, international migration, U.S. immigration policy, and urban and metropolitan change. She has written extensively on U.S. immigration trends, including immigrant integration, undocumented migration, naturalization and citizenship, and the changing racial and ethnic composition of the United States. Prior to joining Brookings, Singer was an associate in the International Migration Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Prior to Carnegie, she held a faculty position in the Department of Demography at Georgetown University, and was a demographic analyst at the U.S. Department of Labor. She was chair of the International Migration Section of the American Sociological Association in 2010. Singer earned a Ph.D. in sociology, with a specialization in demography, from the University of Texas at Austin. She has an M.A. in sociology also from the University of Texas at Austin and a B.A. in sociology from Temple University. She conducted postdoctoral research at the University of Chicago.

Mr. Christopher Curry

Senior Executive Vice President for Development, The Howard Hughes Corporation

Christopher J. Curry is Senior Executive Vice President, Development for The Howard Hughes Corporation reporting to Grant Herlitz. Previously, Mr. Curry established TPMC’s California office, as its President and led TPMC’s real estate development business. Mr. Curry has over 20 years of commercial real estate development experience. Mr. Curry served as Vice President of Development for Forest City Commercial Development. While with Forest City, Mr. Curry supported over 10 million square feet of proposed mixed-use development projects in California and Texas. Previously, Mr. Curry was Vice President of Development for Westfield Corporation, where he was responsible for redeveloping regional malls in the Western U.S. Mr. Curry was Vice President of Real Estate and Business Development for The Sports Club Company. Mr. Curry received his M.B.A. in Finance from New York University and earned a B.S. in Business Administration from California State University, Northridge. He is a licensed real estate broker in California, a member of the International Council of Shopping Centers, a full member of the Urban Land Institute and is currently serving on the ULI Council for Commercial & Retail Development (Gold). Mr. Curry also serves on the Executive Committee for the Lusk Center for Real Estate at the University of Southern California.

Dr. Robert S. Chen

Director, Center for International Earth Science Information Network

Dr. Chen is director of the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN), a part of the Earth Institute at Columbia University in New York. He also manages the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), a unique source of interdisciplinary, open access geospatial data and information focused on human-environment interactions. He recently served on the United Nations Independent Expert Advisory Group on the Data Revolution for Sustainable Development, and helped to develop the innovative immersive exhibit, Connected Worlds, at the New York Hall of Science. He received his PhD in Geography from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and holds Masters degrees in Technology and Policy and in Meteorology and Physical Oceanography from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His undergraduate degree was in Earth and Planetary Sciences at MIT.

Ms. Claudia Juech

Associate Vice President, Strategic Research,  Rockefeller Foundation

Claudia Juech is associate vice president and managing director for Strategic Research at The Rockefeller Foundation. She joined The Rockefeller Foundation in 2007 and currently leads the work to maximize insight—both internally and externally—from the various channels the Foundation uses to learn about new ideas. To do so, Ms. Juech manages a sub-portfolio of work including programming for the Foundation’s Bellagio Center and leading the Strategic Research team, a strategic function that aims to identify and assess the impact potential of intervention opportunities across all four of the Foundation’s thematic priority areas. She established and oversees the Foundation’s horizon scanning activities to inform foundation-level strategy and areas of programmatic work on an on-going basis, and created a global “Searchlight” network of trend monitoring grantees as input into the idea generation processes at the Foundation. Prior to joining The Rockefeller Foundation, Ms. Juech was a vice president at DB Research, Deutsche Bank’s think tank for trends in business, society, and the financial markets. Reporting to Deutsche Bank Group’s chief economist, she provided decision-making support on a broad range of economic, political, and sector specific topics, as well as trends in the areas of education, demographics, health, and consumer behavior. Ms. Juech has a degree in Information Science from Cologne University of Applied Sciences and an International MBA from the University of Cologne. She resides in New York City.

Dr. Jeffrey Sachs

Director, Earth Institute

Jeffrey D. Sachs is the Director of The Earth Institute, Quetelet Professor of Sustainable Development, and Professor of Health Policy and Management at Columbia University. He is Special Advisor to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the Millennium Development Goals, having held the same position under former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. He is Director of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network. He is co-founder and Chief Strategist of Millennium Promise Alliance, and is director of the Millennium Villages Project. Sachs is also one of the Secretary-General’s MDG Advocates, and a Commissioner of the ITU/UNESCO Broadband Commission for Development. He has authored three New York Times bestsellers in the past seven years: The End of Poverty (2005), Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet (2008), and The Price of Civilization (2011). His most recent books are To Move the World: JFK’s Quest for Peace (2013) and The Age of Sustainable Development (2015).

Lawrie Jordan

Director of Imagery, ESRI

Lawrie Jordan is Director of Imagery for Esri, as well as Special Assistant to Esri founder and President, Jack Dangermond. In this capacity, Jordan serves as an advocate for the success of users through the application of all forms of imagery within the GIS enterprise, including environmental, civil, defense and intelligence community solutions. Mr. Jordan has over 35 years of experience as a leader in the field of image processing and remote sensing, including a long standing strategic partnership with Esri. He has been an advisor to numerous government organizations on current and future trends involving imagery and satellite programs.  His background education is in Landscape Architecture, with degrees from The University of Georgia and Harvard University.

Dr. Melinda Laituri


Dr. Melinda Laituri received her PhD from the University of Arizona, Tucson in geography. Her dissertation research focused on environmental equity and groundwater resources in the American Southwest and the US-Mexico border. She holds a masters degree are in Hydrology and undergraduate degree in Geography . Dr. Laituri accepted a post doc at the University of Auckland, New Zealand where she then served as a lecturer in geography . She is a Fulbright Scholar and spent 2010 in Botswana working on indigenous knowledge and scientific innovation, and she conducted comparative research of major rivers as a Rachel Carson Fellow in Munich, Germany. Dr. Laituri is the Director of the Geospatial Centroid at CSU (gis.colostate.edu) that provides information and support for geographic information systems (GIS) activities, education, and outreach at CSU and in Colorado. She has worked with indigenous peoples throughout the world on issues related to natural resource management, disaster adaptation, and water resource issues using GIS that utilize cultural and eco-physical data in research models. A key focus is participatory GIS where indigenous peoples develop spatial information and maps essential for their management of their own resources. Dr. Laituri’s other research work focuses on the role of the Internet and geospatial technologies of disaster management and cross-cultural environmental histories of river basin management.

Ms. Nisha Agarwal

Commissioner, NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs

Agarwal is a lawyer with a long public service record. She recently established the Immigrant Justice Corps, which is a nonprofit that recruits and partners recent law school graduates with nonprofit legal services providers to offer legal representation to undocumented immigrants. She has also served at the advocacy organization Center for Popular Democracy where she coordinated work on immigrant civil rights policy including campaigns related to immigration enforcement and integration, community policing, health disparities and a range of other issues. Before joining CPD Agarwal was director of the Health Justice Program at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, a nonprofit civil rights legal organization in New York City. She is now the Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs under NYC Mayor DeBlasio.

Partners & Sponsors

Symposium Partners

Our Sponsors

Participation Opportunities

AGS is currently seeking sponsors and underwriters to help support the 2015 Fall Symposium

Call for Paper and Ignite Proposals

On behalf of the American Geographical Society, the 2015 Fall Symposium Program Committee is sponsoring a Call for Paper and Ignite Sessions relating to “Exploring Our Future in an Urbanized World”. The Fall Symposium will be held at Columbia University in New York City, 19 – 20 November 2015.


  • Migration, Immigration, and Resettlement - how the movement of peoples will reshape the geography of our cities.

  • The Future of Urban Infrastructure Investment – how new physical and digital infrastructures will reshape urban geography and connections between cities

  • Smart Cities, Urban Sensor Webs, and Robotics – how technology will remake future urban landscapes and employment and what it means to be human

  • Secondary Cities Shaping the World’s Urban Future – how the rapid growth and development of thousands of secondary cities in the global south will dominate urbanization over the next several decades

  • Cities at Risk of Disaster – the future geography of urban vulnerability to natural, technological, and health hazards on a changing planet, and approaches to building resilience

  • Cities and the Future Geography of Economic Innovation – how organizations and innovators will impact the sustainable development of cities and megacities

  • Marginalization and Integration – the geography of identity and inequality in future urban habitats

  • Urban Communities, Safety, and Health – how place-based investment, governance, and community participation will shape the urban geography of human security and public health

  • Urban Culture, Attitudes, and Demography – how demographic and social trends, coupled with economic and technological change, may lead to new approaches to urban life and sustainability


  • 1 June 2015 Deadline for Early proposals of paper and ignite sessions
  • 12 May – 14 June 2015 Review of proposals
  • 15 June 2015 Notification of acceptance/rejection of proposals
  • 2 November 2015 Deadline for final presentations to be received by AGS
  • 19 November 2015 Paper and ignite talks at Symposium


By 1 June 2015, authors should submit a one to two page proposal for their paper or Ignite Session including the title, suggested track, a short description of the topic(s) to be addressed, and the approach that will be taken. Proposals, along with authors’ contact information, should be submitted via e-mail to AGS at symproposals@americangeo.org. Please put "Symposium Proposal" in the subject line. For more information on Paper and Ignite Talk Proposals, please contact: submissions@geography2050.org

-> Click here for more information

2014 Fall Symposium Recap

Geography 2050: Mounting an Expedition to the Future

The American Geographical Society, an organization with a 163 year history of geographic exploration, recently mounted a new expedition: An “Expedition to the Future.” The Geography2050 conference, held on November 19, 2014, by the AGS and the Earth Institute of Columbia University, provided a unique glimpse forward at the Earth and its inhabitants in the year 2050. Many “geo” conferences stress that “geography matters,” but Geography2050 offered details on why and how for a prestigious group of industry, government and academic geographers, and interested citizens. Read more...

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Read Geography 2050: Mounting an expedition to the Future article

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Event Details

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Low Memorial Library and Roone Arledge Auditorium - Lerner Hall

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116th Street and Broadway, New York City

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Rates & Registration

All registrations include 2 breakfasts, 2 lunches, all breaks, Closing Reception, Symposium Proceedings, and Symposium materials.
    • Early

    • until 2 October

      • $400 AGS Business Professional Affiliate*
      • $190 AGS Academic/Not-for-Profit/Government Professional Affiliate*
      • $200 AGS Business Fellows*
      • $95 AGS Academic/Not-for-Profit/Government Fellows*
      • $95 AGS Galileo Circle Affiliate*
      • $190 AGS Retiree/Student Affiliate*
      • $600 Non AGS Affiliate Business**
      • $300 Non AGS Affiliate Academic/Not-For-Profit/Government**
      • $250 Non AGS Affiliate Retiree/Student**
      • $2,000 Friend of the Symposium**
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    • Regular

    • 3 October - 18 November

      • $450 AGS Business Professional Affiliate*
      • $210 AGS Academic/Not-for-Profit/Government Professional Affiliate*
      • $220 AGS Business Fellows*
      • $105 AGS Academic/Not-for-Profit/Government Fellows*
      • $105 AGS Galileo Circle Affiliate*
      • $210 AGS Retiree/Student Affiliate*
      • $650 Non AGS Affiliate Business**
      • $330 Non AGS Affiliate Academic/Not-For-Profit/Government**
      • $275 Non AGS Affiliate Retiree/Student**
      • $2,000 Friend of the Symposium**
    • Not Available
    • At Door

    • 19 November - 20 November

      • $500 AGS Business Professional Affiliate*
      • $230 AGS Academic/Not-for-Profit/Government Professional Affiliate*
      • $240 AGS Business Fellows*
      • $115 AGS Academic/Not-for-Profit/Government Fellows*
      • $115 AGS Galileo Circle Affiliate*
      • $230 AGS Retiree/Student Affiliate*
      • $700 Non AGS Affiliate Business**
      • $370 Non AGS Affiliate Academic/Not-For-Profit/Government**
      • $300 Non AGS Affiliate Retiree/Student**
      • $2,000 Friend of the Symposium**
    • Not Available

*If you are currently not a member, you can register as a member now and receive the member rate. Sign up here.

**For those who select this premier registration, your organization will be acknowledged as a friend and participant of this strategic dialog.