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Geography Awareness Week: Why is Geography Useful?

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Recognizing that young Americans have a gap in their understanding of geography and their roles as global citizens, National Geographic helped create Geography Awareness Week, raising awareness to this gap in American education. Also, the hope is to excite people about geography as both a discipline and as a part of everyday life.

To celebrate Geography Awareness Week, Falvey Library and the Department of Geography and the Environment (GEV) invite you to attend this week’s geography-focused events, to check out our list of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) projects below, and to follow along with Falvey’s blogs sharing projects and discussions from GEV’s students and alumni.

Meghan Conway

Meghan Conway ’20 CLAS, Environmental, Social, and Governance Research Analyst, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe




GIS is not only useful for scientists, but is also incredibly useful for business professionals, especially in the banking, insurance, and investment worlds.

I work in the Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) space, identifying areas for corporates to enhance their ESG-related public disclosure, internal processes, and build enterprise value. And, for me and for others in my industry, GIS can be a quick risk-screening tool, without getting too much into the weeds.

Small and large companies alike may want to consider regional risks around social concerns, such as child labor and forced labor, and environmental risks, such as water quality and air pollution, both in their supply chain and closer to home. Incidents related to these topics (i.e., worker strikes, human rights violations, lack of usable water, or health problems in local communities) are not only important for the company to consider in terms of the social right to operate, but these events could materially affect business continuity and the larger supply chain.

Climate risk is seen as one of the most important considerations for a lot of corporates, especially with new regulatory obligations that require the disclosure of climate risks and opportunities (i.e., California Climate Rule, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s proposed Climate Disclosure Rule, Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive in the European Union). For this reason, many companies have started to enhance their internal governance mechanisms with respect to climate, with many of them referencing online GIS platforms to understand and sufficiently manage their risk.

In addition to this, climate justice is also seen as an important consideration for a lot of governments; with its explicit tie to the local geography, environmental justice tools have popped up at the regulatory-level and the state-level.

Below is a list of some of my favorite GIS tools to reference to quickly gauge a company’s risk in these areas; the data used for these tools is often public and downloading/piloting this data is a great way to delve a little deeper. Please note that the results given by these tools are not concrete and can only point us in the right direction; these issues are highly complex and interrelate with a variety of disciplines.

  1. Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool by the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ)
  2. EJScreen Environmental Justice Screening and Mapping Tool by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  3. CalEnviroScreen 4.0 by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (COEHHA)
  4. Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas by the World Resources Institute (WRI)
  5. Biodiversity Risk Filter by the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF)

Follow the blog and social for more Geography Awareness Week posts and events!

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Last Modified: November 14, 2023

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