PROGRESS IN GEOGRAPHY ›› 2013, Vol. 32 ›› Issue (7): 1006-1017.doi: 10.11820/dlkxjz.2013.07.002

• Invited Paper • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Geographies in 2050

BRUNN Stanley D.   

  1. Department of Geography, University of Kentucky, Lexington KY, 40506-0027
  • Received:2013-06-01 Revised:2013-07-01 Online:2013-07-25 Published:2013-07-25

Abstract: The "time" focus of most human and environmental geography research is on the present and past with little interest or inclination, unfortunately, in examining place, landscape and regional futures, even though space, place, region and environment are "geographical constants". This reluctance may be attributed to being unfamiliar with previous research conducted by social, cultural, political and economic geographers or an appreciation what such studies have to offer. This article seeks to fill this "gap" by informing the geography communities what geographers have done vis-à-vis the future and what they might contribute. Geographers in the early 1970s began to look at the distinguishing features of emerging postindustrial economies and societies, the advances in information and communication technologies, urban futures, a changing social order, issues of resource scarcity and environmental modification at regional and global scales. Some of these pioneering geographical futurists borrowed ideas and concepts from "geographical" science fiction writers last and this century and also from scholars in a variety of disciplines. Specific examples of these writers and scholars are discussed and listed in the bibliography as well as two major interdisciplinary journals, The Futurist(published by the World Future Society) and Future Studies. A number of forecasting methods and models have been used by futurists; these include trend extrapolation, cross-impact analysis, simulation, scenario writing and the Delphi consensus method. Each has specific advantages and disadvantages when it comes to predicting and projecting likely and alternative futures. Today future studies are gaining respect by those in the corporate, education and policy communities. Evidence is the growing interest in future studies is found in academic journals, awards and planning for worlds at 2050 and beyond. Future studies focusing on the Global South or Global North or regional economic and demographic futures or global environmental futures need to consider not only "certainties" (expected worlds), but also the worlds of "uncertainty" and the worlds of "unintended consequences". I suggest 29 specific research foci about economic, cultural, social, political and environmental topics that geographers might consider between now and 2050. Also I discuss a half-dozen topics specifically about China's economic, cultural, political and environmental futures that would appeal to members of various geographical communities; these include the greening of China, China as an emerging world power, Chinese consumer worlds and ethics, China as a global leader in innovation, demographic issues and digital divides, and emerging religious/spiritual faces and landscapes in China. I also prepared seven innovative maps for discussion and analysis: the Asianization of European worlds, future urban systems, major transcontinental transportation projects, time culture and regions, autonomous regions and new states and shifting environmental zones. I conclude by suggesting the Chinese geography community use the Delphi approach to investigate the country's economic, social and environmental futures. The findings would be invaluable in regional and national planning and provide geographers a strong role in developing and implementing humane social and environmental futures. Geographers are also advised to work with scholars in other disciplines on timely topics about national, regional and global futures.

Key words: 2050, future geography, methodologies, research topics