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AAG President Sheryl Luzzadder-Beach

The AAG election season is underway! This week, AAG members around the globe received email links to log on and vote for 2019-2020 AAG officers and committee members. Balloting is open from 30 January to 21 February, so please remember to take a few minutes to dig out that email, vote, and be heard! I thank the AAG nominating committee for providing us with a highly distinguished slate of candidates, and I especially thank the candidates for their willingness to stand for office and their commitment to serve the AAG should they be elected. So now it is up to you, fellow AAG members, to get out and vote to select the future leaders of our association!

Borderline Insanity: The Threat from the North

The record-breaking 35-day U.S. Government partial shutdown was finally suspended on 25 January, until 15 February 2018 for negations on border security. I hope that the White House can come to an agreement with our Congress on how best to ensure our security, avoid another partial government shutdown, and treat those seeking refuge humanely and with dignity. I truly hope that government workers, including thousands of professional geographers, are never used as political hostages again. On a related front, four women who are members of a humanitarian group whose intent is to save lives of asylum seekers lost in the desert with no water, where hundreds have already died, have been convicted on 18 January 2018 of entering a protected federal refuge in Arizona and leaving behind food and water jugs. AAG and APCG have been closely following the situation for a humanitarian geographer also caught up in this sweep, and for our colleague’s sake we have been careful to not interfere with the case until action is requested. Individuals have been staying in contact, and have contributed to a defense fund. More volunteers go on trial this spring.

Chicago (polar vortex), Australia (summer fires)
Chicago (polar vortex), Australia (fires)

Our nation’s attention was diverted from immigration issues and the potential for a border wall on the U.S.-Mexico border this past week, to a more serious and dangerous threat streaming across the northern border of the U.S. This threat took the lives of at least 21 people, and made no distinction between college students, package delivery workers, jail inmates, and homeless people. The threat was the Polar Vortex, and it unleashed record-breaking cold on about 70 percent of the U.S. population this past week. The White House response was to tweet about the record cold and ask essentially, “what the (heck) is going on with global waming (sic)? Please come back fast, we need you.” We need not look too far to find it … for at the very same time, the White House forgets that it is summer in the Southern Hemisphere, where in parallel, extreme heat fanned wildfires in Australia. Of course, with a flat earth, one never worries about the other side. What the White House does not care to understand is that Polar Vortex disruption can be connected to atmospheric carbon imbalances, and global warming splitting the polar jets (read more at PBS.org). NOAA also explained it elegantly. The White House’s purposeful mischaracterization of how the atmosphere works feeds the flames of climate denial, and puts our citizens, economy, and environment in physical danger. We geographers need to continue to communicate climate change science to the general public and to policy makers because it is every global citizen’s right to benefit from scientific knowledge. We must also continue our research to understand and communicate the teleconnections of global warming, atmospheric circulation, and extreme weather events, and to protect that right to conduct our scientific inquiry.

Closing Thoughts: Looking Forward to Annual Meeting in Washington DC in April!

Cherry BlossomsAs I noted in my first presidential column, imagine what 12,000-plus geographers can do together to make a better world. We will be meeting in just two months in Washington, D.C. to share our ideas and to make a difference with Geography! Although the call for AAG annual meeting paper sessions and individual paper and poster abstracts is now closed, participants may still edit their entries until 23 February 2019. Poster session organizing is open until 14 February 2019. The annual meeting schedule is now posted so you can make your travel plans accordingly. In addition to the opportunity to share your exciting geography research at paper and poster sessions, AAG is planning many special events for the 2019 Annual Meeting.

I am very happy to announce the full slate of our presidential plenary panel who will join me to kick off the AAG meetings on 3 April 2019: Dr. Douglas Richardson (AAG Executive Director); Dr. Mei-Po Kwan (U. Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Geography Professor), Dr. John McNeill (University Professor of History, Georgetown U.; American Historical Association President), Dr. Heather Viles (Oxford University Geography Head and Professor), and Dr. Rita Colwell (University of Maryland College Park Distinguished University Professor, Cell Biology and Public Health).

Doug Richardson, Sheryl Luzzadder-Beach, Rita Colwell, Mei-Po Kwan, Heather VilesPlease do plan to join us at 6:20 pm on 3 April 2019 to hear opening remarks from AAG Executive Director Dr. Douglas Richardson. This will be an historic moment you will not want to miss, as it will be Doug’s last opening session welcome before he retires from the directorship in early 2020. We thank and congratulate him for his dedication and leadership!

Next, you will hear from our distinguished panelists. These eminent scholars in Human Geography and Physical Geography, Environmental History, and Biological Sciences will address the intersection of their research and the themes of our meeting: “Geography, Environmental Science, Human Health, and Human Rights.”

We will conclude our opening session by recognizing our 2019 Honorary Geographer Dr. Rita Colwell, who will also address the audience as a distinguished panelist.

Other special events during the annual meeting will include a keynote address by former U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. (April 4), and on 5 April we will honor The Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden with the AAG Atlas Award, followed by her keynote address.

It will be my deepest honor to welcome all of you in Washington, D.C. in April, just in time for the cherry blossoms.

Until then I wish you a warm and cozy Groundhog Day weekend!

— Sheryl Luzzadder-Beach
President, American Association of Geographers
Professor of Geography and Fellow of the C.B. Smith Sr. Centennial Chair in U.S. Mexico Relations, University of Texas at Austin

Please share your ideas with me at: slbeach(at)austin(dot)utexas(dot)edu

To register for the annual meeting, click here.

DOI: 10.14433/2017.0051