Magazine article Insight on the News

Mapping Strategy

Magazine article Insight on the News

Mapping Strategy

Article excerpt

Location 18 Important, as any realtor win tell you. But for William B. Wood, Ute United States' chief photographer, location means global strategy.

Forget the image of geographers as fuddy-duddies concerned only about maps and the spelling of place names. For William B. Wood, director of the Office of the Geographer and Global Issues, geography means global strategy.

Wood keeps an eye on current events and emerging trends as he charts ever-changing boundaries. An employee of the State Department, he oversees daily reports for key analysts responsible for the nation's foreign policy. Currently, for example, he and his staff are working 14 hours a day tracking demographic and geopolitical changes in the Balkans brought on by the crisis in Kosovo.

The post of U.S. geographer, notes Wood, dates back to the Continental Congress, when geographers surveyed new territories for an expanding nation. The dudes of the office changed as America became more engaged with the world "and really took off after World War II" he says. Indeed, Wood is less a surveyor than an analyst concerned with matters taking place everywhere but the United States.

To that end, Wood studies international trading patterns, environmental matters, international boundary and territorial disputes, refugee flows and humanitarian issues, among other subjects. Ethnic tensions, human-rights problems, the forced displacements of people all fall under his bailiwick.

"Geographers, as opposed to cartographers, are interested in the relationships between societies and environment," says Wood. "We spend less time on natural disasters than on manmade disasters. It is the one field that actively looks at the way we perceive the world and how we interact with the world. Political scientists, by contrast, deal largely in the realm of the societal and the organizational. …

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