Professors Luc Anselin and Jerome Dobson have written two excellent, thought-provoking columns, which set a standard that is hard for me to reach here. Their columns post poignant remarks on “space skepticism” and “clerks of science” and seem to paint a more pessimistic view about GIScience, geography, and/or spatial science (hereafter called GIScience). I agree wholeheartedly with the issues raised in their columns and that our field deserves much better recognition. In this column, however, I would like to inject a more optimistic perspective. I think that GIScience has indeed progressed enormously over the last 30-some years, thanks to the movers and shakers in the field. But to continue the effort in moving GIScience into mainstream science, we need to address significant societal issues using the best organizing principles and methods in GIScience.
In searching for the value of GIScience and how our field of knowledge and techniques can be used to address critical societal problems, I found what I suggested in Year 2000 is still very much valid. What I suggested was to have “sustainability” as a key theme that GIScience should embrace in working on. I argued that GIScience principles and methods are necessary in order to address sustainability effectively. GIScience is not only an “enabling” discipline, its unique ability in integrating various theories and methods into studying complex societal problems such as sustainability will and should position GIScience as a leader in this theme. I find my current research on risk, vulnerability, resilience, and hence sustainability falling into this realm. I am enjoying my research and yet am anxiously hoping that my research would yield meaningful theoretical and practical outcomes that would ultimately benefit the people and society. So I am here reinventing the Sustainability wheel.