There’s a new taboo subject to be added to those banned from “polite conversation.” In many circles, climate change will spark instant arguments and polarize the group that had been enjoying a casual discussion.

The problem for surveyors is, you’re a front-line witness. BBC News reported on a family that will lose its North Sea coastal home. “[It] has a great view of the water. The problem is, that view keeps getting closer,” the BBC reported. “[When the] family bought it more than 18 years ago … the survey said it was supposed to last about 150 years. Surveyors now tell [them], it’ll probably last another two years.”

Ola Rollén, president and CEO of HxGN, wasn’t afraid to wade right in and said that reversing the current trend and saving the world may be the best business opportunity of your career.

Similarly, Esri Founder Jack Dangermond doesn’t shy away from the topic. Along with famed primatologist Jane Goodall and biologist E.O. Wilson, Dangermond supported Wilson’s Half Earth approach to biodiversity saying, “There are some sections of the planet, at this particular point in time where preserves have to be created so nature can continue evolving at its own pace.”

When I asked him what role surveyors and geospatial professionals could play, he said, “We’re moving through an age where virtually everything that moves and changes will be measured,” Dangermond continued. “That’s the nature of the planet today. And there’s a very rich opportunity for professionals of all types to engage in this huge effort to systematically understand our world better. Room for surveyors, room for biologists, room for foresters who are looking at it from a conservation perspective. Young people should be encouraged to get involved and understand geography, the science of our world. And part of understanding geography is about measurement, and part of measurement is now about digital measurement, and part of digital measurement is now pipelining these measurements into this nervous system for the planet.”

Dangermond’s view is, following measurement there’s understanding. Following understanding, there can be action. He added, “We need to learn how to design using geographic knowledge as a foundation.”

Dr. Goodall put it into even more practical terms. She talked about how, mapping property, she could show tribesmen the limits to the property they owned and how the generations that would occupy that property would have ever smaller portions of that land available to sustain themselves. It’s not just the projected population but, as countries grow wealthy, they demand more meat, and that means more space for livestock. 

Dangermond added, “If we truly understand our footprint, we would change our behavior.” Surveyors and geospatial professionals can certainly join the conversation and help measure and quantify the impact we are having and the positive potential of steps to intervene and, as Dangermond would say, “design our future.”