INTERGEO = Our Future

In the lyrics from the song, Rocky Mountain High, John Denver sings about “coming home to a place I’d never been before.” I never cared for John Denver’s music, but that particular line resonated with me after the first day of attending the INTERGEO 2012 conference, the second week of October in Hannover, Germany.

It’s the world’s biggest geo-everything conference, in the world’s biggest convention center. It focuses on all aspects of expert positioning technology, targeted for positioning professionals, i.e., surveyors. I had stepped into a parallel universe where surveyors owned GIS, as I imagined it would be when I began my career 40 years ago. Way back then, I was sure that my college education, combined with a love of surveying developed through summers of mining claim stakeouts, would be a natural fit with the then-emerging field of GIS. But in this country surveying and GIS were born, and largely exist, on different sides of the tracks. As a result I’ve always been something of an oddball in the surveying world because my professional focus has been on spatial database structure and management.

So, it was with no small amount of amazement that at INTERGEO I saw surveyors sitting on and chairing discussion panels with national-level policy makers who understood the value of accurate, authoritative geopositioning. Seeing surveyors as respected data collection and data management professionals within commercial, academic, and political arenas was a mind-blower. These issues, and a more complete review of INTERGEO 2012, will be presented in a future article.

Back to John Denver … and the dynamics of change. In the 1960s, Colorado was being discovered by a new batch of immigrants: nature lovers who were more in love with the idea of immersing themselves in what they saw as a beautiful, back-to-the-simple-life environment. They bought land cheaply in locations like Aspen. My dad said that the first high-country winter would drive them off. But the “flatlanders” stayed and eventually brought with them all the urban blight that they wished to leave behind. “More people, more scars upon the land,” as Denver would woefully croon … never mind the fact that he was a transplant himself. When he tore down some of his precious trees at his Aspen home to bury a 4,000-gallon gas tank for his Porsche during the 1973 gasoline crisis, I was sure that His Rocky Mountain Highness was about to be dethroned. Instead, most of the Aspen locals rallied around John Denver, realizing for better or worse that their future was inextricably bound to the new lifestyle he and other wealthy newcomers had brought with them.

Change is a constant in our lives, whether we like it or not. Our challenge is to leverage the positive characteristics of change in our professional space, while working continuously to mitigate its negative aspects. As stated by the president of the German Society for Geodesy, Geoinformation, and Land Management, geoexpertise is required for all mega technologies. The efficient use of energy, security, property management, and many other life-essential technologies depends on reliable and accurate geodata. As a result, our involvement will no longer end at the field data collection task; we’ll have the charge to help deploy and manage geodata throughout all of a project’s lifecycle phases. And these responsibilities will require additional skills and education. INTERGEO offers a vision of what surveying should become in our country. We can either continue to bury our heads in the sand or be a part of it.
I’m looking forward to all this. I may still get that chance to be at home in my own country with my chosen profession.

~Rudy Stricklan, RLS, GISP

» Back to our November 2012 Issue

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