Climate Change and the Future of Work


On Monday afternoon, at the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation’s annual GEOINT 2022 Symposium, a group of esteemed panelists gathered at the YPG Hub to discuss community climate impact and the future of work.

Moderator Anusuya Datta, technology and innovation editor at Geospatial World, opened the session by asking Sue Pollmann, west executive at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), about the ways in which NGA helps offset their carbon footprint to make St. Louis more environmentally friendly.

“From a St. Louis standpoint, we tend to build for the long-haul…sustainability for [NGA West] has been one of our absolute objectives from the get-go,” Pollmann shared. “We’re building a facility that’s going to last.”

Pollmann described that more than one-third of their grounds will be dedicated to nurturing a prairie-like environment to prevent runoff and nurture Missouri’s native grasses and foliage. NGA West’s eco-friendly design and operational methods can be seen both outside and in.

“Our facility will be all-electric with the exception of our generator backup systems,” she said. Though moving away from natural gas and boilers was a “big step” for NGA, she noted it’s also advantageous for the taxpayer. “It’s going to pay a lot of dividends in terms of sustainability and operations and maintenance costs.”

Panelist Monica Weber, senior customer success manager at Planet Federal, went on to describe the prioritization of sustainability from the lens of the private sector. “Climate, sustainability, and being carbon neutral has really been at the heart of Planet,” Weber commented. Planet Federal made a pledge to carbon neutrality and debuted as a Public Benefit Corporation at the end of 2021 to “accelerate humanity to a more sustainable, secure, and prosperous world by illuminating environmental and social change.”

“Climate is now a part of the national defense strategy,” Weber said.

Datta turned the conversation over to Jeff Dawley, director of intelligence programs at Esri, to discuss how Esri empowers other individuals and organizations to combat the climate crisis. “Providing world-class technology is one way to do that,” Dawley explained, but believes that “influencing the non-geographic folks is the next key step.” He cited education, visualization, and being a role model for sustainable business practices as the three primary methods that Esri inspires change both inside and outside of the geospatial ecosystem.

The panel then turned to answer audience questions, one of which was: Is remote work a practice the community can adopt permanently? “Yes, it can be,” Pollmann said. “I think we have proven over two years that it can be sustained.”  She noted the increasing value of open-source intelligence (OSINT), a frequent topic of Symposium discussion in the wake of Russia invading Ukraine.

“[OSINT] has improved the products we provide to our customers,” Pollmann said.

Another question from the audience queried the intersection of future talent acquisition and climatic impact. Dawley detailed the ways in which he’s been impressed with the newest entries to workforce. “They ask about your mission statement, they ask about your core values,” he said. “I think younger generations…are trying to hold people accountable.”

Weber mentioned positive ways to familiarize new hires to the climate crisis while still keeping more seasoned members engaged. At Planet Federal, employees could take Earth Day off on the condition that they went out and gave back to their communities, like picking up litter or planting trees.

“When it comes to the next generation and recruitment, you have to make it fun,” she underscored. “Climate change can be overwhelming, so fun, different initiatives keep people engaged but also helps keep kids involved.” Such activities foster the “spirit and camaraderie” necessary to combat climate change effectively.

Through individual and organizational contributions—from planting a garden to going net zero—the geospatial community continues to rise up against the climate crisis in new and innovative ways each and every day.

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