American Geographical Society to Award Van Cleef Memorial Medal to Dr. Edward Malecki

 The Van Cleef Memorial Medal, awarded by the American Geographical Society (AGS), is one of several prestigious honors given by the Society.  This award recognizes outstanding original work in the field of urban geography.  Dr. Edward Malecki, Professor of Geography and former Director of the Center for Urban and Regional Analysis at the Ohio State University, will receive the Medal on the 19th of November during the AGS Fall Symposium, Geography 2050:  Mounting an Exhibition to the Future, to be held at Columbia University’s Low Memorial Library.

The Van Cleef Memorial Medal was established in 1970 through a gift from Dr. Eugene Van Cleef, Professor of Geography at the Ohio State University (OSU).  Dr. Van Cleef, recognized as one of the pioneers of the study of urban geography, gave the first course in urban geography in an American University in 1923 and published the first book by an American geographer on urban themes in 1937.  The award is conferred on scholars who have done outstanding original work in the field of urban geography, preferably though not necessarily, in applied rather than theoretical aspects.  The last time the Van Cleef Memorial Medal was awarded was in 1999.  It is a fitting tribute to Dr. Van Cleef’s career that his institution continues to specialize in urban geography and host outstanding scholars, notably Dr. Malecki, who are worthy of his Medal.

Dr. Malecki spent almost forty years pursuing sustained research excellence in the study of cities and regional economic development. His research has embraced both the applied realm and the theoretical, in keeping with the intent of the tradition represented by Professor Eugene Van Cleef (also of the Ohio State University).  “World society is more urban than ever.  Thus, never before in history has the study of urban geography been more important than today,” noted Dr. Jerome “Jerry” Dobson, President of the American Geographical Society.  “Several key topics in our Symposium on the future of geography, during which Ed will receive his medal, are examples of how his research now serves as a base on which scholars and practitioners are helping to understand and plan urban centers,” added Dr. Dobson.

Professor Malecki has three degrees from The Ohio State University: B.A. in International Studies (1971); and M.A. and Ph.D. in Geography (1973 and 1975). During his career, he held positions at the University of Oklahoma, the University of Florida and OSU as Professor of Geography and Director of the Center for Urban and Regional Analysis (2001-2005). He has also held visiting positions at Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien and the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.  Professor Malecki has been recognized as the Dr. Martha L. Corry Faculty Fellow in Geography, at The Ohio State University, elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and received various Distinguished Scholarship Honors from the Association of American Geographers.  Professor Malecki is the author or co-author of five books. He has published more than 100 journal articles, more than 60 book chapters, and dozens of book reviews,

Established in 1851, the American Geographical Society (AGS) is the oldest professional geographical organization in the United States.  It is recognized world-wide as a pioneer in geographical research and education and has been awarding medals for outstanding accomplishments in Geography for over 117 years.  The mission of AGS is to advance geographic knowledge and the recognition of its importance in the contemporary world.  AGS fulfills this mission by promoting the use of geography in business, government, science, and education.  The goal is to enhance the nation’s geographic literacy so as to engender sound public policy, national security, and human well-being worldwide.  AGS stands for explicit recognition of the geo-spatial and temporal contexts that shape the real world and influence how it works.

Populations, Shifting Identity, and Well Being

The fifth pillar of Geography 2050’s agenda is Populations, Shifting Identity, and Well Being. Over the next few decades, the geography of human populations will change materially. Urbanization will continue, and the concentration of people in vulnerable coastal zones will increase. Already in 2010, 39% of the United States population lives on 10% of The U.S land area, (coastal areas) and it is expected to increase. The geography of human well-being will be re-written as health and wealth shift radically. Diseases such as Ebola have been projected to spread to new geographies and increase exponentially. Borders and sovereignty within borders will face and possibly succumb to new pressures as new social movements arise, reshaping identity. Demographics are expected to change in the world and the United States. What do you think 2050 will look like? Be part of the discussion at Geography2050.

Will Ebola follow poverty into Europe?

The most severe outbreak of Ebola is currently raging in West Africa, claiming an estimated (or underestimated) 2,630 lives and infecting at least 5,357 people as of Thursday, September 19th (WHO). Countries such as Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and now Senegal and Nigeria are having tremendous difficulty managing a disease with inadequate healthcare and welfare systems. These West African nations, in particular Guinea and Sierra Leone, are among the poorest in the world, when judging by percent living below the poverty line, GDP, HIV/AIDS prevalence, unemployment, life expectancy and infant mortality (all accessible through World Bank data). These factors have allowed a relatively containable disease to spurn out of control.

Ebola is not transmitted through the air or by water, but through contact with blood or bodily fluids (CDC). Thus, the director of the CDC, Tom Friden, has little fear of the virus’ introduction or spread in the United States. He stated in a September 2nd CDC Telebriefing, “We have helped laboratories around the U.S. become able to test for Ebola safely and accurately. That’s in place now so that testing can be done quickly. We don’t think Ebola would spread widely within the U.S. Routine health care infection control would probably prevent most transmission.”. Hospitals in the United States are adequately funded and numerous, and supplemented by a coordinated and extensive CDC, and other government agencies. The spreading of Ebola in West Africa has been so rapid due to the lack of these medical and governmental infrastructures.

For comparison I now draw to the continent of Europe, where a country like Greece has seen a painful collapse in government welfare and social programs, especially in the public healthcare sector. Under strictly imposed austerity measures, layoffs and closures of hospitals have been implemented throughout Greece in outstanding numbers. In 2013, 2,500 state hospital employees were laid off and remaining staff were given major cuts in funding making crucial hospitals provisions scarce, elongating remaining employees hours, and increasing contact with more patients. Hospital and healthcare center closures have occurred throughout the country. Marc Sprenger, the director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) was appalled visiting Greek healthcare centers in 2012, describing “I have seen places…where the financial situation did not allow even for basic requirements like gloves, gowns and alcohol wipes”. Hospitals are pressured with lack of staff as well as basic medical materials. Reuters reports “staff cuts mean as many as 90 to 100 patients a day wait in corridors with many unable to get treatment. In the chaos, some go untreated or come back again when they are far more seriously ill” (Kelland). In 2014, the Greek government announced and additional layoffs of 15,000 public sector workers, directly affecting 8,000 healthcare professionals with an undisclosed amount of hospital closures.

The collapsing healthcare system, an increase in HIV/AIDS cases over the last four years, (up 52% from 2010-2011), and the highest rate of unemployment in Europe, 27%, makes Greece fertile ground for an epidemic like Ebola to spread. Greece deals with many of the same infrastructural deficits as these West African nations collapsing under Ebola, as well as experiencing high unemployment and poverty. In addition, Greece is a central entrance point to Europe for migrants from Africa and the Middle East and the geographical factor only makes this case more troublesome. Often in areas of medical geography, diseases can be mapped by many variables. I believe Ebola has the potential to spread among impoverished nations throughout Africa, and could reach Europe’s most structurally and economically vulnerable nation.

Written by Selene Lawrence, an Undergraduate Geography student at Hunter College, City University of New York.


Kelland, Kate. “Basic Hygiene at risk in debt-stricken Greek Hospitals”. Rueters. 4. December 2012.

Win $1,000 by mapping the future in support of Geography 2050



The MapStory Foundation is proud to sponsor the Fall Symposium of the American Geographical Society – Geography 2050:  Mounting an Expedition to the Future.  They are calling it a “multi-year strategic dialog on the vital trends that will reshape our nation and our planet.”  And, this inaugural event will be hosted by Columbia University’s Earth Institute, in the historic Low Library Rotunda, on November 19th in NYC.  You can learn more about this forward looking dialog at, and you can even register and be part of it.

Most of the content within addresses the past and the present.  But, in celebration of this unique event, we at MapStory are offering a $1000 prize for whomever posts the best future oriented MapStory about how our world will change by 2050.  The use of scientifically validated data on future trends is encouraged.  Yet, the narrative elements of the story will be just as important.

While the financial incentive of the prize is notable, the winning MapStory will also be played at the Geography 2050 Fall Symposium for the thought leaders in attendance.  The content and themes of your MapStory submission do not need to adhere to those of this inaugural event, and instead can cover any trends and underlying factors that you deem to be important to the future of our planet.

To participate, just publish your MapStory and tweet it to @Geography2050 with the hasthag #MapStory2050. Deadline for submission is November 15th.