The world we have celebrated for more than 130 years is now under threat to a degree that the Society’s founders could not have imagined. When the Society was established in 1888, there were roughly 1.5 billion people on the planet. There are now over 7.6 billion people, resulting in unprecedented negative human impacts on the world’s species and ecosystems.
By some estimates, our current resource demands are already 1.5 times what the planet can provide. According to a UN forecast, by 2050 there will be an additional 2 billion people, bringing the demands on the Earth’s renewable resources to almost three times what it can sustain. As a result, we are in the process of dismantling the major ecosystems that are essential to maintaining not only the world’s human cultures, but also all life on Earth.
Achieving a planet in balance, one that provides for humanity and the untold millions of other species with which we live, will be the greatest challenge of our century.
We believe the Society can best contribute to achieving a planet in balance through the following three strategic aims:
Ultimately, all of our activities are geared toward achieving at least one of our three strategic aims.
We aspire to achieve our goals through a unique combination of strong science, exploration, education and storytelling.
Science and exploration are at our core and are our starting points, as we believe if people truly understand the natural world and its people, they will value and protect the planet and the diverse cultures that call it home.
Critical to increasing understanding of our world is effective storytelling, and we are committed to supporting a community of innovative storytellers that is helping to convey the importance of nature and culture.
We also endeavor to inspire the public by harnessing the power of our relationship with National Geographic Partners (NGP). This allows us to amplify the work of our Explorers, Impact Initiatives and Labs. We are equally committed to engaging students, Explorers and partner organizations.
In education, we focus primarily on middle school students, as they are developing a global perspective, forming their worldviews and are open to looking at the world differently. We are currently working throughout the United States and Canada, but intend to expand our programs globally. We want to help connect students with different cultures and the natural world. We want them not only to be inspired and engaged, but, ultimately, motivated to take action.
We also want to help amplify and scale the impact of the world’s best minds, those who are striving to achieve a planet in balance. We will do this by investing in the best people possible through our grants program, impact funds and global challenges as well as by providing tools, technology and training to drive innovation in key areas and to secure the natural systems essential for all life.
Finally, we will be the leaders in convening and connecting people with the wonders of our world and the human story.
The Society has a number of unique strengths when compared to similar organizations. First, we are a trusted institution with unparalleled brand recognition. Second, we have global credibility and a strong legacy in the areas of science, exploration, education and storytelling. Third, our joint venture with NGP provides us access to hundreds of millions of people around the world each month. Finally, we have a $1.2 billion endowment, with additional annual income from NGP and philanthropic partners, allowing us to truly focus on achieving impact in line with our institutional priorities.
We amplify the impact of our programs through a unique combination of media, events, experiences and the extensive NGP network, which reaches audiences all over the globe. By activating these audiences, we aim to introduce millions of people to the human experience and engage them with the wonders of the natural world, helping them to value different cultures and species and to take responsibility for maintaining a healthy planet.
Leveraging these strengths, we intend to be the foremost thought leader, convener and storyteller as well as a catalyst for innovation and impact in the cultural heritage, natural science and conservation spaces.
We’ve been making discoveries—and making an impact— for 130 years. Now you can explore this fascinating history firsthand with a new, interactive timeline that takes you behind the scenes through rare video footage, photos, artifacts, and inside stories.
Top Image: Photograph BY Pete Muller