Rebooting Spaceship Earth: Introducing the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS)

Case studies and presentations


Friday 24 February




Davina Jackson

Visiting Research Fellow, Goldsmiths (Computing)

University of London


Behind the post-Kyoto Protocol saga that swirls around the annual ‘conferences of the parties’ (COP) led by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the five-year reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), global science and governance organisations are pursuing a vast vision to manage our planet using ubiquitous scanning and sensing technologies enabled by satellites. Although neglected by the mainstream media so far, the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) project is now in its second decade of international funding through to 2025 and is supported by more than 200 nations and global science organisations, including the major space agencies. The project launched in 2005 (same year as Google Earth) and updates Richard Buckminster Fuller’s 1927 proposal for a ‘4D Air-Ocean World Town Plan’, which he later rebranded as ‘the World Game’ and ‘Spaceship Earth’. The GEOSS is co-ordinated by the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), a secretariat in Geneva led by American geographer Barbara Ryan, who led the American campaign which achieved free and open access to Landsat imagery.

From initial funding by UNSW and NICTA (2005–2008), Davina Jackson has investigated and evangelised the geopolitics of the world’s most ambitious intergovernmental environmental sciences schema and was lead editor for the first comprehensive ‘manifesto and snapshot report’ explaining key contributions by international researchers across many normally insular disciplines. Her GEO-sponsored report, D_City: Digital Earth | Virtual Nations | Data Cities: Global Futures for Urban Planning (Sydney: DCity, 2013) is online at For her role in editing this 172-page publication (distributed in print to 1200 delegates at two science and urban policy conferences in 2013 and 2014), Jackson recently was awarded life membership of the International Society for Digital Earth (headquartered at the Chinese Academy of Sciences). She also curated the City of Sydney Customs House exhibition Spaceship Earth: Observing Our Planet from Satellites (2014,

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