‘Embracing ingenuity, constantly evolving’

As the National Geographic Society approaches its 135th anniversary, the CEO considers its staying power and reveals future plans.

In 1929, a team carrying a sun compass and a National Geographic Society flag soared above the Antarctic wilderness in an extraordinary scientific feat. Explorer Richard E. Byrd led the perilous first flight over the South Pole, and photographed at least 150,000 square miles of Antarctica along the way.

Nearly a century later, glaciologist and National Geographic Explorer Alison Criscitiello embarked on her own arduous journey, harnessing technology in grueling conditions to unlock secrets of the Earth’s past and insights about today’s climate challenges. She and her team ascended Canada’s highest peak and excavated an ice core containing perhaps 30,000 years of data, as part of the National Geographic and Rolex Perpetual Planet Mount Logan Expedition. The feat broke barriers for women and science: “No deep ice core … has ever been drilled anywhere near an altitude like this one,” Criscitiello says.

As the Society approaches its 135th anniversary, I’m reflecting on the matter of longevity. Decade after decade, how does National Geographic continue to push the boundaries of knowledge? I believe the key to our staying power is our ongoing commitment to tackling big challenges, harnessing the grit and vision of our Explorers, and embracing the power of human ingenuity.

Guided by the Society’s strategic plan, NG Next, here are three ways we’re moving into the future:

  • We’re investing in Explorers working to address and solve the global crises of our time, such as climate change and biodiversity loss. Several of them are featured in the January issue of National Geographic: Luján Agusti, using photojournalism to raise awareness about fragile landscapes; and James “Buddy” Powell, Erika Larsen, Jason Gulley, and Gena Steffens, using science, photography, and storytelling to seek protection for threatened manatees.
  • We’re making exploration more inclusive. We’re tapping scientists, educators, and storytellers in more than 140 countries; amplifying the voices of Explorers who are Black, Indigenous, and other people of color; and working with local communities. Half of our 2022 grants were awarded to women and more than 60 percent to recipients working outside the United States.
  • We’re making exploration more participatory, encouraging involvement from global audiences—in citizen science and journalism, live events, educational efforts, youth programs, and more.

As National Geographic greets 2023, we’re advancing science and inspiring curiosity in hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Please join us and help shape the next 135 years and beyond.

The National Geographic Society is committed to illuminating and protecting the wonder of our world. Learn more about the Society’s support of its Explorers.

This story appears in the January 2023 issue of National Geographic magazine.

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