It is that time of year again at RSGS, as we approach the New Year, that we take a moment to reflect on the last 12 months and everything our small charity has achieved.  

This has undoubtedly been an eventful year, and one that has been difficult for many. With life beginning to return to normal at the beginning of the year following the pandemic, many have still been trying to get back on track. We ourselves have been getting back into the swing of hosting face to face talks and coming to terms with how our audience has changed- whilst some cannot wait to get back to social events, others may never do so. Coupled with other world events, political upheavals, heightened concern around illnesses, a more dispersed workforce and now the cost of living crisis it has all meant that any return is slow and sporadic. There is clearly still a long way to go.   It has been a challenge to retain income and membership, and as costs of energy increase dramatically, the next 2-3 years are likely to remain as challenging.  However, life at the RSGS has been full, despite these frustrations. 

We launched our Future Generations Fund in the late spring, which has generated good interest, and will allow us to do more than ever for young people over the next few years, including another Young Geographer magazine. 

We returned to a full programme of face to face talks across our 13 local groups, and retained monthly online Inspiring People talks too, to ensure geographical reach, and honour those members who so enjoyed our online talks during the various lockdowns. Whilst attendances are modest compared to 2018/2019 levels, they are growing and speakers like Colin Prior certainly still drew a good crowd.     

We continued to produce quarterly editions of our magazine, focusing initially on the NHS as a thank you to their staff during the pandemic.  Other topics included population pressure, Ukrainian migration, food security, crime fiction and Colombia, again demonstrating the incredible breadth of the subject.  A big thank you to all of our contributors throughout 2022.

Throughout the year we have continued our policy work, with advisory roles in issues as diverse as agriculture, transport, poverty alleviation, university education, city and regional development and even national economic indicators.  And of course, we remain heavily involved in all things climate change.  

Most recently we ran the first of our new summits on the 10 big climate solutions that came out of the work in the dozen or so sector specific Climate Emergency Summits we’ve run over the past 3 years. Our Climate Solutions courses, is now available to 100,000 people and we are working closely with the University of Strathclyde to update it and promote it further.

We hosted our second major international online conference in March 2022, convened by RSGS with partners from the Royal Geographical Society (RGS-IBG) and the International Geographical Union (IGU) to consider how the global geographical community could influence the UN Biodiversity COP15, held in Montreal this December.  And we ran a Biodiversity conference for Perth at the end of January, to encourage the city to do more to enhance the quality of its natural environment.

Along with all the public talks, we have run around a dozen screenings of the documentary film Scotland: Our Climate Journey  across the country, distributed the Horrible Geography of Scotland and the James Croll illustrated books to schools and developed some new online Chalk Talks for school kids, to assist their learning, which in total now have more than 40,000 views. 

2022 also saw some new faces – our new President Prof Dame Anne Glover, a new Geographer Royal for Scotland in Prof Jo Sharp, and a new position of Deputy CEO in Ross McKenzie.  I am grateful to our previous President Prof Iain Stewart, and our previous Geographer Royal, Prof Charles Withers, for their contributions over the past few years.

We awarded a host of awards and medals this year, and welcomed an impressive list of new Honorary Fellows throughout the year, particularly those who have helped so much in delivering RSGS work on climate change, agriculture and education.   And I was greatly honoured to receive an Honorary Doctorate in the summer, when our work at RSGS was acknowledged by the University of Stirling.

So 2022, despite all its many challenges, has been a fairly positive year for RSGS.   Very much a year of rebuilding after Covid.  I am very grateful for the continued support of our members and volunteers, the Board, our partners and collaborators, and our corporate supporters, in particular the Open University, Ordnance Survey, Baillie Gifford, Jacobs and Zero Waste Scotland. We are also greatly indebted to the legacy gifts we have received from one or two long-standing supporters that have helped us keep afloat through this difficult period – legacies remain one of the most important income streams to charity and are likely to become more important over this next decade.  We feel a strong sense of obligation to our members, many of whom have been supporters for decades. 

This coming year, 2022, we hope things might get easier for everyone, despite fears over the cost of living crisis and long-term impacts of austerity.   We will continue to help promote geography in the school curriculum and build the community of geographers in Scotland; we expect to have a number of extra public events from the late spring; we will be working on the campaign to help Perth become a sustainable small city and for Scotland’s agriculture to be future proofed and net zero; we will be running more summits on key climate solutions; we will be internationalising and updating our climate solutions course and I hope, with your help, we will be building our Future Generations Fund and, with it, the next chapter of RSGS’s work. 

I want to take this opportunity to thank you all for your continued support, especially with such a challenging economic back drop, and we hope you will continue to be part of our work and our community throughout the years to come.

Kind regards, (Dr.) Mike Robinson, Chief Executive