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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The chairman of the National Geographic Society said Sunday an understanding of geography is essential and he challenged University of Tennessee-Knoxville graduates to become self-taught in the field.

Gilbert M. Grosvenor told the 1,400 fall graduates at commencement that managing world resources and population are becoming very challenging problems. Earth’s population grows by 250,000 every day, he said.

“We will add another Canada to the world’s population every 100 days and another United States every three years. Unless this rate abates within a half-century, the world population will have grown to almost 10 billion people.

“Can we feed everyone, can we shelter everyone, can we sustain our environment, ” he asked. “It will be very difficult.”

An understanding of geography by everyone is essential to stewardship of resources, he said.

“I have a shameless request. I urge you to spend the next 40 to 50 years learning geography. It is the fabric around which other disciplines are interwoven.”

Referring to the football team, Grosvenor said UT-Knoxville’s geography department “is also number one in the USA.” He said the campus geography building now under construction will be one of the finest facilities for the study of geography in the United States and the world.

Grosvenor was editor of National Geographic, the society’s monthly magazine, for 10 years.