Science, technology and the crisis of geography

 

Written by Wanderley Messias da Costa

Translated by Paola Verri de Santana

 

Resumo:

Este artigo tem como objetivo discutir a crise da geografia e sua relação com o desenvolvimento das ciências, sobretudo a chamada hard science.  Nesse sentido, a análise tem como base o surgimento de novas técnicas e tecnologias, aliado ao acesso digital a uma série de informações geográficas.  Isso de certo modo tem diminuído o campo de trabalho do geógrafo. Assim, a geografia deve acompanhar o desenvolvimento das ciências para manter-se como campo de conhecimento autônomo e legitimado socialmente.

 

Abstract

This article discusses the crisis of geography and its relationship with the development of sciences, especially the so-called hard science. Its analysis is based on the emergence of new techniques and technologies, combined with the access to a series of digital geographic information. In this sense, geographers have seen their work field being reduced. Therefore, geography has to follow the development of other sciences to keep itself as an autonomous and socially legitimated field of knowledge.

Key words: Science, technology, crisis of geography

The crisis of social sciences and of geography, in particular, is worldwide.  In Brazil, it has become extremely sharp.  We do not intend to analyze their deeper causes, those related to the ontological and epistemological fundamentals of the discourse that has been elaborated in this field of knowledge.  We should only like to mention that we are faced with a rapid dissolution of the core of certain processes which have been referred to and claimed as the legitimate object of theoretical reflection in geography in recent years.

Not because the empirical objects, which give them material substances and diverse forms, have disappeared suddenly.  They develop still by relatively known patterns and remain, in their majority, where they always have been, even though bearing evident changes, new meanings and new functions.  During the last years, what is being lost is the univocal relation between the knowledge produced by empirical research and theoretical reflection and the objects that give them substance.  Would it be an identity crisis among geography thinkers and “their traditional and particular world”, which has been reflected in their ideas and representations for more than a century?

This paper intends to examine some aspects of this crisis which have not been enough investigated yet, - and that may, from our point of view, contribute to the efforts of evaluation and possible proposals for overcoming this state of things. It focuses, in broad strokes, on the nature and kind of scientific knowledge, that has been produced by geography during the last years, vis-à-vis the advance of science and technology, in the so-called hard science in Brazil and in the world.

The starting point of this analysis is that geography as a whole has become disconnected, at some point in its recent evolution, from what has been developed in experimental basic sciences and their unlimited technological applications, mainly related with discovery, development and innovation fields and, in particular, with generation and use of banal and complex information indispensable to scientific activities, advanced productive systems, enterprise management, formulation management of public policies, and so forth.  This process is even more visible at the most active core of nowadays experimental science, specially at the vast field of life sciences (biotechnology), whose impressive achievements have been a surprise even to their main actors, and offer some lessons that should be learned by those who produce scientific knowledge today. 

This technical-scientific revolution (not the post second world war, but the 21st Century one) has at least two landmarks.  On the one hand, there is the tendency to cooperative work involving diverse institutions, many researchers and high public investments (the thematic networks). On the other side, there is an enormous increase in mechanization of the advanced research activities. The intensive use of  infrastructure of laboratories nowadays reveals such process, involving last generation equipment, capable of running  several tests, with speed and efficiency unthinkable of a few years ago.  As far as  technologies of production, management, and use of specialized informational systems are concerned, for instance, the increasing growth of storage capability in data bases (including the geo-referenced ones), and the available ways to share it, constitute revolutionary advances in the performance of researching centers, enterprises and the technical apparatus of the State. The combination of physical capability and accessibility of information storage and circulation has trivialized ,in many cases, what used to be one of the assets of scientific research in its classic academic form, where the detention of specialized knowledge (or of technical information related to a sector) by an individual or a groups has constituted an undeniable competitive advantage till recently, capable of giving strategic position to individuals, groups and researching institutions.

This vertiginous and uncontrolled electronic “socialization”, in a global scale, of the technical information and the accumulated scientific knowledge (and also of the one being produced) promoted the collapse of a relevant part of the private and group knowledge monopolies.  This, in turn, has also made commonplace one of the centenary pillars of the geographer’s work, when it provides a fast opening of the restricted (or semi-restricted) access academic “files” about  the geopolitical, geo-strategic, geo-economical, bio-geographical, cartographic, etc aspects of  places,  regions and countries,  as well as of territorial processes, structures and configurations. Even if the dissemination of the mastering of methods and theories (that gives scientific meaning and coherence to this set of fragmented information and knowledge) has not happened (yet), the fact is that the technological revolution in process, while making banal the information and the techniques, has maltreated and weakened the citadels of the old, the new, and even the very new  geography. It refers to a very strong movement, which works from the outside to the inside of the research strongholds , demonstrating the ability to pull apart the whole traditional academic system of  geography and other disciplines, which took hundreds of years to be constructed.

The Geographical Information Systems (GIS) in their huge corollary of connected technologies (in fact,  powerful resources of data, representation, and analysis accumulation), like the ever more sophisticated digital thematic cartography, for instance, spread out very rapidly to the technical tools of research and management centers (public and private ).  Nowadays their applications go  far beyond  the traditional and  established academic environments, like the geography departments in the  universities.  A glance at  the recent publications specialized in this field of studies (from the United States of America and Europe, mainly), shows this technology being employed in a segmented way, in respect to  themes, possible uses and interested public.  In fact, we are dealing with a formidable tool widely used today by sectors that till recently ignored technical forms of making instrumental a knowledge kept for decades as one of the most precious (and typical?) kinds of knowledge, language and techniques of representation  of the  geographers and cartographers since the old days.

Many of us did not know it was there, in strategic domination of these techniques, and of the  knowledge they contained and were able to generate, accumulate and disseminate, one of the most important forms of scientific and, above all, social and political legitimization of the geographers’ work.  The speed attained by dissemination and the multiple uses of these technologies exploded over the geography centers, and is rapidly converting them from producers into one of their  users.  A prosaic symptom of such change is that less people (generally students, researchers, institutions, enterprises or governments) have looked for  the geographers (and their traditional academic spaces) to get information about what they think constitutes the collection of “geographical information” related to a theme, a problem or a country, region or place.

This is only one aspect  of the problem.  There are  others identically important.  In this dissolution process, the technical authority and its diverse applications were not the only things lost, but also something less tangible and extremely relevant .  That is the vanguard and the control of the very  process of technological innovation in this field.  It might be the most serious evidence of the crisis geography has been going through at this time.

Therein lies one of the contradictions  in our intellectual production today: as the critical discourse of geography progresses and becomes consolidated  (centered on determinant processes, related to fast changes of a globalized and unequal world, integrating gradually to the analysis new themes of study and concepts like technical-scientific revolution, networks, vectors, informational capital, inequality, social exclusion, social justice, struggle for land, etc, from which diverse theories and political engagement derive), the material and substantive basis of this knowledge becomes distant from sciences and advanced technologies that have been practiced today in the world and in Brazil particularly.  Nowadays, the serious crisis of physical geography - a process that coincides  with the critical renovation since the late 70s - may constitute the most emblematic manifestation of this process, since it was exactly  in this field that our discipline used to keep its most solid and updated connections with the experimental sciences. Furthermore, stepping aside of the leading edge of technological innovation in the generation, management, circulation and analysis of the empiric-informational basis  of places, productive systems, social-cultural movements and national strategies, geography takes the risk of  becoming subordinate to other sciences[1].

Remaining distant (or allowing itself to be kept distant ) from this movement,  geography also becomes unable to lead the new technical manner of planning and operating territorial public policies in all federal scales, integrate the results of scientific research from diverse fields,  identify and explain new social-spatial processes and new territorial configurations, among other contemporary challenges.  Giving in to isolationism, with the pretext of generic criticism, and discussing about the technical-scientific revolution without dominating, producing and leading it, geography could have its importance rapidly reduced as an autonomous and legitimate scientific field.

In this sense, it is urgent to evaluate critically whether substantial part of the knowledge that we are generating and transmitting to educational system and out of it, as well as disseminating in our didactic texts, for instance, is not very close to what is available today in more simple and accessible systems (specially in press and electronic media, in electronic  data bases and, above all, in studies and in technical information which circulate widely  over hierarchical and specialized worldwide nets.  In case this is effectively happening, why would people, students, teachers in general, organized groups, institutions or enterprises be interested, in the future, in absorbing what we produce, thus legitimating the role we play in society?

The strategy to avoid this trap involves the acknowledgement that to participate – as relevant actors – in this revolution in process in the technical and informational basis of scientific knowledge,  social sciences (and this is particularly crucial to geography) should be prepared and willing to take part not as spectators or consumers of what is produced there, but as one of the active participants of the very process of innovation. Maybe this struggle should be the first and most important step towards a reconstruction of the material and technical basis of the scientific knowledge produced by geography that cannot be delayed.

Basically, it means avoiding the easy way of refusing  to produce science on advanced bases – from the point of view of methods and techniques – with the argument that this is not our place in the intellectual labor division (this being a concept nowadays in crisis too).  The main aspect to keep in mind is that, pressed between the spectacular progress of the hard sciences and the technological and informational revolution, we do not have other choice than to face the question of geography’s integral and radical modernization as a relatively autonomous social science.

It does not seem to us an impossible task.  After all, two decades ago we – Brazilian geographers – were able to clean up from geography  neopositivism and all its corollary of ideologies, mystification and diverse techniques, including the “logical models” and quantification, shifting it radically to diverse theoretical ways, predominantly critical – there included all Marxists views. And that gave us the chance to build, for the first time, a genuinely social and politically engaged geography in this country.  In view of the present challenges, a new creative impulse becomes an emergency, in a way to start the reconstruction and reconquest of our specific technical apparatus, this time on new epistemological bases and a clear commitment with development and social justice in this country. This has as a consequence the objective of building/rebuilding a theoretical, methodological and technical apparatus with all their possible ways of empirical representation of real processes, which remain as objects of theoretical reflection of this social geography, integrating it to the

intellectual and civil society discourse and practice, lending to it the desirable consistency and contributing to guarantee a highlighted place to it, in what is produced today by all sciences and, in particular, by Brazilian social sciences.

We also can include in this debate about the crisis an ingredient specifically political.  This permits us to examine such crisis considering the institutional conditions that have influenced  the evolution process of geography in the last decades. In that respect, it is necessary to acknowledge that if the “epistemological war” was the force which banished neopositivism and its large system of paradigms, the geographers’ conscious political action resulted in new academic institutions and in a new arrangement of the organization and the functioning of intellectual activity related to this area of knowledge. In the university departments, this movement was decisive to remove the last strongholds of old chairs, opened ways to active participation of young masters and doctors, conducted course program reforms and was a crucial factor of its democratization in all levels.

At the same time, though, one of its most serious political mistake was made when it started a war that led this field of knowledge to a long agonizing condition in IBGE,  the most symbolic national institution of Brazilian geographers, and till then, the most important center of reference of applied geography in this country.  Identified as the main geographic-ideological agency of the State that should be contested, or as an instrument of  technical legitimization of territorial policies that should be transformed – or simply refused - ,  the old institution of the old and the new and committed geography should be defeated at all cost. It was abandoned by the most creative professionals (even some who had worked there) and  cornered by new demands of a society and a State in a fast process of  democratization and modernization, the “Geography IBGE ”  weakened and the geographers deliberately lost it.

In the  State’s technical apparatus, that cannot, obviously,  leave out geography and geographers,  diverse forms of knowledge applied to the territorial policies planning have been produced, whose distinctive characteristic nowadays is its tendency to operate in the increasingly divided sectors of their institutional and technical structures, or through innumerous non-state institutions (like the NGO’s, institutes and foundations) that had started to dedicate themselves to, and participate in, the outsourcing process of these once centralized activities. IBGE emerges again in these last years, now rebuilt as a vigorous institution for applied research with international quality and directed to the generation, management and dissemination of diverse information and studies in a large spectrum of themes and areas  in which it operates. However, now it almost does not have geographers in its staff.

It is incontestable that the Brazilian geography today is bound inside departments of the universities.  It means that Aalternative institutional spaces tofor its professionals becomes rare, inside and outside state structuresggles, that could contributes to re-establisheshed or strengthenmake theirits national dialog channels canals strongerwith the country, allowing them giving credentials to participate more activealy in the debate and the contributions to the solution of national problems.  So, everything indicates that the increasing loss of significante parts of the core of its traditional object (caused by iunescapable processes of fragmentation and dilution attenuationof basic and applied sciences),. That isassociated with the conscious abandonment of planning abandonation and of its whole technical-scientific corollary and, in the limite, the political option forby the reflow strategy of retreating to universities,  outworkswhich have been adopted as thea locus par excellence of the knowledge and the geographer’s academic productionmaking.,  They are the background processes that constitute a scenario hardly reversible in the ashort term. view of difficult reversion.

As the more visible result of, the loss in relative position in the vanguard of the creative process in the specific field of informational technology and in the institutionals spaces of definition and debate about public policies, the ggeographyic community was almost excluded from the recent movement of the restarting strategic national scale planning restart in national scale.  In 1994, to accomplish the National Congress definition, the Federal Government started to debate with experts about elaboration of the first pluriannual plan of the country.  This work was coordinated by the Planning Ministry/IPEA.

 The initial effortstruggle was the choice of a general approach able to join (at the same national plan) diverse themes, programs and projectsducts to different territorial cuts of the country.  Its horizon should be ato four years period.  At the same time, it shcould induce, or account for in its logic (priorities), thousandsmillions of localizedlocated and scattered demands (that usually were or were not absorbved by successive annual budgets of the Union).  There was a watershed there between the positions of the experts positions invited to these debates:  fFirst, to integrate the sub-themes in economic and inter-sector macro-programs (mainly those like infra-structure, agriculture and industry.)  After that, to introduce mechanisms capable ofto distributingte them in the “most balanced way as possible” in the scales of the regions, statesd and citiesmunicipal, countryside-city, center-periphery, etc.  On the other hand, to take, as a starting point, not the themes and the programs in themselves, but the national territory in its different configurations and to adjust regulate themselves to an integrated p0lan and its several mechanisms of intervention.

Inside this position came the second struggle:  wWhat strategy should be better to operate this general approach, when it takes the territory as basis for thematic integration?  Shall we use the resource of a already worn outdestroyed theory of poles (one of the conceptual frames of the 70s regional planning) or adopt any other alternative available in the technical or academic environments, like (as the innumerableous models)  produced in recent years by Regional Economics?  When a very reduced group of geographers was invited to participate in this debate, its reaction was exactly the contemporaneous ggeographyic paradox in itself:  aAlmost all themes related to the geographic academic research of the last two decades were discussed there. in late two decades.  At the same time, they noticed that the debate hads beening developinged with a group of synthetic thematics maps as its bases.  They were syntesis as attempteds to express the transforminger impact of  aa number of development macro-vectors set ofover multiple territorial configurationsdevelopment, and all this on a national scale.state of art

.

They realized, with surprise, that the planning restart in Brazil, aAfter twenty years twenty, the Brazilian restarted was based on a recent work that would be published as aone Geographical-Environmental Atlas directedspecifically to the pPlanning of environmental management – “Os Ecossistemas Brasileiros e os Principais Macro-Vetores de Desenvolvimento[2] - made by a multidisciplinary group, and directed by geographers.  The alternative adopted was the incorporation territorial configurations as the basis for the integration and articulation of themes, programs and projects.  Meanwhile, the employment of the theory of poles was rejected as a strategy of  “spatialization” of the back plan and the use of spatial cuts as mere background . Simple back plan wasto programs and thematic and non articulated programs and projects.  Instead, an approach was adopted, that came to be known as We prefer to take the well known argumentIntegrated Development Axes de Desenvolvimento Integrado”, which constituted had contributing not only the to a conceptual and operational pillar of all programs of the two plurisannual plans already elaborated, but also as they also indicatedshows the public and private investments and the experience of strategic planning, that are can developed in macro-zonning scales (above all, in the cases of the Amazon and the Center-Wwest), states and municipalitiesmunicipals of this country.

The fact is, deispite the crisis of the planning and the applied geography, in particular, the action of this smallreduced groups of geographers has produced some effective results in the last decadte.  It has contributeds to regaining conquer again some institutional and technical spaces that had been lost for more than 20 years.  The Eexamples of this (theoric and technical) process are the : movement of theoretical and technical renewal in the planning of environmental management and its operation in the scale of the Uunion, the Amazon, the coast –line zones, and states scales , as well as next to the development of new methodologies and of an excellent wonderfulexperience involving Econlogical-Eeconomic Zonning programs in several states of Brazil (Amazonas, Acre, Maranhão, Mato do Grosso, Rondônia, Tocantins, Rio de Janeiro and Paraná.).  The Ggeographers’hic contribution has been significant to the contemporary studies about the Brazilian Amazon, in particular, during the last years, although its reduced number[3].  Another The  work being developed by colleagues has being developed by some fellows interested in applied studies ofaround coastal zones in Brazil should also be highlighted.  The environmental diagnosis, the problems related to these ecosystems’ management and the zonning experiences in differentmany scales are examples of what they have been investigating for almost tenm years[4]. Finally, the work developed in the Brazilian Pantanal region is the broadest geographic – environmental study available about this ecosystem[5].  These are examples of It deals with recent advances, that demonstrates thean enormous potential of athe geography that, which casts a far reaching look at search a large sight to this country as a national question.

From the point of view of a more general academic picture of Brazilian geography, however, the complex relationship between this discipline and the fast advance of thea so-called hard science (in all over the world and in Brazil, in particular) has been able to add some elements to this crisis condition.  In this case, we are not speaking about generatinge andnor managinge “geographic” information, norne explaining them in any way.  What we should do want is to examine is the outlines of an uncertainty aboutaround the bases of the Geography.  We take it as a science (still even though it is ambiguous?) also dedicated also to studies about nature and its relationships with social-spatial formations.  In today’s picture of advances in the sciences that interest us more closely,  interesting sciences advances there are two thematic areas particularly important to us: the matter of global climatic changes and the knowledge and the use of bio-diversity in contemporaneous bio-technologyical field of studding.

As far as global climatic changes are concerned, the most notable recent aspect What is noticed in recent aspects is the combination between the worldwide physical net of monitoring based on sensors (each day more remote) able to register the variations (specially of the temperature, pressureion and concentration levels of atmospheric gases), in oceanic ecosystems, poles caps, atmospheric stratum, tropical forests, etc.  and One a new capability of collectingaption, registering, storingadgement and processingof data, real time, through the use of super computers. In addition to this, in the last years, the employment of sensors highly specialized sensors onf fixed (towers) and mobile (aircraft) stations (towers) and moble (aircraft) hasd allowedpermited the registration of variations in CO2 (carbon dioxide) emission and escape levels, a sureafe indicator of hydrocarbon burning and of its impacts on the atmosphere, mainly the greenhouse effect.

 

The utilization of these technologies in a joint USA-Brazila whole project – the partnership between USA-Brazil – called LBA, has allowed theo evaluatione, for example,  of the caompacitylexity of the Amazon forests (in thise gas separationescape, whosewhich results will be essential as a necessary technical basis to the Brazilian negotiation of process already started with the objective ofto implementing the Kyoto’s Protocol.

With such advances in the technological basise of these researches, meteorological forecasts will certainly be more efficient (including hurricanes, hailstorms, dry periods, floods, etc.), with positive general worldwide repercussion. From the main perspective adopted here, though, there also is a growing gap between what is developed today in thehighly integrated and highly scientifically advanced developed climatology theand the one still practicedused by the vast majority of ggeography academics and – as one of its negative aspects – what is still disseminated in our schoollar bookscompendia. In this specific area, thus, we face a challenge: the recoverying of lost ground and our relative position as the vanguard in this process imposes a clear inclination of geographers’ work towards the experimental sciences, especially the so-called “earth sciences” and the whole of its corollary of sciences dedicated to studying complex phenomena related to the behavior of the terrestrial environment in a global scale. FromUnder this point of viewaspect, the recent recovery of the lost ground by geomorphology in the issue of the classification of the Brazilian landscape, based onin the intensive use of remote sensing technologies and digital processing of images, is a successful case, which should be pursued by the other areas in ggeography[6].

The researches about bio-diversity of the Brazilian ecosystems and its alternatives of use based on the recent advances in biotechnology is one of the most important themes in the set of R&D activities, especially in megabiodiverse countries, like Brazil. The main challenges today for Brazilian researchers in this area involve first a concentrated and continuous effort to increase the inventory of the species of the flora, fauna and micro-biota, especiallymainly as referring to the Amazon ecosystems, where this percentage does not surpass 20% for the flora and 3% for the microorganisms, and furthermore it is estimated in over 10 million the number of species of arthropods still not identified.

The second refers to the adoption by the country of a legal framework, permanent and inspired by the Biological Diversity Convention, combined with a set of specific procedures, towards the involvement of local communities and its effective participation in the inventory process, economical use and fair sharing of the benefits corresponding to the traditional knowledge associated with the genetic heritage

The third is related to the necessity of rapidly increasing the bio-prospecting capabilities of the research groups in the national biotechnology area (in a broad sense), in such a way that part of the success recently obtained in basic research in molecular biology, genetic engineering, biochemistry, natural products chemistry and pharmacology, especially, can be intensely applied in projects dedicated to the identification of the active principles of plants, animal toxins and microorganisms, and the subsequent development, in the country, of medicines and other bio-products of industrial interest[7].

Although we have important initiatives taking placein course in the country in these areas, the mobilization of the society and the scientific community is still not proportional to the challenges highlighted above. In the inventory case, for example, some progress has recently been observed, due to federal and state programs in this area[8]. Referring to today’s scenario of R&D in the area of bio-prospecting, some progress hasve been doneregistered, but still very distant from levels achieved in the pharmaceutical transnational companies and research centers of the three countries (USA, Germany and Japan) that in practice monopolize these researches and the respective patents of theirits results (processes and products) all over the world. Brazil, as is widely known, besides being a great consumer market for these products, has two undeniable competitive advantages in this area, represented by its megabiodiversity and its associated traditional knowledge, and by the reasonable standard achieved by our research centers and groups in activity (there are more than 500 PhDs working in biotechnology in the country).

For the goal of guaranteeing a genuinely national development process, nevertheless, we lack the decisive impulse of partnerships with the national companies in the sector, so that the most advanced stages of technological innovation as well as of processes and products development can be assured, including the final stages of licensing and patents, which knowingly require heavy investment. Some federal initiatives have been trying to supply for these deficiencies, especially towards an articulation effort between inventory activities (directed to the bio-prospecting objectives), organized local communities, national companies (especially from the fitotherapy, cosmetic and nutraceutics sectors) and the country’s research groups in institutions devoted in general to R&D in the area of the so-called bioproducts[9].

It is undeniable that we are facing one of the most promissory fields of reflection, studies, debates and professional activities for the Bbrazilian geographers. The botanic and ethnobotanic inventory activities, for example, areis very rich in opportunities for the development of methodologies, field techniques, analysis and interpretation (incorporating the recent advances in the environmental analysis, remote sensing and Geographic Information Systems applied specifically to these researches) and, furthermore, for the integration of knowledge in which geography has an enormous tradition: biogeography, landscape integrated landscape analysis, analysis of the vulnerabilities and potentials of ecosystems, correlation between soil, climate, landscape, hydrography and vegetal species, etc. At the same time, acting actively in the applied cultural geography studies, related to social-cultural-spatial structures and the diverse territorialities of the local communities and their means of fight and insertion in regional, national and international networks.

It should be highlighted that this debate field is undeniably relevant for the contemporary political geography, which should devote itself to the conflicts which permeate the universal and global objectives of bio-diversity conservation, its possible and current economical uses, the role of the Nations, the role of corporations in this process, the international relations and the commitments related to the global environmental agenda[10].

In general, this is the outline of today’s crisis of geography from a perspective that favors its immediate engagement in the recent science and technology progress in the world and in Brazil in particular, as a means of leveraging a prominent position in the academica activities, in the institutional spaces and in the national issues debates. In general also, these are the challenges and the new fields open today for itsthe organized and competitive insertion in the globalized world – as a committed social science – in which the scientific and technological achievements have formed a fundamental basis for the national development processes and for the knowledge and fight against economical and social inequalities.

 

 

Foot notes:

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[1] About late advances of diverse scientific and technological fields of studies in Brazil, see “Ciência, Tecnologia, Inovação: desafio para a sociedade brasileira“, published by MCT/ABC, 2001.

[2] This work was produced (1994/1995) and published in 1995 by the Brazilian Environment Ministry (MMA) initiative, through the National Environment Program and with the Wold Bank and UNDP support.  In addition to this, the theoretical approach is based on macro-vectors concepts, impacts and sustainable levels of the environment, tendencies, scenarios and its mate of territorial configurations, applied to analyses, many relationships interpreted among “development/natural resources/ecosystems, in different scales of the country”. The choice taken was an intense use of computer science methodologies and technologies available at that time, involving geo-referenced databases and thematic and digital cartography and of synthesis.  It fed the debate and the activities about the planning of environment management in federal, state, municipal organs and national and foreign research institutions. More than twenty experts from diverse fields of studies had participated in its conceptions and elaboration.  A group of geographers had an important role on it, basically constituted in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro: Wanderley Messias da Costa (coordinator) Bertha K. Becker, Antonio Carlos Robert Moraes, Cláudio Egler e Fani Davidovich.

[3] Bertha Becker has played a major role in this process.  She is a geographer and thinker for more than two decades studying this region.  She has written many works, which are published in Brazil and abroad.  Her struggle to develop a new geographical-political-environmental explanation in a way to incorporate the global importance of the Amazon’s ecology, the national wishes and projects and its social-cultural-spatial diversity. Considering her brilliance, persistence and capability to form a new generation and by the prizes and honors she has received here and abroad, there is no doubt she is the most prestigious among Brazilians geographers, and a pride for these professionals.

[4] There are many studies published about these subjects in this period.  The most wide of them “Macrodiagnóstico das Zonas Costeiras do Brasil  in the form of a Geographical-Environmental Atlas, was published, in 1996, by the initiative of MMA/ LAGET – UFRJ and PNMA/UNDP’s support.  Its elaboration spent more than a year of work done by several experts related to geography.  Such group was leaded by Bertha Becker and Antonio Carlos Robert Moraes (a great expert in Brazil in  this subject), besides Jurandyr Ross, Cláudio Egler, Mário De Biasi, Dieter Muche, Wanderley Messias da Costa and Flávio Samarco Rosa. This work represented the first environment macro-zoning of coastal zones in this country, integrating a number of factors responsible for promoting occupation, use and impacts on the environment.  Its presentation, databases, cartography representation and interpretation, clearly adopted a scale of analysis compatible with federal planning, and that could be useful as a reference for planning and management studies and processes, in scales of regions and sub-regions of state and coastal municipalities.

[5] The “Plano de Conservação da Bacia do Alto Paraguai.”, was produced by 120 experts and has involved a consortium of several Brazilian institutions (UFMT, UFMS, UFRGS, USP, IBGE and EMBRAPA). Jurandyr Sanches Ross, who is considered a “father” of the contemporary Brazilian environmental geography, led this plan, which was published in 1997, by MMA initiative and PNMA/UNDP support.

[6] The “Proposta de Nova Classificação do Relevo Brasileiro” is a paper published in the book called “Geografia do Brasil”, by the University of São Paulo publishing house, in 1995, written by Jurandyr Sanches Ross, and that had effect on the Brazilian technical community and abroad.

[7] On the contrary of what many should judge, the pharmacy and bio-products (naturally manufactured and by-products in general), are not “discovered”.  But they have been developed during many years involving numerous researchers, laboratory tests and clinical experiences, license processes with national regulators agencies and patent protocol. This activity, like in the case of producing a drug to the global market (usually more than 80 countries), might demand decades and thousands of dollars in investments.  About nature products and by-products to the industrial economy, see:  Clay, Jason; Sampaio, Paulo T. B. and Clement, Charles, “Biodiversidade Amazônica: exemplos e estratégias de utilização” by Jason Clay, INPA/SEBRAE, Manaus, 1999; Balick, Michael J.; Elisabetshy, Elaine and Laird, Sarah , “Medicinal Resources of the Tropical Forest: biodiversity and its importance to human health”, Columbia University Press, New York, 1996 and Ferranti, David; Perry Guillermo E.; Lederman, Daniel and Maloney, William F., “From Natural Resources to the Knowledge Economy: trade and job quality”, World Bank, Washington, 2001.

[8] Those are the cases of PRONABIO of MMA and several projects supported by FUNBIO (an initiative of enterprises, government and NGOs).  We should also point out the recently completed works of INPA, that contain a detailed inventory of the Amazon species of flora, as the “Flora da Reserva Ducke – Guia de Identificação das plantas vasculares de uma floresta de terra-firme na Amazônia Central”, supported by DFID and developed by their researchers team and some collaborators, published in 1999; and the study coordinated by Niro Higuchi involving researchers from INPA and DFID, which was published in 1997, with the title “Biomassa e nutrientes florestais”, that is about physical-biotic characteristics of the Amazon forest and the available technology of land use management.  The Biota Program (coordinated by Carlos Alfredo Joly) is one of the broadest in this field, being an initiative from FAPESP, involving many institutions and researchers (in the successful format tested by Genome Net) and aiming at the bio-diversity inventory of all ecosystems in the state of São Paulo.  It is the first time the state of the art technologies are introduced in Brazil to field inventory, with the use of GPS, specific software as well as the creation of a geo-referenced database freely accessible through the internet.

[9] Among these initiatives, we can highlight the PROBEM (the Molecular Ecology Brazilian Program to Amazon’s Bio-diversity Sustainable use) created by a group of researchers from this country in 1997.  Nowadays, it has been put into practice by the Environment, Science and Technology; Development, Industry and Foreign Trade Ministries.  It also has been done with a partnership with Bioamazonia, a Social Organization which works on this area and has Wanderley Messias da Costa as its coordinator. Among its achievements in process, is the CBA (Amazon Biotechnology Center) recently built, and located in Manaus.  It is expected to be the most important center of tropical biotechnology research in the natural products area in the world.  Besides it, this Social Organization coordinates a net of national search for bio-diversity with many researchers and partnerships with companies from this sector, composing a national system turned to the use of Amazon bio-diversity in a way to develop a bio-industrial complex in Brazil and, in particular, in the Amazon Region.

[10] About this there is a pioneer work in Brazil, published in São Paulo by Contexto: “A ordem ambiental internacional” (2001), written by Wagner Costa Ribeiro, is an important milestone and has the credit for bringing Brazilian geography to the center of this debate.