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Geography at the Summit

12 August 2002
Denise Pumain
Cet article est une traduction de :
La géographie au sommet

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1The Minister of the Environment of South Africa, proclaiming the opening of the Johannesburg Summit, welcomed the opportunity for humanity to return to its origins in order to open a new era of solidarity (CityPress,11 August).  Several days earlier, the geographers of the International Geographical Union meeting for the regional conference in Durban on the theme of “the renaissance of Geography at the dawn of the Third Millennium”, had invited Nelson Mandela.  On this occasion, the President of the Union, Anne Buttimer, presented him with the Prize of the Planet and of Humanity.

2There is much more to say than that what is being considered in Johannesburg is geography:  all the countries of the world are meeting there around a Prevert-like inventory of problems  touching on inequalities in development and in the conditions of life around the planet, and ranging from participatory democracy to the cleaning up of the environment, from rural poverty to the transfer of technologies, from mountains to the Amazon, from finances and business to agriculture, tourism and health, not to mention good governance.

3To some degree, sustainable development is made up of all of these things, always with the difficult and fundamental question of what priorities to establish to make it possible to improve the life of peoples, while taking care of the resources of their environment, the very condition for tomorrow’s survival.  On the delicate interlocking of time-frames, and the  hierarchical levels of importance that determine  the relations of these systems, geography is torn, with the physical on one side, the human on the other, but the specialists in a given area do sometimes manage to take the measure of this predicament.  Even if the only result of Johannesburg is some degree of negotiation in relation to the water and energy companies, something of that particular geography will have been in the spotlight for a time.

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Denise Pumain, « Geography at the Summit », Cybergeo : European Journal of Geography [En ligne], Éditoriaux, mis en ligne le 12 août 2002, consulté le 22 juin 2018. URL :

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Denise Pumain

Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne,UMR Géographie-cités, France

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