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Volume 51 / Social Sciences


CLINTON R. EDWARDS, Professor of Geography, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

MORE THAN A DECADE AGO, in response to a growing volume of literature on the subject, this section began to emphasize environmental matters in Latin America. Concern about the human impact on the landscape now predominates over any other single theme. Contributions by geographers continue, but many other branches of academe, as well as a number of public and private sector organizations are also well represented. Although there is still strong impetus by international organizations such as the United Nations, there is growing interest and concern by national institutions and agencies, with countries like Colombia, Costa Rica, and Mexico well represented in this volume of HLAS. Another aspect of environmental concern's coming of age in Latin America is the historical depth in some of the works annotated below (e.g., item bi 89013891).

An important sub-theme is the relationship among economic development, politics, international funding, the growth of cities, and the associated environmental impacts (items bi 88001072 and bi 88003196). Serious questions are raised regarding the advisability of some large-scale development projects in view of potential environmental problems (e.g., Reisner and McDonald, item bi 88000253). Tropical forests remain on the "front page," receiving mention in many papers emanating from various conferences on the environment. A thoughtful piece by Lugo (item bi 89000152) goes beyond mere expression of concern to a summary of expert opinions as to what should be done to promote the preservation or wise use of remaining forested areas.

For a long time, physical geography has been confined mainly to studies on the geography of individual countries or regions. However, broad general treatments appear occasionally, represented this time by a new look at climatic change (item bi 88002596) and a new quarterly journal. First issued in 1988, The Journal of South American Earth Sciences is edited by Carlos E. Macellari and Norman J. Snelling and published by Pergamon for the Earth Sciences and Resources Institute, Univ. of South Carolina. Biblioteca Iberoamericana, a monographic series published by Anaya of Madrid, is nicely presented in a set of small volumes that includes research on the physical environment (items bi 89013897 and bi 89013898).

Our HLAS biennial selections seldom lack commentary on Alexander von Humboldt's Latin American connections (item bi 88003248). This time another major figure, less well known until recently and now recognized in the new glasnost Soviet Union, receives due consideration: N.I. Vavilov's contributions to plant geography, especially that of domesticated plants, and to the promotion of a multidisciplinary approach to the study of Latin America are recalled (item bi 89003263). Nikolai Vavilov, who was replaced by Stalin's hack, the so-called geneticist Lysenko, died in the Siberian Gulag of Saratov in 1943. The Handbook was among the first publications to recognize Vavilov's significance in Latin American studies as is noted by Henry J. Bruman in his article "The Russian Investigations on Plant Genetics in Latin America and their Bearing on Culture History" (see HLAS 2, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1937, p. 449-458, bibl.)

The Conference of Latin Americanist Geographers continues its active publication program with its Yearbook and newsletter, CLAG Communication.

Technological developments of use to geography and related fields are represented by contributions dealing with geographic information systems (item bi 89013890) and remote sensing (item bi 89003879).

New material and old material in new guises on Columbus appear with increasing frequency. It is anticipated that the next social sciences Handbook, volume 53, will contain a rich sampling on this topic. In the meantime, interested geographers and others who wish to keep up with new publications on the subject can find such information by consulting Encuentro. Originally a newsletter published by the Latin American Institute, Univ. of New Mexico, it has recently taken the form of a journal, but retains its role as one of the most informative sources for publications, events, and plans having to do with the Quincentenary of Columbus' first voyage. Another excellent source is the Quincentennial of the Discovery of America: Encounter of Two Worlds issued by the Organization of American States. Finally, 1992: A Columbus Newsletter issued by the John Carter Brown Library, is especially valuable for its announcements of recently published books and news of current and future events.

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