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Remembering Bertha Becker

Bertha Becker, a world-renowned researcher in the Amazon and member of the Future Earth Transition Team which designed the programme for research on global sustainability, passed away on July 13, aged 82, in Rio de Janeiro.

A political geographer who dedicated her career to research in the field, Becker was a highly respected expert in geopolitics and land issues of the Amazon. She trained as a geographer at the National University of Brazil and did her PhD at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, where she has taught for the past four decades. Member of the Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science (SBPC) and the Academia Brasileira de Ciencias (ABC), Bertha did postdoctoral studies in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She was also vice-president of the International Geographical Union from 1996-2000.

She is fondly remembered by the global team of scientists led by Johan Rockström and Diana Liverman who worked for two years on the conceptual design and research framework for this ambitious programme.

“Bertha gave Diana and myself invaluable support throughout our work with the Transition Team, always sharing her wisdom and insight generously. A strong voice for global sustainability and development research has left us,” said Rockström, who is Executive Director of the Stockholm Resilience Center.

“Bertha was a positive presence on the Transition Team, especially encouraging of our efforts to create a more interdisciplinary, international and innovative vision and was so happy that we launched Future Earth last summer at Rio+20 in her home city,” said Liverman, who is co-director of the Institute of the Environment at the University of Arizona.

Becker published about two dozen books and more than one hundred articles.