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Poverty, inequality and social exclusion are factors to which the population, and women in particular, are subjected. Also problems arising from foreign debt, drug trafficking geopolitical restrictions are the issues of the moment in Brazil and in the world.

It is important to discuss the degree of destruction affecting the various natural resources, but it is even more important to put a stop to the process of degradation, thus ensuring that survival will be guaranteed under a minimum of decent conditions.

Deforestation and its negative impact on available water sources; occupation of water source areas, which cause pollution and also compromise the continuity of the water supply; gold field mining problems and the use of mercury, with serious consequences to mankind and to the fauna, and, finally, the reappearance of endemic diseases which were practically under control, such as malaria, dengue, cholera, are problems that affect directly the rural population and indirectly the urban population.

The modernisation. of agriculture in Brazil brought about a worsening of the social crisis as well as ecological and environmental problems that until then had not been fully understood. The increasing use of fertilisers and pesticides, the intense and concentrated mechanisation and the large export-crop exploitation caused such an impact on soils, forests, inland water, and biological balance of pests and diseases that they cannot but trigger the country's awareness.

This awareness can be brought about through environmental education that is carried out not only in schools, but by the media and in community activities, where the intervention of women is fundamental.

It is undeniable that technical progress has occurred at the expense of environmental destruction. The negative aspect does not lie in the technology itself but in the ways and means of using it.

It is necessary to be aware of the difficulties and problems in order to influence the Government in the implementation of public policies, which will ensure a better quality of life for all. Only the references and limits defined by ethics, democracy and human rights will provide an adequate balance between the environmental and development requirements.

Human dignity, which is expressed through the achievement of citizenship, implies a growth in general awareness and in active participation in labour unions and women's movements, etc.

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