Marina Silva – Environmentalist and Politician, Brazil

Marina SilvaMarina Silva is a Brazilian environmentalist and politician, and was elected as the nation’s Environment Minister in 2003. In 2010, Silva stood the Presidency election as a representative of the Green Party, and captured 19.4% of the overall vote.


Marina Silva’s involvement with national and international politics has been marked by innovative approaches and actions towards environmental issues and characterized by a strong ethical dimension. In the course of her journey, Marina Silva has sought to introduce people to the values underpinning sustainability in all its dimensions – social, cultural, ecological, economic, political and ethical.


Marina spent her childhood on a rubber estate, enduring all the hardships of the prevailing debt bondage system. At the age of sixteen, Marina travelled to Rio Branco, to complete her schooling and then pursued an undergraduate course in History at the Federal University of Acre .


Soon after, she associated with Chico Mendes to support the rubber tappers’ movement on their twin quest to defend the environment and their own sustainable livelihoods.


As Minister of Environment, Marina tackled two enormous challenges: the accelerating rate of Amazon deforestation, and the political isolation and lack of strength of the environment ministry.


The first big test was the ‘Plan to Combat Amazon Deforestation’, which resulted in a major revolution in the way public policy for the region was developed and implemented. The plan was founded on three pillars: combating illegal activities, land zoning and titling, and support to sustainable production activities. It made all industries, in particular those responsible for economic development, co-responsible for deforestation.


In three years, her plan saw a 57% reduction in the area deforested, thereby ensuring that 1.5 billion trees remained standing and avoided 500 million tons of CO2 emissions, representing around 14% percent of the total emission reductions required by developed countries as per the Kyoto Protocol.


Other programmes included the organisation of three ‘National Environment Conferences’, which engaged adults and children nation-wide with the cause of environmental protection.


Marina has received numerous international mentions, including being part of The Guardian’s ’50 People Who Could Save the Planet’ list (2007), and highlighted by Time magazine as a ‘Hero of the Environment’ (2008). More recently, she was named as one of the top global thinkers by Foreign Policy magazine, for taking ‘green’ mainstream.


Other Awards include;

  • Goldman Environmental Prize in the South and Central America category (1996)
  • Selected as one of the “25 Women in Action in the World for Life on Earth” by the United Nations Environment Programme (1997)
  • Awarded the title of “Doctor Honoris Causa” by the Chinese Academy of Forestry (2005)Awarded UN “Champion of the Earth”, (2007)
  • Recipient of the “World Rainforest Award” by the Rainforest Action Network  (2008)
  • Recipient of ‘The Duke of Edinburgh’ medal, awarded by WWF International (2008)