Marina Silva surveys Brazil’s environmental landscape
Marina Silva worked as a rubber tapper in the Amazon until the age of 16, when illness forced her to move to the city for medical treatment. Illiterate, she took night classes, earned a university degree and met Chico Mendes, whom she worked with in the 1980s to promote responsible use of Amazon resources. The celebrated Mendes was gunned down in 1988. Silva carried on. In 1994, she became the first rubber tapper and youngest woman elected to the national Senate. A member of the leftist Workers’ Party (PT), she won reelection in 2002. When PT presidential candidate Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva took office in Jan. 2003, he appointed Silva as environment minister. In May 2008, she resigned over Lula’s pro-development environmental policies, then left the PT. In Oct. 2010 she ran as Green Party candidate for president, finishing third. No longer affiliated with a party, she now heads the Institute for Democracy and Sustainability, an advocacy group, and Marina Silva Institute, a nonprofit sustainable-development education and advocacy center. Silva spoke recently in Brazil with EcoAméricas correspondent Michael Kepp.