Latin America and the Caribbean

Almir Narayamoga Surui

Almir Narayamoga Surui forest hero

An environmentalist and political activist, Almir Narayamoga Surui caught the eye of tribal elders; at 17 he was elected chief, and is the first member of the Surui to attend college. For more than 20 years he has been fighting to save both his Paiter-Surui tribe and the Amazon rainforest.

Almir successfully lobbied the state government to build schools, wells and medical clinics for the Surui and other tribes in the rainforest preserves. He spearheaded the creation of a "50-year plan" to ensure the economic vitality of the Paiter-Surui. The plan encompasses large-scale conservation efforts, reforestation projects and activities that offer economic alternatives to exploiting the forest. Almir convinced the World Bank to re-structure a regional development program to better benefit local indigenous groups. Almir’s efforts are credited with almost single-handedly bringing his tribe back from the brink of extinction.

Almir hopes to generate income for the tribe by selling forest carbon credits. To achieve this goal, he contacted Google Earth to teach the Surui how to use digital technology to monitor and map the forest.

His efforts to build partnerships between indigenous peoples and international actors for sustainable development have earned him accolades around the world. He received the 2008 Human Rights Prize from the International Society for Human Rights in Geneva. In 2011 Almir was named as one of the 100 most creative people in the world by Fast Company, the world’s leading progressive media brand which focuses on innovation and leadership. Almir was born in 1974 in the state of Rondonia, in western Brazil.

Paulo Adario

forest hero

Paulo Adario has acted as a guardian of the Amazon for the past 15 years.

Leading a field team focused on research and investigation, his work exposed the timber industry as the first in a number of drivers of destruction in the Amazon rainforest.

In 2001, he led a field team into the Amazon to assist the Deni tribe to demarcate and protect their own land, resulting in the official protection of 1,6 million hectares of pristine forest. Mr. Adario also introduced new concepts, such as the ”Green Wall” to describe the network of protected areas necessary to stop the northern encroachment of industrial development, and ”Zero Deforestation” – a set of political, social and economic initiatives aimed at eliminating deforestation while ensuring the improvement of living conditions for people living in and from the forests.

Following a campaign on illegal logging, which led to a moratorium in 2003 on the international trade in Mahogany, the impacts of his work attracted death threats from forest criminals across the Amazon. Mr. Adario persisted and went on to create bilateral agreements with international and industrial companies to halt the illegal destruction of the forests for soya crops and cattle ranching. The resulting Soya Moratorium and cattle industry agreements are still in place today.

Mr. Adario has pioneered a campaign to protect the Amazon from boardroom meetings with industry leaders to field expeditions deep into the Amazon, to the co‐ordination of international public campaigns to expose forest destroyers and demand sustainable solutions.

Mr. Adario opened Greenpeace”s office in the Amazon to fight deforestation and force sustainable solutions. He currently still leads the office as the Campaign Director.

José Claudio Ribeiro and Maria do Espírito Santo

A tree nut harvester by trade, José Claudio Ribeiro da Silva and his wife, Maria do Espírito Santo da Silva, are remembered as rainforest activists and environmentalists who campaigned against illegal logging and clear‐cutting of trees in the Amazon rainforest.

Ribeiro da Silva originally worked as a community leader at a forest reserve that produced sustainable forest products, such as oils and nuts. The couple was known to utilize their deep local knowledge to sustainably conserve, protect and mange the forests they called home.

The da Silvas became anti‐logging activist when illegal loggers began to encroach further into untouched areas of Pará, their largely forested home state in northern Brazil. Members of the media describe them as “tenacious Amazon defenders” who were known to block roads, stop logging trucks, file grievances for neighbors whose lands had been invaded and denounce illegal loggers to Brazil”s environmental agency.

Ribeiro da Silva”s speeches and campaigns, though based on local issues, held a more universal perspective. He is described as a powerful speaker, always willing to participate in local, national and international conferences.

In November 2010, Ribeiro da Silva spoke at a TEDx Amazon event in Manaus despite regularly receiving threats against his and his wife’s lives. He was quoted for saying, “I could be here today talking to you and in one month you will get the news that I disappeared. I will protect the forest at all costs.”

Sadly, on May 24, 2011, José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva and Maria do Espírito Santo were killed in an ambush attack not far from their home in Nova Ipixuna, Pará ‐ in the settlement of Maçaranduba 2.