8 Women with a new vision for Earth

Marina Silva


The Policymaker

Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Brazil

From a childhood in the Amazon to the halls of power, Marina Silva has fought for decades to protect the forest and those who call it home.

Raised in a family of rubber tappers, Silva worked with the environmentalist Chico Mendes to battle deforestation in the Amazon and lead the trade union movement before becoming the first rubber tapper to ever enter the Federal Senate in 1994.

This kicked off a political career that has twice seen Silva appointed as Brazil’s environment minister under current president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Her first term, between 2003 to 2008, saw deforestation drop by 75 percent between 2004 and 2014. Since she was reappointed to the position in 2023, deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon has dropped by half.

Silva believes humanity’s environmental woes often stem from our fixation on “having” rather than “being.”

“We are living in a historic moment in the course of humankind in which the ideals that brought us here are proving insufficient for us to be able to continue our journey on Earth with minimal conditions of dignity for human life and other forms of life,” she said during GLF Nairobi in 2023.

“The ideals that can help us save life and the planet are those that enable us to use natural resources wisely.”

Silva, who also founded the environmentalist political party Sustainability Network (REDE), has earned global recognition for protecting the environment, traditional communities, social justice and sustainable development for over 30 years.

Most notably, she won the Goldman Environmental Prize for South and Central America in 1996, was named a Champion of the Earth by the UN Environment Programme in 2007, and won the Sophie Prize in 2009.

Silva has also been listed by the Financial Times as among its 2014 Women of the Year and by Foreign Policy on its list of top global thinkers in 2010. She was even chosen as one of eight people to carry the flag at the opening of the 2012 London Summer Olympics.

“I see only one future for the Amazon forest: that it continues to be the Amazon forest, that its original peoples continue in their historical, social and cultural journey in every sense,” she said.