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Mongabay's Environment Hall of Fame

Marina da Silva - Brazil's little magical elf
By Christa Maas



She is fragile and tiny just like an elf, but she is one of the most important and strongest superheroes in the world, fighting to save the Amazon rainforest.

Can you imagine what it must be like not to spend your childhood tapping trees for rubber instead of going to school? It's not that Marina didn't want to go to school, but there was no school in the little rainforest settlement called Seringal Bagaço where she grew up.

She only learned how to read and write when we was 16 years old and moved to the closest town, 70 km away, called Rio Branco. Still, Maria Osmarina Silva de Lima, as she is called by her full name worked all day as a maid and studied hard at night. She graduated in history in 1985 and soon became involved as a leader in a syndicate, defending workers. She became the youngest female senator ever to be elected.

But her childhood spent in the rain forest taught her the most valuable lesson anyone can learn: the love for the environment. She says she gets lost in any city in the world, but never in the forest. Already, when she was very young she knew she wanted to save her home, the rainforest, from the destruction by illegal loggers

In 1994, Marina da Silva became Brazil's minister of environment. She has had to fight hard to reduce deforestation in the Amazon by 75 % and because of her, today, Brazil has the strictest environmental laws in the world.

But, Marina understands how we must all work together side by side to save the Amazon rainforest and she is an example for all young people. With her work she has gained the respect of the international community, but she is also a really great Mom with four children named Shalon, Danilo, Moara and Mayara, who must all be very proud of her!

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