Why Famous: Chico Mendes, originally a rubber tapper became an environmental and social activist to stop the slashing and burning of the Amazon rainforest. He believed the best protectors of the forest were the people whose lives depended on its continuing existence.
Mendes thought the Amazon should be used sustainably rather than cut off from economic activity (as some environmentalists wanted) or cut down (as many ranchers were doing and still do). He thus proposed and spent much of his life campaigning for the establishment of extractive reserves for rubber tappers, Brazil nut collectors and other future sustainable purposes.
Throughout his life he received numerous death threats and believed he would not live to see Christmas shortly before he was gunned down and assassinated by Darcy Alves, the son of a prominent rancher.
His death caused outrage in Brazil and helped foster increased environmental awareness amongst Brazilians, especially in his home state of Acre.
After his death, the Chico Mendes Extractive Reserve was created, covering 1m hectares of forest around his home town of Xapuri. The first of many such reserves in Brazil.