Skip to main content

Lutzenberger, José (1928–2002)

Lutzenberger, José (1928–2002)

José Antônio Lutzenberger, born December 17, 1928, was a Brazilian ecologist. Lutzenberger served as Brazil's first secretary of the environment (1990–1992), a cabinet-level post created by President Fernando Collor de Mello in part to address growing international criticism of Brazil's Amazon policy as articulated during predecessor José Sarney's presidency. Lutzenberger, an agronomist with a special interest in the Amazon region and a native of Rio Grande do Sul, had long been a critic of government development policies. He accepted the cabinet post only after Collor de Mello guaranteed that his administration would halt expansion of the controversial BR-364 highway across the southern Amazon, respect the rights of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon, and end all economic incentives to environmentally destructive development projects. Lutzenberger also supported debt-for-nature swaps, unlike the Sarney administration.

Lutzenberger was known for making bombastic gloom-and-doom pronouncements and was often criticized for his adherence to the scientifically unproven "Gaia" theory, which held that the Earth is a closed physiological system capable of altering the planet's climate at will. In late 1991, the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies, along with conservative politicians and the military, complained that Lutzenberger was "internationalizing" the Amazon to the point of compromising Brazilian national sovereignty and hence called for his resignation. Color de Mello replaced him in March 1992.

Lutzenberger enjoyed an international reputation, initially based on his active opposition to the use of pesticides. In 1971 he was a founder of the Association for the Protection of the Natural Environment of Rio Grande do Sul (Associação Gaúcha de Proteção Ambiente Natural—AGAPAN), the first ecological entity organized in Brazil. He was the 1988 recipient of the Swedish government's Right Livelihood Award, the environmental equivalent of the Nobel Prize. Upon his death on May 14, 2002, he was buried in keeping with his wishes close to a tree farm in the Pantano Grande in Rio Grande do Sul state.

See alsoEnvironmental Movements .


"Um verde do outro lado," in Veja 23 (7 March 1990): 35; "New President Appoints Ecologist to Head Environmental Secretariat," in International Environment Reporter: Current Report 13 (11 April 1990): 152-153.

Nira Broner Worcman, "Brazil's Thriving Environmental Movement," in Technology Review 93 (October 1990): 42-51.

Additional Bibliography

Kumar, Satish. Visionaries: The 20th Century's 100 Most Important Inspirational Leaders. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green, 2007.

Place, Susan E., ed. Tropical Rainforests: Latin American Nature and Society in Transition, revised and updated edition. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 2001.

                                            Laura Jarnagin

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Lutzenberger, José (1928–2002)." Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture. . 20 Jan. 2019 <>.

"Lutzenberger, José (1928–2002)." Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture. . (January 20, 2019).

"Lutzenberger, José (1928–2002)." Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture. . Retrieved January 20, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.