Mendes was one of 48 rural workers and activists slain during 1988 in the western Brazilian state of Acre. He belonged to a family whose livelihood was based on extracting products from the forest--tapping rubber and gathering Brazil nuts--without harming it. But national policy for the development of the Amazon brought highways, agriculture, ranching and wholesale destruction of the environment. Landowners hired gunmen to expel rubber tappers and kill those who stood in their way. Mendes organized the tappers to preserve the forest. Revkin, science writer for Discover magazine and the Los Angeles Times , presents a richly detailed account of that conflict and Mendes's rise to prominence as an environmentalist. This portrait of lawlessness in Acre makes the American Wild West seem tame--Mendes's murderers still have not been brought to trial--but progress in safeguarding the forest has been made. Since Mendes's death, three sizable reserves, including 18 rubber estates, have become federal property on which large-scale deforestation is banned. Illustrations. Author tour. (June)
Murdered in 1988 by Brazilian ranchers for his outspoken resistance to the destruction of the Amazon rain forest, rubber tapper union organizer Mendes has become a primary martyr for the environmental cause. Science reporter Revkin's book is the first on the subject, but New Yorker writer Alexander Shoumatoff's The World Is Burning (Little, Brown), an expansion of his Vanity Fair article, and documentary filmmaker Adrian Cowell's The Decade of Destruction (Holt) are scheduled for August publication. Revkin provides perhaps more information on the rain forest and Brazilian and union history than readers may want to know, and Mendes himself remains as elusive as the justice for his murder. Perhaps Revkin discovered that the man wasn't as exciting as the myth. Still, for anyone wanting background on this important and continuing story, this will do the job admirably.-- Judy Quinn, ``Library Journal''
School Library Journal
Chico Mendes was a young man who died for what he believed in--the salvation of the Amazon rain forest and its inhabitants from the hands of the predatory ranchers who are despoiling those forests. He died in December, 1988 at the hands of those very ranchers, and left a legacy behind him, which, as well as the story of his life, is presented in this intriguing book. More than biography, this book describes the recent political and environmental issues facing Brazil and the impact of these issues on the people of the Amazon region. As such, it is a commentary on some of the crucial issues of the day, such as environmental politics, literacy, and problems of third-world countries. Written in a clear, easy-to-read style, on a subject right out of the newspaper headlines and with a heroic young man at its center, this book will appeal to YA readers, and will be valuable in history or science classes. --Roberta Lisker, W. T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, VA
A well-researched and deftly written account of the life and times of Mendes, the Brazilian rubber tapper and grass-roots environmentalist who was murdered in 1988 by ranchers intent on their short term gain. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)