Gomercindo Rodrigues, a lawyer and activist, began his work as a labor organizer in the state of Acre in the 1980s with the slain rubber tapper and pioneer of the Brazilian environmental movement, Chico Mendes. In his book, Walking the Forest with Chico Mendes, Rodrigues provides a rare and personal account of the events that defined Mendes' life as he struggled to promote environmental protection and social justice in the Amazon. This important work comes at a time when growing concern about the impacts of global climate change has sharpened debate about the future of the Amazon rainforest.

The Brazilian government, which has long struggled to balance environmental protection with development, is under increasing pressure, both domestic and international, to proactively manage and curb deforestation in the Amazon. As expanding agricultural exports and growing energy needs further complicate the country's environmental policy, there is compelling evidence and increasing recognition that immediate action is necessary. To highlight this pressing debate and consider Brazil's policy choices, the Brazil Institute convened a discussion on September 12, 2007, featuring Rodrigues and biologist Thomas E. Lovejoy, president of The Heinz Center, member of the Brazil Institute's Advisory Council, and a pioneering scholar on Amazon biodiversity.