José Lutzenberger

Awarded 1988


For his contribution to protecting the natural environment in Brazil and worldwide.

José Lutzenberger (1926-2002) was a Brazilian agronomist who worked for 15 years with a multinational chemical corporation but left in 1970 to start a vigorous and successful campaign against pesticides and for organic farming. What followed was significant progress in Brazil among farmers large and small concerning organic crop management; increasing numbers began to use fewer poisons and turned to more regenerative production methods. 

Lutzenberger’s work in this field made him an acknowledged expert on soil science, organic fertiliser, and plant health. Agriculture, however, was only one of his concerns: he is also widely known in Brazil as the father of the environmental movement.

Lutzenberger passed away in 2002 at the age of 75.

A healthy civilisation can only be one that harmonises with and integrates into the totality of life, enhancing not demolishing it.

José Lutzenberger, 1988 Laureate

As an agronomist interested in healthy, clean, sustainable agriculture, Lutzenberger went into sanitary engineering. He also got involved in recycling, being conscious that hundreds of millions of hectares of good agricultural land were being degraded by the destruction of humus and soil life. On the other hand, hundreds of millions of tons of precious organic wastes were being destroyed by dumping, contamination or burning in industry. He developed simple, alternative methods for re-use - either as fodder or fertiliser - of the wastes of many industries such as pulp mills, tanneries, slaughterhouses and food processing plants. He also worked in landscaping and gardening.

He created Agapan in 1971, which he chaired until 1983. Four years later, he started the Gaia Foundation to expand environmental activism and build more sustainable societies.

Lutzenberger's activities in Brazil were combined with a gruelling international speaking schedule that took him regularly to many countries on all continents.

From 1990-1992, he was Special Secretary for the Environment to the President of Brazil, Fernando Collor de Mello. In this position, he was instrumental in the demarcation of Indian territories, especially the land of the Yanomami, and the decision to abandon the atom bomb and in Brazil's signing of the Antarctic Treaty and the Whale Convention. One of Lutzenberger's main concerns was preserving the tropical rainforest of Amazonia and other essential elements of the biosphere.

In 1995, he received an honorary doctorate from BOKU (Universität für Bodenkultur) at the University of Vienna, Austria, for his scientific work and cooperation with Austrian farmers.

In all his work areas, Lutzenberger promoted holistic thinking in science and technology and new holistic ethics.

Culture and Education