<< Back

East Timor is a budding new independent nation, full of promise but ravaged by foreign occupation. Demetrio do Amaral de Carvalho, a founding father and environmental hero of East Timor, won a Goldman Environmental Prize for his work to help the country better itself ecologically while in recovery from the massive destruction. He has almost singlehandedly guided this nation from itŐs birth to strive towards environmental balance and sustainability.

East Timor started as a Portuguese colony, until it declared independence in 1975. But as soon as the Portuguese left, Indonesia invaded. East Timor remained an Indonesian province until 1999, when, with the UNŐs support, an overwhelming majority voted for independence. Indonesian military-backed militia and paramilitaries went on a terror campaign with slow international reaction.Much of East Timor was destroyed and at some points there were estimates from 200,000 to 300,000 refugees created with up to 600,000 people displaced. East Timor is now an independent nation, officially. It is also in the process of rebuilding and recovering from the violence it has suffered.

East Timor faces many issues but is also doing surprisingly well for being the world's newest nation. One of the main issues at hand not only exists in this small country but around the world. The main environmental threats come from the widespread use of slash and burn agriculture, which has lead to deforestation and soil erosion. East Timor signed a UN treaty to protect the earth's fragile ozone layer. The treaty was the first to receive backing from all 196 member states. While environmental issues are the main issues this country faces, it faces many health and labor problems as well; only 10 hospitals exist in East Timor, and two of them are used for the military. This small country also faces many oil and gas negotiations and strikes.

A former resistance leader, Demetrio do Amaral de Carvalho founded the countryŐs first environmental pressure group while East Timor was still under occupation and is largely credited with getting environmental principles included in the nationŐs new constitution, to help guide the management of the countryŐs rainforests, coral reefs and vast oil and gas reserves.

Environmental awareness is a major issue in East Timor just as it is in many other countries, and Carvalho has spearheaded a movement to make the new nation a greener one. By changing the constitution, he hopes to change the people ways and make East Timor a more earth friendly and beautiful place to live in, especially after all the terror it has been through.