In the decade of the 1980s the rate and scale of Amazonian deforestation began to attract both national and international attention. People from around the world voiced alarm about the loss of rain forests to cattle ranching, gold mining, logging and wild fires.
It was at this time that Dr. Christopher, a tropical ecologist conducting research in Eastern Amazonia, advanced the thesis that scientists had an important role to play, both in elucidating the deleterious consequences of deforestation, as well as in developing sustainable strategies of Amazon land use.
On the one hand Uhl saw an important role for scientists. On the other hand, he was struck by the fact that there were very few Brazilian researchers with the scientific training and disposition to address the threats to Amazonia. Herein he saw an opportunity to train young people (i.e., recent graduates from Brazilian universities), while at the same time conducting high-quality research on Amazonia’s pressing ecological, social and economic problems.
It was in this context that Imazon was founded in 1990 by Uhl, along with Adalberto Verissimo, David McGrath, Paulo Barreto and Paraguassu Eleres (and financial assistance from the MacArthur Foundation). At the time of Imazon’s creation, there were no models–no private research institutions in the Brazilian Amazon devoted to documenting what was happening in the region, much less offering concrete alternatives to destructive practices.
Since its founding Imazon has produced a large and powerful body of research (see publications) that is playing an ever-larger role in influencing political decisions in Amazonia in favor of sustainability. At the same time the Institute has, and continues to act as an incubator for the formation of a whole generation of Amazonian scientists.