Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

185 Environmental Activists Across 16 Countries Were Killed in 2015

Climate

By Emily J. Gertz

Scores of people around the world were murdered last year while trying to protect their communities from illegal mining and logging, palm oil agriculture and other industrial development projects, according to a London-based environmental and human rights organization.

The number of confirmed killings—185 activists across 16 countries—increased by 59 percent from 2014, according to Global Witness. It was the highest death toll in one year since the group began tracking such killings in 2002, said campaign leader Billy Kyte, who wrote the group's new report on the persecution and murders of environmental and land rights activists in 2015.

Michelle Campos, whose father, grandfather and school teacher were publicly executed for opposing mining in Mindanao, Philippines. Photo credit: Tulda Productions

The nation with the highest death toll was Brazil, where there were 50 confirmed murders of environmental activists, Global Witness found. In the Philippines, 33 were killed, including 25 indigenous Lumad involved in opposition to mining on their ancestral lands in the Mindanao region.

The total number of killings may have been much higher, Kyte said, because “there's many areas of the world where we can't get information and there's under-reporting because of media repression, such as China, Central Asia and parts of Africa."

Chart: Courtesy Global Witness

Among 2015's unverifiable deaths, “between 100 and 200 people were killed in protests over development in the Oromia province, in central Ethiopia," he said. “But we need to have names of the people, when they were killed and a direct link to the cause. There was no media that could tell us the names of those people."

Government corruption contributed to the murder rate, according to the report. Kyte pointed to the toll in Mindanao, which included the Sept. 1 murders of three Lumad community leaders: Emerito Samarca, Dionel Campos and Bello Sinzo. Campos and Sinzo were “publicly executed in front of their community. The perpetrators have all been identified," Kyte said. “They came from a paramilitary group that is known to work for mining companies in the region." But “people from that paramilitary group were seen drinking with members of the Filipino military weeks later," he added, in a situation emblematic of “collusion between industries and governments" worldwide.

Global economic forces are also implicated in the death toll. “There are two links," Kyte said. “One is the demand we have in the West for a lot of these products and more often than not we don't ask questions about where they come from." His research linked illegal mining to 42 killings of activists in 2015, agribusiness to 20, hydropower dams and water rights to 15 and illegal logging to 15.

Western investments in development projects that trample on the land rights or resources of local communities is another link, Kyte said, noting that Dutch and Finnish development banks helped finance the Agua Zarca dam, a Honduran hydropower project proposed for a river sacred to the nation's indigenous Lenca people. Berta Caceres, a Lenca who won the prestigious international Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015 for leading grassroots opposition to the dam, was murdered in March after years of threats.

Chart: Courtesy Global Witness

“The fact that Berta Caceres was killed—someone who had a very high media profile—suggests that it's fair game for anyone to be targeted," said Kyte, although the global condemnation of her murder appears to be having an effect. “Although there's a lot to be desired in terms of the political masterminds behind Caceres' killing, at least international pressure led to the arrests of those who pulled the trigger and killed her."

After Caceres' colleague Nelson Garcia was killed within weeks of her murder, both Dutch FMO and Finland's Finnfund suspended payments to the project.

Global Witness is calling for increased protection for environmental activists, more national and international support for their civil and human rights and governmental recognition of indigenous and local land rights. “But ultimately, when a human rights violation takes place, someone responsible needs to be held to account," said Kyte, including companies if they are involved. “There have to be investigations of these crimes."

This article was reposted with permission from our media associate TakePart.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Help Put an End to Coal Mining on Public Lands

Exxon Sues Massachusetts Attorney General to Block Climate Fraud Investigation

World's Biggest Banks Are Driving Climate Change, Pumping Billions Into Extreme Fossil Fuels

Court Documents Show Peabody Energy Funded Dozens of Climate Denial Groups

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

These 19 organizations and individuals represent a small portion of the efforts underway to fight racism and inequality and to build stronger Black communities and food systems. rez-art / Getty Images

By Danielle Nierenberg

Following the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, people around the United States are protesting racism, police brutality, inequality, and violence in their own communities. No matter your political affiliation, the violence by multiple police departments in this country is unacceptable.

Read More Show Less
Residents plant mangroves on the coast of West Aceh District in Indonesia on Feb. 21, 2020. Mangroves play a crucial role in stabilizing the coastline, providing protection from storms, waves and tidal erosion. Dekyon Eon / Opn Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Mangroves play a vital role in capturing carbon from the atmosphere. Mangrove forests are tremendous assets in the fight to stem the climate crisis. They store more carbon than a rainforest of the same size.

Read More Show Less
UN World Oceans Day is usually an invite-only affair at the UN headquarters in New York, but this year anyone can join in by following the live stream on the UNWOD website from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST. https://unworldoceansday.org/

Monday is World Oceans Day, but how can you celebrate our blue planet while social distancing?

Read More Show Less
Cryptococcus yeasts (pictured), including ones that are hybrids, can cause life-threatening infections in primarily immunocompromised people. KATERYNA KON/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY / Getty Images

By Jacob L. Steenwyk and Antonis Rokas

From the mythical minotaur to the mule, creatures created from merging two or more distinct organisms – hybrids – have played defining roles in human history and culture. However, not all hybrids are as fantastic as the minotaur or as dependable as the mule; in fact, some of them cause human diseases.

Read More Show Less
National Trails Day 2020 is now titled In Solidarity, AHS Suspends Promotion of National Trails Day 2020. The American Hiking Society is seeking to amplify Black voices in the outdoor community and advocate for equal access to the outdoors. Klaus Vedfelt / DigitalVision / Getty Images

This Saturday, June 6, marks National Trails Day, an annual celebration of the remarkable recreational, scenic and hiking trails that crisscross parks nationwide. The event, which started in 1993, honors the National Trail System and calls for volunteers to help with trail maintenance in parks across the country.

Read More Show Less
Indigenous people from the Parque das Tribos community mourn the death of Chief Messias of the Kokama tribe from Covid-19, in Manaus, Brazil, on May 14, 2020. MICHAEL DANTAS / AFP / Getty Images

By John Letzing

This past Wednesday, when some previously hard-hit countries were able to register daily COVID-19 infections in the single digits, the Navajo Nation – a 71,000 square-kilometer (27,000-square-mile) expanse of the western US – reported 54 new cases of what's referred to locally as "Dikos Ntsaaígíí-19."

Read More Show Less

Trending

World Environment Day was put into motion almost fifty years ago by the United Nations as a response to a multitude of environmental threats. RicardoImagen / Getty Images

It's a different kind of World Environment Day this year. In prior years, it might have been enough to plant a tree, spend some extra time in the garden, or teach kids the importance of recycling. This year we have heavier tasks at hand. It's been months since we've been able to spend sufficient time outside, and as we lustfully watch the beauty of a new spring through our kitchen's glass windows, we have to decide how we'll interact with the natural world on our release, and how we can prevent, or be equipped to handle, future threats against our wellbeing.

Read More Show Less