Quantcast

2016 Was Deadliest Year Ever for Earth Defenders

Climate
Global Witness

By Jessica Corbett

Last year was the deadliest in history to be an environmental activist, according to a new report that found, on average, nearly four people were killed per week.


Defenders of the Earth, released by UK-based human rights group Global Witness, lists the names and locations of 200 environmental advocates who were killed around the world. While the report found Brazil, Colombia and the Philippines were the nations with the most murdered environmentalists in 2016, Honduras has been the deadliest country for environmental activists over the last decade.

Last year, Nicaragua was the most dangerous country per capita, where at least 11 environmental activists were killed—all but one were indigenous. In 2013, the Nicaraguan government agreed to allow a Chinese company to build a canal linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans; the canal will also force up to 120,000 indigenous people to relocate, according to the report.

"We have carried out 87 marches, demanding that they respect our rights and we have had no response. The only response we have had is the bullet," Nicaraguan activist Francisca Ramírez said of her government's response to protests. "They sell the image that we are against development. We are not against development, we are against injustice," added Ramírez, who has been threatened, assaulted, and arrested for protesting the canal.

"Governments, companies and investors have a duty to guarantee that communities are consulted about the projects that affect them, that activists are protected from violence and that perpetrators are brought to justice," Global Witness campaigner Ben Leather said in statement. "States are breaking their own laws and failing their citizens in the worst possible way. Brave activists are being murdered, attacked and criminalized by the very people who are supposed to protect them."

Key findings from the report include:

  • "The phenomenon isn't just growing, it's spreading." In addition to a nearly 10 percent increase from deaths documented in 2015, Global Witness reported murders in 24 countries, eight more than those documented the previous year.
  • Among those killed, 60 percent lived in Latin America, and 40 percent of all victims were indigenous.
  • "Conflicts over the control of land and natural resources were an underlying factor in almost every killing in 2016." The most dangerous sectors to protest are logging, agribusiness, and mining, with at least 33 activists killed for organizing against mining and oil projects.

John Knox, UN special rapporteur on human rights and the environment, said to the Guardian:

"There is now an overwhelming incentive to wreck the environment for economic reasons. The people most at risk are people who are already marginalized and excluded from politics and judicial redress, and are dependent on the environment. The countries do not respect the rule of law. Everywhere in the world, defenders are facing threats.

"There is an epidemic now, a culture of impunity, a sense that anyone can kill environmental defenders without repercussions, eliminate anyone who stands in the way. It [comes from] mining, agribusiness, illegal logging and dam building."

James Savage of The Fund for Global Human Rights responded to the findings on Twitter:

Since 2010, Global Witness has recorded nearly 1,000 murders of environmental activists, "with many more facing threats, attacks, harassment, stigmatization, surveillance and arrest."

Though the group did not document any murders of environmental activists in the U.S. in 2016, U.S. environmentalists across the country encountered violence. Notably, as Common Dreams reported, North Dakota police, clad in riot gear, responded to Indigenous-led protests of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) with rubber bullets, water cannons and teargas grenades. Though the DAPL protests carried on for several months, in a single night last November, 26 unarmed protesters were hospitalized and more than 300 were injured following a confrontation with law enforcement.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Aerial view of the explosion site of a chemical factory on March 22 in Yancheng, Jiangsu Province of China. Caixin Media / VCG / Getty Images)

At least 47 people have died in an explosion at a plant in Yancheng, China Thursday run by a chemical company with a history of environmental violations, Sky News reported.

Read More Show Less
A fishmonger in Elmina, a fishing port in the Central Region of Ghana. Environmental Justice Foundation

By Daisy Brickhill

Each morning, men living in fishing communities along Ghana's coastline push off in search of the day's catch. But when the boats come back to shore, it's the women who take over.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Pexels

By Sam Nickerson

Links between excess sugar in your diet and disease have been well-documented, but new research by Harvard's School of Public Health might make you even more wary of that next soda: it could increase your risk of an early death.

The study, published this week in the American Heart Association's journal Circulation, found that drinking one or two sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) each day — like sodas or sports drinks — increases risk of an early death by 14 percent.

Read More Show Less
Krystal B / Flickr

Tyson Foods is recalling approximately 69,093 pounds of frozen chicken strips because they may have been contaminated with pieces of metal, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced Thursday.

The affected products were fully-cooked "Buffalo Style" and "Crispy" chicken strips with a "use by" date of Nov. 30, 2019 and an establishment number of "P-7221" on the back of the package.

"FSIS is concerned that some product may be in consumers' freezers," the recall notice said. "Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume them. These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase."

Read More Show Less
Pixabay

By Hrefna Palsdottir, MS

Cold cereals are an easy, convenient food.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A tractor spraying a field with pesticides in Orem, Utah. Aqua Mechanical / CC BY 2.0

Environmental exposure to pesticides, both before birth and during the first year of life, has been linked to an increased risk of developing autism spectrum disorder, according to the largest epidemiological study to date on the connection.

The study, published Wednesday in BMJ, found that pregnant women who lived within 2,000 meters (approximately 1.2 miles) of a highly-sprayed agricultural area in California had children who were 10 to 16 percent more likely to develop autism and 30 percent more likely to develop severe autism that impacted their intellectual ability. If the children were exposed to pesticides during their first year of life, the risk they would develop autism went up to 50 percent.

Read More Show Less
The ExxonMobil Torrance Refinery in Torrance, California. waltarrrr / Flickr

ExxonMobil could be the second company after Monsanto to lose lobbying access to members of European Parliament after it failed to turn up to a hearing Thursday into whether or not the oil giant knowingly spread false information about climate change.

The call to ban the company was submitted by Green Member of European Parliament (MEP) Molly Scott Cato and should be decided in a vote in late April, The Guardian reported.

Read More Show Less
Bernie Sanders holds his first presidential campaign rally at Brooklyn College on March 02 in Brooklyn, New York. Kena Betancur / VIEWpress / Corbis. Getty Images

Bernie Sanders has become the first contender in the crowded 2020 Democratic presidential primary field to pledge to offset all of the greenhouse gas emissions released by campaign travel, The Huffington Post reported Thursday.

Read More Show Less