Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

3 Activists Killed Per Week in 2018, New Report Shows

Climate
Enemies of the state? | Stand with Defenders of land and our environment

Taking a stand for environmental justice and protecting natural resources is a dangerous pursuit. A new report from the UK-based NGO Global Witness showed that 164 environmentalists worldwide were killed for their activism in 2018. That averages to just over three murders per week. And that's an underestimation.


Global Witness said the true number was likely "much higher, because cases are often not documented and rarely investigated. Reliable evidence is hard to find or verify," according to US News and World Report.

Also, murder is not the only way to quash dissent. Global Witness said, although killings are at a disturbing level, companies and governments were increasingly using other tactics like criminalization, non-lethal violence, harassment and threats, as the Guardian reported. One common tactic is for governments to label activists as terrorists.

"Deaths were down last year, but violence and widespread criminalization of people defending their land and our environment were still rife around the world," said Alice Harrison, a senior campaigner at Global Witness, as the HuffPost reported.

"The drop in killings masks another gruesome reality, " said Harrison. "Our partners in Brazil and many other countries have noted a spike in other forms of non-lethal attacks against defenders — often attacks so brutal they're just shy of murder."

The bulk of the murders took place in Asia or Central and South America. In fact, more than half were in Latin America and most of the victims were indigenous or rural campaigners standing up for their communities against mining, hydrocarbon development, damming and agribusiness. The mining sector was responsible for one-fourth of the murders.

The Philippines replaced Brazil as the most murderous country, with 30 victims, followed by Colombia with 24, India with 23 and then Brazil with 20. It's the first time since the annual list began in 2012 that Brazil did not top the list, according to the Guardian. The number of reported murders there dropped from 57 the year before to 20 in 2018.

Brazil's drop from the top spot is largely due to improved reporting mechanisms for indigenous people, a growing body of media stories highlighting the peril of protecting the Amazon, and a UN conference in Rio de Janeiro that called for international recognition of the human right to a healthy environment.

That decline in murders may be short-lived since right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro has made a concerted effort to weaken indigenous territorial rights and protections for nature reserves. In a troubling sign of what may lie ahead, Emyra Waiãpi, an indigenous leader, was murdered in an indigenous reserve ahead of an invasion by dozens of illegal miners, as the Guardian reported.

Guatemala had one of the highest numbers per capita and the sharpest increase with a five-fold increase, bringing the total number to 16 deaths in 2018, which Global Witness attributed to new investments in plantations, mining and energy projects, according to US News and World Report.

"In general, the surge in killings is because Guatemala is witnessing a major setback with regard to democracy and human rights," said Jorge Santos, executive director of the non-profit Unit for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders in Guatemala, to Al Jazeera.

His group has documented machete attacks and armed militias opening fire on indigenous people campaigning for land rights in areas that are home to mining operations, oil palm plantations and displacement of the Maya Q'eqchi' community.

Santos said that corruption and impunity have thrived under current president, Jimmy Morales, who has allowed a boom for industries that plunder natural resources, according to Al Jazeera.

"So far," the report from Global Witness reads, "governments have largely failed to listen or react, while big businesses are generally holding to the model that created the problem in the first place."

"Growing awareness of environmental issues must now be translated into concrete actions to protect the planet and the people who defend it," Harrison said to the HuffPost.

Map shows tracks and strength of Atlantic tropical cyclones in 2020. Blues are tropical depressions and tropical storms; yellow through red show hurricanes, darker shades meaning stronger ones. Master0Garfield / Wikimedia Commons

By Astrid Caldas

As we reach the official end of hurricane season, 2020 will be one for the record books. Looking back at these long, surprising, sometimes downright crazy past six months (seven if you count when the first named storms actually started forming), there are many noteworthy statistics and patterns that drive home the significance of this hurricane season, and the ways climate change may have contributed to it.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Protesters shouting slogans on megaphones during the climate strike on September 25 in Lisbon, Portugal. Hugo Amaral / SOPA Images / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Dana Drugmand

An unprecedented climate lawsuit brought by six Portuguese youths is to be fast-tracked at Europe's highest court, it was announced today.

The European Court of Human Rights said the case, which accuses 33 European nations of violating the applicants' right to life by disregarding the climate emergency, would be granted priority status due to the "importance and urgency of the issues raised."

Read More Show Less

Trending

A child plays with a planet Earth ball during the Extinction Rebellion Strike in London on Apr. 18, 2019. Brais G. Rouco / SOPA Images / LightRocket / Getty Images

Will concern over the climate crisis stop people from having children?

Read More Show Less

By Liz Kimbrough

Six grassroots environmental activists will receive the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in a virtual ceremony this year. Dubbed the "Green Nobel Prize," this award is given annually to environmental heroes from each of the world's six inhabited continents.

Read More Show Less
Mount Ili Lewotolok spews ash during a volcanic eruption in Lembata, East Nusa Tenggara on November 29, 2020. Joy Christian / AFP / Getty Images

A large volcano in Indonesia erupted Sunday, sending a plume of smoke and ash miles into the air and forcing thousands of residents to evacuate the region.

Read More Show Less