Prize-Winning Activist Berta Cáceres Murdered in Honduras
By Friends of the Earth International
Berta Cáceres, 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize winner, was murdered last night in her home. Reportedly, her assassins waited until well after dark before breaking into the house where she slept. Her brother was also injured in the attack.
Our condolences to her family, friends and all who worked alongside her.
“This is a sad day for Honduras and the world," said Jagoda Munic, chair of Friends of the Earth International.
“Given the situation in Honduras, in which indigenous, environmental and human rights activists like Berta Cáceres are targeted by government and corporate security forces alike, international pressure is needed to bring the murderers to justice and protect those brave enough to speak out on behalf of their fellow citizens and the environment."
Cáceres rallied her fellow indigenous Lenca people of Honduras and waged a grassroots campaign that successfully pressured the world's largest dam builder to pull out of the Agua Zarca dam.
According to the Goldman Environmental Prize website:
Since the 2009 coup, Honduras has witnessed an explosive growth in environmentally destructive megaprojects that would displace indigenous communities. Almost 30 percent of the country's land was earmarked for mining concessions, creating a demand for cheap energy to power future mining operations. To meet this need, the government approved hundreds of dam projects around the country, privatizing rivers, land and uprooting communities.
Among them was the Agua Zarca Dam, a joint project of Honduran company Desarrollos Energéticos SA (DESA) and Chinese state-owned Sinohydro, the world's largest dam developer. Agua Zarca, slated for construction on the sacred Gualcarque River, was pushed through without consulting the indigenous Lenca people—a violation of international treaties governing indigenous peoples' rights. The dam would cut off the supply of water, food and medicine for hundreds of Lenca people and violate their right to sustainably manage and live off their land.
It's not yet known who is behind Cáceres assassination, but as a indigenous, environmental and human rights activist she knew well the risks she faced. In 1993, she co-founded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) to address the growing threats posed to indigenous communities by illegal logging, fight for their territorial rights and improve their livelihoods.
The work of COPINH is still sorely needed. Honduras has been called, “the deadliest place for environmental activists," and is a country where corruption is a major problem. Twelve activists were killed last year alone for their efforts to defend land and the environment, according to a report by UK-based NGO Global Witness—more per capita than any other country (a record Honduras has held for the last five years).
At Friends of the Earth International, we have for a long time admired the work of Cáceres and COPINH, and at times worked together. In 2013, Friends of the Earth supporters joined voices around the world in support of Cáceres when she and other activists were facing prison sentences.
Here's a video of Cáceres when she accepted the Goldman Environmental Prize:
On threats to her own life, she said on Dec. 24, 2013:
"The army has an assassination list of 18 wanted human rights fighters with my name at the top. I want to live, there are many things I still want to do in this world but I have never once considered giving-up fighting for our territory, for a life with dignity, because our fight is legitimate. I take lots of care but in the end, in this country where there is total impunity I am vulnerable… when they want to kill me, they will do it."
On Dec. 9, 2015, Cáceres was interviewed about the death of a fellow activist, Tomás Garcia, who was shot at close range during a peaceful protest at the site of the same Agua Zarca hydro-electric dam. This is how she ended that interview:
“We truly believe in solidarity and in hope despite how hurtful this process is. And we can only think of how our brother, Tomas, is no longer with us, of how much he is missed, not just by his family—his sons and daughters—but by COPINH as well. And despite everything that's happened, we still have hope in our people's struggle."
Here's a video from the Goldman Environmental Prize on Berta Cáceres' work rallying the indigenous Lenca people of Honduras and waging a grassroots campaign that successfully pressured the world's largest dam builder to pull out of the Agua Zarca Dam:
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
Britain's Prince William interviewed famed broadcaster David Attenborough on Tuesday at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Switzerland.
During the sit-down, the 92-year-old naturalist advised the world leaders and business elite gathered in Davos this week that we must respect and protect the natural world, adding that the future of its survival—as well as humanity's survival—is in our hands.
What's more, the accounting firm predicts that another 21 million electric cars will be on the road globally over the next decade due to growing market demand for clean transportation, government subsidies, as well as bans on fossil fuel cars.
By Matthew Savoca
Plastic pollution in the world's oceans has become a global environmental crisis. Many people have seen images that seem to capture it, such as beaches carpeted with plastic trash or a seahorse gripping a cotton swab with its tail.
Greenland is melting about four times faster than it was in 2003, a new study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found, a discovery with frightening implications for the pace and extent of future sea level rise.
"We're going to see faster and faster sea level rise for the foreseeable future," study lead author and Ohio State University geodynamics professor Dr. Michael Bevis said in a press release. "Once you hit that tipping point, the only question is: How severe does it get?"
Finally, some good news about the otherwise terrible partial government shutdown. A federal judge ruled that the Trump administration cannot issue permits to conduct seismic testing during the government impasse.
The Justice Department sought to delay—or stay—a motion filed by a range of coastal cities, businesses and conservation organizations that are suing the Trump administration over offshore oil drilling, Reuters reported. The department argued that it did not have the resources it needed to work on the case due to the shutdown.
Most people have heard of the Amazon, South America's famed rainforest and hub of biological diversity. Less well known, though no less critical, is the Pantanal, the world's largest tropical wetland.
Like the Amazon, the Pantanal is ecologically important and imperiled. Located primarily in Brazil, it also stretches into neighboring Bolivia and Paraguay. Covering an area larger than England at more than 70,000 square miles, the massive wetland provides irreplaceable ecosystem services that include the regulation of floodwaters, nutrient renewal, river flow for navigability, groundwater recharge and carbon sequestration. The wetland also supports the economies of the four South American states it covers.
By Andrea Germanos
Organizers said 35,000 people marched through the streets of the German capital on Saturday to say they're "fed up" with industrial agriculture and call for a transformation to a system that instead supports the welfare of the environment, animals and rural farmers.
By Patrick Rogers
If you have ever considered making the switch to an environmentally friendly electric vehicle, don't drag your feet. Though EV prices are falling, and states are unveiling more and more public charging stations and plug-in-ready parking spots, the federal government is doing everything it can to slam the brakes on our progress away from gas-burning internal combustion engines. President Trump, likely pressured by his allies in the fossil fuel industry, has threatened to end the federal tax credits that have already helped put hundreds of thousands of EVs on the road—a move bound to harm not only our environment but our economy, too. After all, the manufacturing and sale of EVs, hybrids, and plug-in hybrids supported 197,000 jobs in 2017, according to the most recent U.S. Energy and Employment Report.