Defending the Environment Shouldn’t Be Deadly

Defending the Environment Shouldn’t Be Deadly
People wearing T-shirts that show the face of slain environmental activist Berta Caceres and reading “Justice for Berta” attend a press conference in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Oct. 31, 2017 (AP photo by Fernando Antonio).

As the effects of the triple planetary crises of climate change, pollution and the loss of biodiversity intensify, individuals and groups worldwide are taking bold actions to protect the planet and people around the world. Known as environmental defenders, or environmental human rights defenders, these individuals are facing increasing forms of repression, from deadly violence to repressive laws. Since 2012, Global Witness has reported record-high numbers of killings of environmental defenders, with 228 defenders working on land and environmental issues killed in 2020 alone.

The Americas is the most dangerous region in the world for these environmental defenders, with the majority of attacks reported worldwide between 2012-2020 taking place in the region. In Brazil, 317 attacks were reported in that period, while in Colombia there were 290. Honduras and Mexico reported 109 and 100 attacks, respectively. At the Ninth Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles this past June, 33 governments of the region pledged to tackle the issue by taking “concrete actions,” a decision some observers described as a “turning point.”

But rather than declarations and pledges, changing the situation on the ground demands that governments address the drivers of violence and repression against these defenders.

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