Land And Environmental Activists
Environmental and land activists, also known as environmentalists, are people who are actively engaged in environmentalism. They believe in improving and protecting the environment from harmful human activities. These harmful activities may include water contamination, toxic disposal, and natural resource consumption (to name a few). Activists participate in public educational campaigns, lobby governments in the interest of the environment, and organize protests in an attempt to stop environmentally detrimental acts. They are critical factors in bringing otherwise unknown issues to the public eye. It is for this reason that they are not always welcomed with open arms.
2015 - A Deadly Year For Environmental Activists
In 2015, 185 environmental activists were killed around the globe. These deaths represent the highest recorded number and a nearly 60% increase over the 2014 record. Sixteen different countries reported these incidences and one occurred in international waters. As the global demand for natural resources (oil, gas, trees, etc.) increases, both formal and illegal companies are moving in on indigenous lands in search of goods. Often, the communities do not receive them willingly and put up a fight. This reluctance puts community members and other activists in direct opposition with these companies’ private security teams and even government security forces. Recently, these confrontations have been growing more violent especially with mining companies. Other industries that tend to react with violence against protesters include agribusiness, hydroelectric dams, and logging. This article takes a look at what has been happening in the countries with the highest rates of activist murders.
Countries With The Most Environmental Activist Murders
Brazil had an astonishing 50 killings in 2015. This country is rich in timber resources and has a very powerful illegal logging industry. Some estimates have determined that 80% of the lumber from Brazil is illegal and that it makes up 25% of the world’s illegal lumber supply. In one case, an environmental activist couple, Raimundo dos Santos Rodrigues and Maria da Conceição Chaves Lima, were attacked on their way to the Biological Reserve of Gurupi. The two were well-known activists in the Amazonian region of Brazil, and fellow activists say they had been targets for quite some time. Raimundo, who died at the scene, was a volunteer at a local institute dedicated to biodiversity conservation; Maria was sent to the hospital and survived. Land ownership is at the root of the problem here with conflicts constantly occurring between subsistence farmers and large landowners.
The Philippines is next on the list with 33 killings. This country has abundant mineral deposits, like coal and gold. One of the most atrocious of these murders occurred in the Lumad village when a paramilitary group publicly killed several community members, execution style. Fear took over the villagers after witnessing the event, and nearly 3,000 residents have now made their homes in Tandag City to avoid conflict over land ownership.
The third most dangerous country for environmental activists is Colombia where 26 people were killed in 2015. The majority of these deaths dealt with mining and agrarian practices. Paramilitary groups pose the biggest threat to environmental activists and indigenous communities in this country.
Future Of Environmental Activism
With no expected reduction in the demand for natural resources in the near future, the issue of insecurity faced by environmental activists in these countries is likely to continue. In many of these countries, the government is either corrupt, disorganized, or lacking human and financial resources to properly address issues of illegal mining, land ownership conflict, and violence against environmental and land activists. Humans’ greed for profit, unquenchable desire for resources, and unsustainable use of energy are driving forces behind these individuals’ deaths.