Defending the planet has become a dangerous activity: the annual report of the Global Witness NGO revealed how many people around the world are killed every week for protecting Earth.
In addition to the data on homicides, the NGO also collected data on intimidation and attacks insidiously carried out by governments and multinationals towards environmental activists.
According to data released by the organization, 164 environmentalists were killed worldwide in 2018 with an underestimated figure of there 3 murders per week.
However, an unknown number of other activists have been silenced through threats, lawsuits and arrests.
The fault of environmentalists is that of having tried to protect our ecosystems, defend indigenous people and preserve environmental resources consumed by intensive agriculture, mining and other industries.
Among top ranking countries drawn up by Global Witness are the Philippines, Colombia, India and Brazil where 30, 24, 23 and 20 murders were recorded respectively in just one year.
Brazil has seen a slight decrease in homicides, but activists remain extremely vulnerable due to Bolsonaro’s policies.
The Brazilian president is in fact dismantling protection of the Amazon rainforest and is encouraging illegal deforestation to facilitate activities such as agriculture, livestock farming, timber trade and mining.
The hardest hit activists are those who fight the mining industry: 43 environmentalists have been murdered for trying to protect our planet from the damage caused by the extraction of minerals and attempting to defend natives from invading miners.
The climate for environmental activists is becoming increasingly dangerous: those who defend the planet, including many indigenous people, are threatened, accused of terrorism and labeled as a criminals through defamatory campaigns that lead to violence, arrests and legal proceedings.
Environmentalists are afraid to go to the police to report any threat they receive because they know there are arrest warrants against them.
Joel Raymundo, of the Guatemalan movement of peaceful resistance against the construction of hydroelectric dams in indigenous lands, told Global Witness:
“They say that we are terrorists, criminals, murderers and that we have armed groups here, but in reality they are killing us.”
This problem does not only concern indigenous peoples: Global Witness has also highlighted the particularly severe prison sentences issued last September against anti-fracking demonstrators in the United Kingdom.
In the United States, environmental protesters are termed “economic terrorists”, and the Trump government’s anti-environmental stance is fueling prejudice towards those who defend the environment.
In addition to governments, multinationals also play an important role in silencing environmentalists: Global Witness has for example discovered that a large plot of land has been illegally leased to a large company that grows and markets bananas.
The territory was inhabited by indigenous people who saw their houses demolished – they also received death threats and were hit for refusing to leave their land.
The situation is terrible and unbelievable, since environmental problems concern us all and it is everyone’s duty to protect both the planet and those who fight to defend it on a daily basis.