As the climate crisis grows worse, so does the situation for people around the world who are fighting for change. In some countries, it’s so dangerous to speak up for the environment, activists are being killed. The number of targeted attacks against whistleblowers and environmental defenders around the world has increased dramatically over the last several years, hitting a peak in 2020.
227 environmental activists were killed last year, according to data released by a campaign group. This number is likely conservative, as it only counts those murders that were actually reported. The victims were actively fighting infrastructure changes that would harm the environment, and went up against industries such as logging, hydroelectricity, mining, and large agricultural business. They also spoke out against injustices like human trafficking.
Based on the report, these lethal attacks occurred in regions where freedom of speech and other civil liberties are restricted. The activists in these countries place themselves in a dangerous situation by speaking out for what’s right.
Over half of the attacks occurred in the countries of Columbia, Mexico, and The Philippines. Many of these defenders were local or indigenous people fighting to conserve their land or property from being destroyed by big corporations.
According to reports, an average of four activists has been murdered every week since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015.
“This dataset is another stark reminder that fighting the climate crisis carries an unbearably heavy burden for some, who risk their lives to save the forests, rivers, and biospheres that are essential to counteract unsustainable global warming,” said Chris Madden of the Global Witness organization.
The COVID pandemic lockdowns last year did not stop or even slow the attacks down. Some activists were even murdered in their own homes. One example is Fikile Ntshangase, who was involved in a legal dispute to stop an energy company from expanding its mines in her country. She was gunned down in her living room.
It’s up to the world governments to protect these defenders against the entities targeting them!
At Karmagawa and SaveTheReef, we will continue to use our platform and our voices to call out injustice and environmental atrocities. You can help speak out and spread awareness by using your platform, too. We, who can use our voice cannot be silent!
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(Cover image: Rich Carey/Shutterstock)