by Brianna Acuesta, True Activist: Nearly 4 were killed every week last year.
Anyone can be an environmentalist these days, but it’s those that go above and beyond to protect nature and wildlife that are truly at risk, according to the watchdog group Global Witness. The group uses a number of resources to uncover corruption and advocate for transparency in the mining, logging, oil and gas sectors and has also turned their attention to the number of environmentalists that are murdered annually.
According to the non-profit group, two hundred environmentalists, wildlife rangers, and indigenous leaders were killed in 2016, which adds up to nearly 4 every week. These deaths were classified as murders, and The Guardian has teamed up Global Witness to accurately count the deaths that occur in 2017. By the end of May, 98 killings were identified.
While people and organizations that fight against corporations involved in the destruction of Earth may seem like little more than a nuisance, those that go too far in stopping the companies from continuing their damaging work become at risk of getting hurt.
“There is now an overwhelming incentive to wreck the environment for economic reasons. The people most at risk are people who are already marginalized and excluded from politics and judicial redress,” said John Knox, UN special rapporteur on human rights and the environment.
“Everywhere in the world, defenders are facing threats. There is an epidemic now, a culture of impunity, a sense that anyone can kill environmental defenders without repercussions, eliminate anyone who stands in the way. It [comes from] mining, agribusiness, illegal logging and dam building.”
The death of Berta Cáceres, a Honduran activist, made international headlines and struck a chord with Global Witness, who worked with Cáceres and considered her a friend. Cáceres had made a name for herself in the international community by winning the Goldman Environment Prize in 2015 for her grassroots work to protect indigenous people and their land. She was murdered one night in 2016 by armed men who broke into her home and shot her in the head. Cáceres was 1 of 14 Honduran activists killed last year, according to Global Witness, making it the worst country to live in as an environmentalist.