Will Potter warns that it’s an increasingly deadly world for them:
Between 2002 and 2013, at least 908 people were killed because of their environmental advocacy, according to “Deadly Environment,” a new report from the investigative nonprofit Global Witness. That’s an average of at least one environmentalist murdered every week, and in the last four years, the rate of the murders has doubled. In 2012, the deadliest year on record, 147 deaths were recorded, three times more than a decade earlier. “There were almost certainly more cases,” the report says, “but the nature of the problem makes information hard to find, and even harder to verify.”
In places like Myanmar, China, and parts of Central Asia, human rights monitoring is simply prohibited. In African countries like Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Zimbabwe, where clashes over resources have escalated, researchers say it is impossible to track the violence without in-depth field investigations, because governments haven’t documented the killings. The most vulnerable activists are those in indigenous communities in remote, rural areas who are facing off against much more powerful business interests in industries like mining and logging. Much of the world never hears about their struggles, or their deaths. In other words, where environmental advocates are most at risk they are least visible.
The most dangerous country in the world for environmentalists is Brazil, with 448 killings over the last 10 years. According to the report, “this can be attributed to Brazil’s land ownership patterns, which are among the most concentrated and unequal in the world.” The country’s rapid economic growth has frequently brought powerful business interests into conflict with small and medium-sized farms as well as indigenous groups, often with deadly consequences.
To be fair, the high totals from Brazil may also be a result of the fact that the country has a relatively robust civil society and media sector, so killings in the context of land and environmental disputes are more likely to be reported.