To be clear, we do not want this article to encourage you to shy away from standing up for what you believe in. If we’re not willing to take action in this world, how will we ever create a brighter tomorrow? It is through leading by example that we set the stage for others to step up as well, and inspire them to truly become the change.
That being said, it’s no secret that, on occasion, activism can result in violence. Police brutality and aggression from authority are very real problems, and even if we’re coming from a place of peace, those in power may view some forms of activism as a threat to the establishment. We have seen this play out in many different ways over the past few years in North America: journalists, writers, and lawyers with ties to the Clintons have wound up dead, and many civilians were injured while protesting against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
In this article, we’ll be focusing mainly on the latter example. Of course, it’s not just in association with the DAPL, as environmental protectors all over the world are being threatened or killed for their bravery. According to a new report by Global Witness, 2016 represented the year in which the most activists were murdered to date simply for taking a stand against mining, logging, agriculture, and related projects and industries.
The picture above is of Berta Caceres, one of these many brave souls.
2016: Highest # of Murdered Environmental Activists Ever
Nearly four people every week were killed for defending their homes or the environment in 2016. Keep in mind that that’s obviously not the only tactic used against environmental protectors; other strategies include death threats, sexual assault, arrests, blackmail, and attacks on family members.
The highest number of murders occurred in Brazil, with Colombia at a close second and the Philippines at third. The total number of known murders of environmental activists throughout 24 countries was 200, but who knows how many went unreported. Global Witness estimated that the actual numbers were likely dramatically higher than those recorded in the report. Approximately 40% of those murdered were Indigenous.
One of the greatest increases from last year’s report was the number of murders of environmental activists based in India. The country experienced a 300% increase from last year, as India had 16 deaths in 2016 alone. The report predicts that this was likely as a result of the recent increase in police brutality and state suppression of activists, as many were murdered at public protest events.
Though many of these murders went unsolved, the vast majority were killed by either police/military forces or hitmen. The irony is that mainstream media often paints the victims as the criminals for having stepped up and fought these companies in the first place. For many of us who admire and respect the environment, this may seem backwards. Why do we have to defend the very land and resources we need to survive?
“Governments and business are failing to tackle the main root cause of the attacks: the imposition of projects on communities without their free, prior and informed consent,” the report concludes. “Protest is often the only recourse left to communities exercising their right to have a say about the use of their land and natural resources, putting them on a collision course with those seeking profit at any cost.”
If our air is polluted and our water is dirty, we literally cannot survive. Why is it that civilians need to explain this concept to these rich and powerful corporations? Often times, the onus is left up to the people to protect the environment, and this should be commended, not criminalized.
“These reports tell a very grim story,” Global Witness campaigner Ben Leather said in a press release. “The battle to protect the planet is rapidly intensifying and the cost can be counted in human lives. More people in more countries are being left with no option but to take a stand against the theft of their land or the trashing of their environment. Too often they are brutally silenced by political and business elites, while the investors that bankroll them do nothing.”
The following video by Global Witness highlights some of these issues:
It’s clear that we’re witnessing a shift in consciousness on this planet. More and more people are starting to realize our inherent connection to one another and everything around us, including the environment.
We will no longer sit back and watch as this planet gets destroyed. Yes, the fact that the establishment responds with force at times is unacceptable, but we cannot let this prevent us from standing up for what we believe in.
In addition, some protests and movements are fuelled and funded by the elite in order to stir up aggression, controversy, and violence amongst one another, such as the Women’s March and Black Lives Matter, but that’s another story (which you can read about in our CE article here).
At the end of the day, if you feel that something is wrong in society, don’t be afraid to question it. Educate people on the importance of protecting the environment and vote with your dollar.
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