At Least One Environmental Activist is Killed Every Week


Written by Brian Merchant

We rich nation-dwelling greens are often unawares, at least on a visceral level, to just how dangerous practicing activism in more corrupt countries can be. And we respect the boldness of figures like Tim DeChristopher, who’s now serving a two-year jail sentence for disrupting a land auction, and rightfully so, but we likely can’t name a single one of the many Brazilian environmentalists who’ve been killed trying to halt deforestation in the rain forest.

Underlining this grim truth is a new report from Global Witness, which finds that it’s more dangerous than ever to be an environmental activist. The study finds that in 2011, environmentalists worldwide were killed at an average rate of one per week.

The Guardian reports:

The death toll of campaigners, community leaders and journalists involved in the protection of forests, rivers and land has risen dramatically in the past three years, said Global Witness. Brazil – the host of the Rio+20 conference on sustainable development – has the worst record for danger in a decade that has seen the deaths of more than 365 defenders, said the briefing, which was released on the eve of the high-level segment of the Earth Summit …

“This trend points to the increasingly fierce global battle for resources…” said Billy Kyte, campaigner at Global Witness.

What’s more, the report is presumed to be conservative, due to the difficulty of obtaining stats on murder victims and the ambiguity that often surrounds their deaths.

There’s already quite a legacy of environmental activists placing their lives on the line, and the list of martyrs is already too long. The story of Chico Mendes, for instance, is one of the most gut-wrenching and inspiring on the books. But this developing trend towards even more violence—and what lays at the root of the tumult—is something we should all be watching closely and with trepidation.

This post was originally published by TreeHugger.


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Photo: Danielle Bellinson/flickr


Mary L.
Mary Lee3 years ago

To my dear fellow Baby Boomers:
Join the Freedom Movement all you who are retired but still alive and kicking...
What have you got to lose? Your youth was wasted smoking MJ, talking about changes you and your peers would make but alas upon earning that diploma you signed up for the rest of your life as a working slave to the corporate world in exchange for house, car and more enslavement toys of technology. You FORGOT your principles and ideals. People's Park to the golf course. Freedom of Speech became twitter and facebook. Now you are running the last quarter of your life's race towards the sacred rendezvous...this is your chance to wake up and heed the need of your soul...

Let the younger generations speak of our courage and not just of our consumption...we had it good, drank the fresh waters from icy streams, warmed ourselves with camp fires we built instead of propane, we looked up at the clear night skies with the brillant stars and went to sleep with dreams of abundance. Let us not waste away the last of our vigor in convalescent homes.
Wake up and smell the smoke of forest fires burning away thousands of acres of our beloved forest...wake up, wake up my dear boomers to the Great Waves of Change.

Kelly Rogers4 years ago

To the activists your death will not be in vein.

Kelly Rogers4 years ago

To the family of the killed activist, So Sorry For Your Lose

Tammy K.
Tammy K.4 years ago

So very disturbing!

Edo F.
Edo F.4 years ago

If they are killing activists than they certainly must be on the right path towards exposing these tyrants, and they must know that what they're doing is wrong (and often illegal) if they feel the need to eradicate the threat of being exposed.

Cheryl B.
Cheryl B.4 years ago


Cheryl B.
Cheryl B.4 years ago


Nick Lesseos
Nick Lesseos4 years ago


Navpreet K.
Navpreet K.4 years ago

Activism is a choice for people who realize what needs to be improved. Everyone is an inner activist because we all have things we try to improve. If an environmentalist die at a rate of one per week, then maybe the world isn't ready for them. Moreover, is that fact even true. The article states, "What’s more, the report is presumed to be conservative, due to the difficulty of obtaining stats on murder victims and the ambiguity that often surrounds their deaths." I think this is just an attempt to put false doubt in the air. The environmental movement has been started and won't end until the earth is cared for!

Magyar Girl
Past Member 4 years ago

We activists are viewed as disposable ~ just like the environment and animals that we continue to fight for!