Eco-Activists Murdered at Record Rates Again, Tragically

It’s certainly not easy being an environmental activist. Most likely your work goes ignored by the government and corporate interests, but on the occasions when they pay attention to what you’re doing, you’re liable to end up dead.

I wish I could say that that was an overreaction, but the Guardian reports that more than 200 environmental leaders were murdered in 2016, setting a devastating new record. That’s twice the amount of eco-activists killed worldwide five years ago.

Unfortunately, these killings have become something of a terrible trend. Last year, I wrote that the record was broken in 2015 with 185 known activist deaths. Although it’s too soon to know what 2017’s final tally will be, the number of deaths already puts it on track to break the record again this year.

Bobby Banerjee, a researcher who studies pushback to global development, says violence has heightened due to the spread of capitalism. Corporations have moved on to poorer countries where precious land and resources are still up for grabs.

When local activists fight back in order to protect these resources, they are even more vulnerable than activists in developed nations. That’s because governments are more often corrupt and law enforcement is more often ineffective, enabling companies and politicians to kill resistance leaders without fear of any legitimate repercussions.

Indeed, almost none of the victims’ killers are known, let alone held responsible. Companies and governments looking to profit off the exploitation of land will hire hit men to murder on their behalf, targeting the leaders of resistance movements. These deaths serve to intimidate fellow activists from continuing to obstruct development.

The deadliest part of the world for eco-activists is Brazil, where 49 people died while standing up for the rainforests, presumably at the order of timber companies. Latin America also saw 60 earth defenders killed.

The Guardian has set up a page dedicated to identifying the brave environmentalists who tried to thwart mines, water pollution, deforestation, poaching, etc. so that their efforts will not be forgotten in death.

Though all of the 200+ victims deserve to have their story told, so many of them are indigenous people who live in such remote areas that not a lot is known about many of them. One of the more famous cases, though, is of Berta Cáceres, an indigenous Honduran activist who opposed the construction of a dam on the Gualcarque River.

Cáceres had a lot of success rallying her community against the project, which is undoubtedly why international companies threatened her life, then had her shot dead in her home in March of ‘16. The Honduran government hasn’t taken her death very seriously, which is why the Care2 community has a popular petition calling for a UN investigation into her death.

Humanity is facing an environmental crisis, and it looks to be getting even worse. Even when people stand up on behalf of the planet, many are killed to stop them from succeeding. How do we effectively mount a resistance when corporations can murder with impunity?

The bottom line is if corporations and governments are willing to murder activists in cold blood, they must also not have a problem with the more passive forms of violence like polluting waterways, chopping down forests and expanding carbon emissions, all of which will threaten human health in the long term.

Greed shouldn’t take precedence over human life, but realistically we’re going to need a lot more environmental activists to put their lives on the line in order to ever topple a system this corrupt.


Marie W
Marie W2 months ago

Thank you for caring and sharing

Melania P
Melania Padilla5 months ago

The criminals are the ones killing the planet, not the ones protecting it!

heather g
heather g6 months ago

Thank you for th good article. When big Canadian companies destroy the environment in other countries, it isn't even reported locally.

Margie FOURIE7 months ago

This is terrible, and even worse that they are getting away with it.

Carl R
Carl R7 months ago


renee lusian
renee lusian7 months ago

Thank you

darcia hurst
darcia hurst7 months ago

These crimini must be held accountable! They shouldn't be allowed to hide behind a corporate name! People make up the corporation so the law should treat it this way. Bring these cowards forward to bring justice to these brave hero's!

David P
David P7 months ago

Not cool.

David P
David P7 months ago


Patricia H
Patricia Harris7 months ago

JinnySITEISSUES L and earthism info, so very true.