Organization Counts Toll in Fight Over Environment

An activist has been killed every 2 days over the past decade, Global Witness says
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 29, 2022 4:40 PM CDT
An Activist Dies Every 2 Days in Fight Over Lands: Group
An Indigenous man holds a sign with the name of British journalist Dom Phillips, who was killed in the Amazon region, during a protest against violence, illegal logging, mining, and ranching on Sept. 18 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.   (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

An international organization has counted the number of people who have been slain over the past 10 years while trying to keep mining, drilling for oil, or logging from taking place on their lands: 1,700. That's an average of one activist killed every two days, Global Witness says. As high as that total is, researchers say it's an undercount, the BBC reports. They expect activists will face greater danger, partly as the war in Ukraine increases demand for fossil fuels. Latin America is especially dangerous, accounting for 68% of the killings. "There is increasing stress on natural resources globally, and this is playing out as a battle particularly in the Amazon in Brazil," said Shruti Suresh of Global Witness.

In many cases, Indigenous communities are fighting to hold onto their land and prevent the exploitation of its resources, Suresh said. A spokeswoman for Global Witness's partner in Colombia said that not only killings, but threats and attempted homicides have increased. The threats have been successful at times, per the New York Times. "Some have decided to keep quiet out of fear, but for us that's not an option," said Luz Mery Panche, an activist in the Amazon rainforest and an Indigenous leader in Colombia.

The killings of British journalist Dom Phillips and Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira in Brazil this year brought attention to the violent struggles in parts of the Amazon over the use of land there. In Mexico, too, the situation is worsening as criminal gangs, including drug cartels, diversify. Global Witness says one cartel has begun illegal mining, exacting "violence against the Indigenous community with complete impunity and without an adequate response from the Mexican state," per the Times. The criminals "exploit lumber, they exploit mines, they exploit fishing," an environmental activist said. "Whatever there is." (Read more environment stories.)

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