I once received death threats for a post I wrote on TreeHugger. They were mostly comical, badly spelled and never felt particularly worrisome. In fact, as a recent immigrant from the UK, I remember half joking that it felt like I had finally become a "real American." For some environmental activists who are not as privileged and/or complacent as I, such threats are no joking matter. And the problem appears to be getting worse.
In fact, according to a new report from indigenous rights organization Global Witness, 2015 saw a record number of environmental activists murdered across the world.
The numbers are shocking: Global Witness recorded 185 murders in 16 countries. That makes three murders every week, by far the largest number ever recorded, and more than double the number of journalists killed in the same year. A full 50 of those deaths happened in Brazil, where activists have been facing violence as they seek to halt illegal logging. And 33 happened in the Philippines, where indigenous groups have been putting up resistance to coal, gold and nickel mining.
It's a highly disturbing story. For all our talk of solar panels, bike-friendly cities and taking shorter showers, we environmentalists who don't face (credible) death threats owe it to those who do to stand up, make a noise and demand justice and protection for those on the front lines. We also need to pay close attention to the solutions we espouse: Electric cars may well be a whole lot greener, but where do all the metals and minerals they contain come from? Alongside greening up our electric grids, we must also demand a clean supply chain for all raw materials that fuel the emerging clean energy economy.