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