As the world becomes aware of the profound damage human beings cause to natural environments around the world, groups around the world have long tried to protect the local land and environment. In some places, these struggles are not always peaceful, and last year alone, 200 people were murdered for their environmental work, according to a recent report. (Earth’s CO2 level has risen every year since climate change became a national issue.)
In some countries around the world, there have been violent clashes over land use, pollution, hydroelectric and other projects, and the rights of indigenous peoples. Climate advocates in these regions are fighting multinational agribusiness that continually encroaches on lands they don’t own, wildlife poachers and criminal gangs involved in the illegal logging of pristine forests, to name a few. name a few.
To find the countries where the most people have died defending the climate, 24/7 Wall St. looked at data on confirmed killings of land and environmental defenders around the world each year since 2012, published in the annual report report by a London-based environmental justice non-governmental organization World witness. Due to the difficulties in tracing each incident, these killings represent a massive undercount. We have added population figures for the most recent year available from the World Bank.
Global Witness recorded 1,733 killings of land and environmental defenders between 2012 and 2021. The report also sheds light on who is being killed, who is committing the killings and which sectors are fueling the violence.
Of the 1,733 people confirmed murdered for their activism on land use and environmental issues, 60% were either indigenous people, small farmers, or both. Another 13% of the victims were park rangers or other government officials, journalists or lawyers. The characteristics of the victims of approximately one in five of these murders are unknown.
Of those who carried out the killings, about a third were linked to the armed forces, local police or private military or security guards. About 27% of these perpetrators are categorized as hitmen or killers with ties to local organized crime. The characteristics of about a third of these killers are unknown.
Mining and other related extractive activities were identified as the sector driver in 18% of these murders, while agribusiness, hydroelectric projects and logging were the sector drivers in about a quarter of those murders. However, the area drivers in half of those murders, 871, are unknown.
The most dangerous countries for environmental defenders are mostly in Latin America. Seven of the 10 countries with the most confirmed killings of land and environmental defenders are in this region. (Here are the countries facing the worst climate emergencies.)
Here are the countries where the most people have died in environmental activism.