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Environmental activism is a noble vocation. This is true, whether you are an individual or in a group effort to help save the planet. However, being active in environmental groups and advocacies can be fatal. It is the greatest shame of humankind that protecting Mother Nature is fatal activism.
It’s a tragedy. Behind the movements and environmental activism in conserving the planet lie numerous deaths of environment defenders which are reported to have been doubled in less than two decades. This heinous crime is rampant among nations that have been populated with corruption and frail laws that could have been able to protect environment activists. The tragic heroes include indigenous peoples, scientists, lawyers, journalists, activists, park rangers, volunteers, famous critics, and even communities.
Planet Earth lives through all environmental issues with the lifeblood of environmental defenders spilled. Engaging in environmental activism is a noble but bloody state of affairs. The rapid deaths of people who’ve bravely protected their lands, water, and local wildlife are in exchange of pushing through the acts of mining and other commercial projects. Greed and personal interests take little to none consideration of the enormous impact it can create when natural calamities and unprecedented disasters occur in these regions.
Death Tolls of Environmental Activism and Corrupt Rule of Law
A recent report showed that countries, such as those in Central and South America, which have high corruption records, least likely to promote transparency, legal and fundamental rights also happen to have the highest number of killings. Only 10% of total fatal environmental activism cases was convicted. Little has been shown that justice has been served. Even more alarming with these death tolls is that it had surpassed number of soldiers killed in a war.
At least 1,558 people in 50 states were killed between 2002 and 2017. All because they fought against capitalist interests on their lands. Experts say that there is rising environmental stress from the global demand for resources. Using the progress of national economies as basis, many government leaders push mining, farming and other extractive industries into ever more remote regions.
These countries, such as Brazil, continuously show increase in the number of killings of indigenous people. President Jair Bolsonaro took over their lands with reckless abandon towards exploiting the Amazon. The country was once renowned as an friendly place for its stringent policies on protecting the Amazon Rainforest and strong support for environmental activism. But now it has been called out to consider the policies it implements among their indigenous people in exchange of opening up their areas for mining and agriculture. These industries are known to be one of the major killers of the rainforest, thus further contributing to the rapid effects of climate change globally.
Meanwhile, in the Pearl of the Orient
Philippines, in the Southeast Asia, has also been identified as one of the deadliest countries to become an environment defender. Global Witness, an international nonprofit organization, reported that at least three (3) deaths in a week are recorded in this country. Just in 2018, 164 activists were killed. The law it has implemented in one of its regions, Mindanao, the Martial Law, puts the environment defenders at risk as mines, logging, and plantation activities are protected by the government army. One may be labeled as a bandit, rebel or communist if you’ll show resistance against these activities, putting the activists more in danger and for the community to have no choice but to silence themselves to protect their families.
People fighting against big and unjust agriculture projects and hydroelectric dams risked the comfort and warmth of their lives to prevent natural wonders from never existing in this planet. Several lawyers, defenders, park rangers, and organizations, have died without seeing any policy changes initiated by their respective governments. It’s unacceptable to have this phenomenon of fatal environmental activism. It’s all the more disgusting for this to happen at a time when our planetary ecosystem is failing.
Some of us may see the green movement as a trend or just an act of buying things that are eco-friendly. Others even deride the Zero Waste Movement as an unattainable lifestyle. As if trying to live more sustainably is a waste of effort in this plastic-dependent world we have. But there’s a bigger picture to it that you might know until now. A bloody state of affairs spills over the entire world, mainly Africa, South and Central America, and Asia.
The campaign in protecting the environment leads to deaths that are continuously rising while you are reading this. People are dying to defend the sacred right to a healthy planet. They are killed by corporations and big men who cannot understand that you can eat nor breathe money. It’s sickening. It’s disheartening. You might feel discouraged and let down by the people who run the world. But the tragedy of environmental activism should be a rallying cry to change.
And while we may not notice it now, climate change is greatly experienced in other countries. Winter had fallen in countries that used to be summer all year-long. Animals from the North Pole are slowly vanishing as glaciers melt, also causing for the water level to rise above normal.
We need to be more aware of what’s happening around us. No, we can’t afford to be blind and pretend that we are doing great simply through plastic straw bans. These are not enough. Never enough. We need to petition for more policy changes and societal shifts. Companies and consumers in wealthy countries should take more responsibility for their products. We need to push for more ethical and transparent supply chains.
One way to hold those responsible for fatal environmental activism is to go zero waste. And when I mean, zero waste, not just your lifestyle – change your mindset too. Make sure that your voice in social media and society is not wasted. Let people know about environmental concerns. Fight in your own little way. Go zero waste, from your mindset to all your actions.