For reasons large and small, the world is becoming more dangerous for nature and the people trying to protect it.
Last year, at least 200 people, in 24 different nations, were killed while opposing environmentally destructive development projects.
Mining, logging, agribusiness, and wildlife poaching are the four biggest killers of conservationists, according to the advocacy group Global Witness.
In total, those four activities accounted for nearly 100 deaths of nature defenders, most of whom were murdered.
Overall, the Amazon is the most dangerous place to be a conservationist, with at least 49 deaths in 2016. Most of these are attributed to murders by loggers and landowners.
Memorably, it was the murder in 2005 of a Catholic nun, Dorothy Stang, that so enraged Brazilians that President Lula was forced to send the Army into the Amazon.
Stang had been helping local and indigenous peoples in the Amazon to stand up to illegal land theft by wealthy cattle ranchers and land speculators.
One of those ranchers hired two hit-men to track down and murder Stang. They shot her six times.
In many peoples’ eyes, it was the death of Stang that final signaled ‘enough’ to Brazilians.
Her death revealed the growing human cost of illegal logging, land theft, and other illicit activities in the Amazon, which at that point were running rampant. It wasn’t just nature that was suffering, but lots of people too.
The attacks on nature are taking other forms as well.
In Brazil, the government of president Michel Temer is rapidly becoming notorious for its assaults on nature conservation.
As detailed in previous ALERT blogs (see here here, here, and here), Brazil’s environment has been reeling from political attacks instigated by Temer and conservative members of the Brazilian congress.
Among other activities, the conservatives are striving to reduce the size of Amazonian protected areas while favoring illegal land-grabs and weakening a range of environmental laws.
And the risks to conservation aren’t limited to developing nations.
ASSAULTS DOWN UNDER
In Australia, ominous signs are emerging that environmental groups might lose their tax-free status — at least if the present conservative government has its way.
Nature-conservation groups, which operate on notoriously thin budgets, are cringing at the thought.
Much of the pressure is being brought to bear by Australia’s powerful mining industry, and the politicians it supports.
Mining corporations in Australia routinely spend tens of millions of dollars each year on political lobbying.
Using a giant media blitz, these powerful corporations even managed, in effect, to overthrow a former Australian prime minister, Kevin Rudd, in 2010.
Rudd had proposed to bring in a tax on mining “super-profits” — both to help balance the Australian economy and fund initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Today, the big miners want to hamstring their pro-environmental opponents by attacking their meager funding base.
KEEP FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT
And so it goes.
Being a conservationist in the modern world is not easy, nor is it lucrative.
And because of its many powerful and wealthy opponents, it seems to be getting rougher and even more physically dangerous every year.
And really, we must win.
To lose could cost us the Earth.