At least 227 people died last year directly because of their environmental activism, an unfortunate toll that’s hit a new record as climate change impacts increase.
That’s according to the Global Witness organization in the UK. The annual report warns that while most deaths still happen in the Americas, there was a sharp rise in such deaths on the African continent in 2020.
At least 13 fatalities were recorded at Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where armed militia groups routinely attack wildlife defenders, often because of the illicit wildlife trade. Two people died in South Africa and another in Uganda, the NGO said.
“Verifying cases from across the continent continues to be difficult and it is possible cases are widely unreported,” added Global Witness in its report release.
Globally, about four people die each week in clashes over logging in the Amazon, water rights in Mexico, or mining in Honduras. Others are arrested while protesting, as is the case in the Honduran city of Guapinol where many community members remain incarcerated.
That’s often the case on the African continent too. At least 30% of the recorded attacks overall are linked to resources, including hydroelectric dams and other infrastructure, and large-scale agribusiness.
“This dataset is another stark reminder that fighting the climate crisis carries an unbearably heavy burden for some, who risk their lives to save the forests, rivers and biospheres that are essential to counteract unsustainable global warming,” said Global Witness senior campaigner Chris Madden. “This must stop.”
Image: Cape Town file