In 2015, there were 185 environmental activist killings in 16 different countries – the highest death toll ever recorded. Journalists were killed at double that rate.
People were killed for defending their lands, rivers, and forests against industries trying to destroy their homes and land. Protestors were killed at a rate of 3 a week.
The numbers were released in a report, On Dangerous Ground, by Global Witness, a non-profit that campaigns to end “the world’s worst environmental and human rights abuses” driven by “the exploitation of natural resources and corruption in the global political and economic system.”
Despite the horrifying numbers, these deaths are receiving little global media attention. This isn’t the first time the media has ignored the voices of indigenous peoples.
Anti-mining protests were the deadliest. Brazil had the highest number of environmental activist murders in 2015 with 50. Brazilian activists were protesting illegal loggers who set up camps to take their teak, ebony, and mahogany.
The Philippines closely followed with 33 activists who were murdered while protesting mining industries. There were 25 deaths alone in Mindanao, a village rich in coal, gold, and nickel.
Other deaths include Columbia with 26; Peru had 12; Nicaragua had 12; and the Democratic Republic of Congo with 11.It is highly likely there were more tragic deaths; however, they were unrecorded or the victims were not reported missing.
Michelle Compose, a survivor from Mindanao, Philippines, lost her family to these tragedies. Late last year in September, her grandfather and father were executed in cold blood in front of their family and friends.
The murders caused over 3,000 indigenous individuals to flee their homes.
She stated, “We get threatened, vilified and killed for standing up to the mining companies on our land and the paramilitaries that protect them. My father, grandfather and school teacher were just three of countless victims. We know the murderers – they are still walking free in our community. We are dying and our government does nothing to help us.”
If these numbers continue to rise, 2016 will see an even higher murder rate of environmental activists. To learn more about these killings and how you can help, you can download Global Witness’s report here.