Protecting the Earth has never been deadlier


According to the NGO Global Witness, at least 207 ecoactivists were killed around the world in 2017 – a record. Moreover, in many countries, rising up for the environment is equal to terrorism.


Protecting the environment may get you killed

In its last report, Global Witness reveals that more than 200 people were killed last year for defending the environment. This is twice higher than in 2016.

60% of the murders happened in Latin America. Brazil is at the top of the list with 57 victims – most of them were indigenous trying to protect their lands. Agribusiness has become the most dangerous sector to oppose with 46 killings, followed by mining and poaching.

The NGO points out that at least one quarter of the killings were perpetrated by government forces.


When defending the environment equals terrorism

On top of that, there is a trend in identifying some types of ecoactivism as terrorism. According to the FBI, ecoterrorism can be defined as « the use or threatened use of violence of a criminal nature against innocent victims or property by an environmentally-oriented, subnational group for environmental-political reasons […] ».

This concept was first developed after the rise of animal liberation movements in Great-Britain and the USA which provoked a lot of economic damages towards fur and vivisection industries. Therefore, the USA implemented the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act in 2006. The title of terrorist has been extended to environmental activists and features in the Patriot Act. In the early 2000s, the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) was considered by the FBI as the number one public enemy regarding domestic security. In 2007, 15 ELF members got prison sentences.

Not to be outdone, the United Kingdom (UK), Canada, or France follow the same logic and tend to criminalize environmental activism. Lets remember the house arrests of green activists –motivated by the state of emergency – during the COP 21 in Paris. In the same way, in the UK, environmental protesters were labelled domestic threats alongside Al-Qaida or Irish Republican groups. In Canada, green groups opposing shale gas or pipelines are perceived by the national police as a major threat to national security. Paul Watson, founder of Sea Shepherd, is wanted under an international arrest warrant issued by Costa Rica for blocking whale hunting.

If the concept of ecoterrorism remains debatable, these examples highlight that direct activism to protect the environment can still be heavily suppressed – especially when economic stakes are involved.

But what face multinational corporations, industries, or governments when their activities or actions jeopardize the environment ? Ecocide is not admitted as an international crime yet.



Global Witness, 2018, “At what cost ? Irresponsible business and the murder of land and environmental defenders in 2017”

Eco-terroriste : le mot fourre-tout qui camoufle la violence d'un système

A propos de Juliette LACROIX

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