Témoignages - 2 November 2017

en - Chose life, but it may be dangerous!

`We are defenders of life’ said Laura Caceres, the daughter of the murdered environmental activist and indigenous leader from Honduras. Berta was killed in 2016 for organising the grassroots resistance and had managed to pressurise the largest dam builder in the world to pull out of the Agua Zarca Dam
Not much later, January 2017, another Goldman environmental prizewinner, was gunned down in Mexico, Isdro Baldenegro. He defended old growth forests and the land rights of his people, the Tarahumara, against loggers and drug gangs : his father had been killed before him in 1986, again for opposing logging.
The known extrajudicial killings of environmentalists have doubled in the last 5 years ; these are names that are known. Last year was the deadliest in history with approximately 4 killings per week, most being indigenous leaders. The situation is escalating ; 2017 is proving to be worse. Wild life rangers have been gunned down in Congo, Amazonian tribespeople have been slaughtered by illegal gold miners, farmers have been shot dead over land rights in Peru all in the last three months. Currently Brazil is the most dangerous place in which to defend the environment, the Philippines second but it is happening in Columbia, Guatemala, the USA and Africa and elsewhere. It has been called an epidemic, there is a culture of impunity. Killers may be criminal gangs or more possibly hired by Companies, or States, with the help of private `security guards’. In addition Bobby Banerjee who has studied resistance to global development projects over 15 years, notes that poorer countries have weaker law enforcement systems and are more corruptible as so more vulnerable. Also those taking a stand against environmental destruction are often already marginalised people in very remote areas, far from the gaze of the world’s media. It is not just killings but also death threats, forced evictions, and arbitrary detention aimed at terrorizing communities especially those opposed to extractive industries, logging or land snatching for agribusiness. Often Environmental studies are flawed and arrests can be made for` anti mining’ activities. In the USA there was the Dakota Access Pipeline resisted by the `water defenders’ led by the Indian tribes.
In Nicaragua a canal linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans would displace 120,000 indigenous people. The community has marched against this 87 times - `the only response is the bullet’. `We are not against development we are against injustice’ says Francisca Ramirez, a farmer based in La Fonseca – her son was recently ambushed while travelling. They stand to defend their right to be properly consulted. Protesters may be attacked for being anti `growth’ and jobs, but they want sustainable jobs that enhance the environment rather than destroy it. An example of success in this is Virunga National forest on the borders of Rwanda and the Democratic republic of Congo, where the park rangers have educated the local communities to preserve the forest with all its biodiversity and the mountain gorillas which are helping to bring them jobs.
The knowledge of the indigenous peoples who have lived in the Amazon rainforest for millenia safeguards the living forest. It is these people who hold the solution to our global crisis, for if the Amazon rainforest goes so do we. Today they are demanding legal recognition of their land rights and proper implementation of `informed consent’ (as per United Nations declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People 2007).
In Guatemala this year the local communities saw the proposed silver mine would pollute their water sources. There was resistance, to the extent that the mining licence has been suspended because of violation of indigenous rights. But often it is not possible to withstand the juggernaut of global capitalist companies intent on extracting further resources from further and further afield. `Whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenceless before the interests of the deified market which becomes the only rule ‘(‘ Laudato Si ’para 56). Investors and shareholders need to be aware and to take responsibility. But as the Guatemalan leader said ` we will never stop resisting to protect Mother earth’. Thanks be to these defenders of the earth and all its living creatures, who put their lives on the line.
For further information see : - Global Witness
www.globalwitness.org , Not 1 More https://not1more
Jessica r.a.