Photo credit: Raphael Tsavkko Garcia

Report: The Environment as the new battleground for human rights

Last year was the most lethal year on record for land and environmental defenders, according to a new report from Global Witness. In 2015, the organization documented the murders of 185 people who were righting to protect their land, forests and rivers against destructive industries. 

The report points out that these killings have been on a horrifying climb in the past decade, far surpassing the number of journalists killed in the same year. As resources become more scarce and extractive industries push deeper into new territories, marginalized communities are being forced to defend their homes with their very own lives.

Unsurprisingly, indigenous people made up almost half of the list, often murdered for defending their ancestral lands. Latin America was also disproportionately represented, with Brazil leading as the most lethal country in the world for environmental defenders. In all countries represented, impunity still reigns for those who attack activists, while protest is increasingly criminalized.

The report sheds important light on the ways in which indigenous and marginalized communities are dying at the hands of governments, multinational corporations and private security funds. But while it touches on ethnicity and geography, the study fails to address the ways in which gender affects those fighting to protect Mother Earth.

As I’ve written about before, women are often disproportionately affected by climate change and resource extraction. They are frequently primary caretakers and in charge of producing food for families, two necessities that are directly impacted by displacement and resource scarcity.

When women react to these challenges by advocating to protect land, water, and the environment, they become the targets of gendered violence. Violence and sexual violence are used as tools to silence women and set examples for the rest of the community.

Climate change is no longer a possibility – it’s already our reality. Marginalized and indigenous communities are risking their lives to protect the planet we all share, and it’s time we had their backs.

Header Image Credit: Raphael Tsavkko Garcia via Women Across Frontiers Magazine


Bay Area, California

Juliana is a digital storyteller for social change. As a writer at Feministing since 2013, her work has focused on women's movements throughout the Americas for environmental justice, immigrant rights, and reproductive justice. In addition to her writing, Juliana is a Senior Campaigner at, where she works to close the gap between the powerful and everyone else by supporting people from across the country to launch, escalate and win their campaigns for justice.

Juliana is a Latina feminist writer and campaigner based in the Bay Area.

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