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Protect the Planet, Get Killed? 2015 is the Deadliest Year for Environmentalists

Jun 21, 2016 09:01 AM EDT

2015 is a terrifying year for those fighting to save the planet.

Global Witness, an international NGO that documents abuses worldwide, recently released a report documenting the lethal attacks against environmentalists across several countries.

The report showed that there are at least 185 environment activists who were killed last year. Brazil and Philippines had the most environmental activist deaths, 50 and 33 respectively. Other countries topping the list are Colombia, Peru, Nicaragua, Democratic Republic and Congo.

The report enumerated several stories of environmental activists killed for their advocacy. For instance, the father and grandfather of Michelle Campos, a lumad from the Philippines.

Lumad is a regional term referring to indigenous peoples in southern Philippines. According to Michelle's narrative, they were publicly executed.

"We get threatened, vilified and killed for standing up to the mining companies on our land and the paramilitaries that protect them," she told the advocacy group. The lumad own ancestral lands in many regions in different provinces.

"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," she added.

Global Witness said agribusiness, water and land rights, and logging were the major source of conflict usually between indigenous peoples and private sectors.

"These numbers are shocking, and evidence that the environment is emerging as a new battleground for human rights," the report said. "Across the world industry is pushing ever deeper into new territory, driven by consumer demand for products like timber, minerals and palm oil. Increasingly communities that take a stand are finding themselves in the firing line of companies' private security, state forces and a thriving market for contract killers."

Three environmentalists are being killed every week, according to the report. The noted deaths last year, is the highest annual death toll ever recorded, doubling the number of journalists killed in the same period.
According to The Independent, this marked an increase of 59 percent from 2014.

Since 2002, Global Witness has documented 1,176 cases of environmentalists death.

Despite the huge number, the report said there are probably more undocumented killings and the number is probably much higher.

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