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Protesters march through the decades-old Vila Autodromo squatter settlement before demonstrating outside an entrance to the Rio + 20 conference on June 20, 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
As the global population soars, resources like wood, arable land, precious metals, and drinkable water become scarcer, and the battle over land ownership becomes fiercer.
On June 19th, 2012 -– just before the start of the Rio+20 conference –- Global Witness, a NGO with the mission of preventing environmental and human rights abuses surrounding natural resources, reported that the number of environmental activists murdered has increased sharply in the last year, totaling 106, or one per week.
Peru, Colombia, the Philippines, and Brazil have seen the sharpest increase in killings, but Global Witness estimates that these figures are only the tip of the iceberg, as deaths in regions such as China and Central Asia have been underreported.
The report also ignores the number of civilians killed in cross-border conflicts fuelled by competition for resources, a situation seen in much of Africa. After three separate incidents led to the deaths of four Brazilian activists in May of this year, the government instated a federal protection program for environmentalists in similar positions, but globally, most cases go uninvestigated and unprosecuted.
Who should take responsibility for protecting these people?
Oli Courtney, campaigner with Global Witness and one of the report’s authors
Bill Kovarik, historian and professor of communication at Radford University; author of “Mass Media and Environmental Conflict”