As the world faces ever greater environmental threats there are growing numbers of people stepping forward and dedicating their lives to pressurising governments and global corporations alike to encourage preservation and protection. There has been a worrying trend of violent opposition against these activists, and all too often people who are dedicating their lives to the cause of environmentalism are losing them.
Recently in a case which highlights the growing dangers of the world of environmental activism the body of José Isidro Tendetza Antún, an Ecuadorian indigenous leader, was found with evidence of torture on his body. He was due to protest the expansión of a mining operations in his native country . According to an interview conducted by the The Guardian newspaper "his body was beaten, bones were broken…this is a camouflaged crime,". In a not unsimilar case in Peru Edwin Chota a indigenous leader who was renowned for the work he carried out for his community was found dead. The main culprits in the brutal killing were illegal loggers, who Chota had protested against in an attempt to remove them from his peoples land. It is of little surprise that such a crime was committed in an industry worth an an estimated $30-100 billion annually, with strong links to organised crime reported.
These two incidents are merely a snapshot of the worst pressures placed against environmentalists. And the problem is not contained only within South America. In the US terrorism charges were used against campaigners who displayed banners in the office of a fossil fuel company, the presence of glitter deemed sufficient to portray the incident as a ´biochemical assault´. There is also the now infamous case of the ´Greenpeace 30´ in Russia where charges of ´hooliganism and piracy´ were brought against activists. A quick internet search will reveal many more examples of strong handed tactics used against activists.
What the vast majority of these incidents have in common is the activists use of non-violent direct action in order to protest. The repression of which is often rather less than non-violent. In the West this may involve trumped up charges of civil disorder, or even terrorism, but in many other countries this can result in violent confrontations.