Skip to main content

Why Environmental Defenders Are Under Threat

August 05, 2022
Daniel Braaten


In analysis for Political Violence At A Glance, an IGCC-supported blog dedicated to political violence and its alternatives, Daniel Braaten, an associate professor of political science at Texas Lutheran University, analyzes the risks land and environmental defenders face, and why protecting them is vital in the fight against climate change and the biodiversity crisis.

The world is facing twin environmental horrors: climate change and a biodiversity crisis. Both fundamentally challenge the continuation and healthy functioning of civilization on this planet. There are many organizations, groups, and individuals across many countries who are trying to tackle these environmental disasters. Given all the money at stake, it stands to reason that these groups and organizations would receive pushback from vested interests and in some cases even threats of violence. And they do. However, those most at risk of violence are the ones who are seemingly the least powerful. These at-risk land and environmental defenders are mostly indigenous peoples, impoverished, and live in remote and rural areas. In 2020 alone, the nongovernmental organization (NGO) Global Witness documented the killing of 228 environment and land defenders making it the deadliest year since the organization has been investigating these killings.

Global Witness defines land and environmental defenders as: “people who take a stand and carry out peaceful action against the unjust, discriminatory, corrupt or damaging exploitation of natural resources or the environment. Land and environmental defenders are a specific type of human rights defender—and are often the most targeted for their work.”

Why would poor individuals who are seemingly powerless be the target of violence?

Read the full blog post at Political Violence At A Glance.