Monday, 31 December 2018

How effective and how risky is environmental activism?

Last year was not a good year to be an environmental activist:
207 Killed in 2017, The Deadliest Year for Land Defenders - National Geographic
Why Do Environmentalists Keep Getting Killed Around the World? | Science | Smithsonian
At What Cost? Our Report on attacks on Land & Environment Defenders in 2017 | Global Witness
Environmental defenders being killed in record numbers globally, new research reveals | Environment | The Guardian

This year has not been too good either, especially in some parts of the world:
Environmental Defenders Under Pressure Across Southeast Asia | The Diplomat

As well as in India:
Environment protesters killed by Indian police were shot through the head and from behind, autopsy results reveal | The Independent 
Environmental Governance and Human Rights: The Role of The Civil Society And Challenges in India - Modern Diplomacy

And in Latin America:
Honduran court convicts seven of killing environmental activist | News | Al Jazeera
#ArchivoDemoAbierta2018: a year of environmental challenges | openDemocracy

Brazil is about to get a new president - and things are going to get worse:
Environmental Activists Under Assault in Brazil
Brazil’s new president Jair Bolsonaro promised to exploit the Amazon—but can he? - National Geographic
The Economists, Military, Moralists & Politicians Running Brazil - Bloomberg

In the United States, people are getting more active as the state apparatus becomes more passive:

Environmentalists count wins and losses from 2018

December 31 2018

A survey of 10 environmental groups and experts found many feel that regulations and protections are under assault, driving an increase in public activism. Public awareness of environmental issues is up, but that’s just a silver lining in dark days for federal, state and local environmental protections, according to environmental experts and activists.

Environmentalists count wins and losses from 2018

Interestingly, it is women who are increasingly engaging in activism:

Women Who Risk Everything to Defend the Environment

By Sarah Hurtes Nov 30 2018

According to Bridget Burns, director of the Women's Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), an advocacy organization focused on women's environmental leadership, there has been an increase in women-led groups in the U.S. pushing the fight for clean air and water. This is echoed by Rachel Cox from Global Witness, who argues that despite the obstacles they face, women activists are increasingly taking on leadership roles in the many battles against mining, deforestation, and other destructive industries. Think Winona Laduke, Julia Butterfly Hill, or Yong Jung Cho—to name a few.

Women tend to lead this fight, Yeampierre believes, because of their life-giving connection to their children and the earth, and their frustration with gender inequity. “We think like people who come from struggle,” she says, adding that women of color have been holding this space for years, and are now, finally, getting the visibility they deserve. “We tend to have this respect for Mother Earth as an extension of our culture and spirituality. So it's not surprising for me to see such an intergenerational group of badasses leading the way.”

Women Who Risk Everything to Defend the Environment — Female Environmental Activists and the Danger They Face

Some in North America may regard this as 'alarmist':
Environmental Activism Resembles Religion | National Review

Especially when it's effective:
Oil activists credited, blamed for killing Canada's oil industry | Newshub
Pipeline CEOs, facing environmental activism, vow to fight back - CNBC

And yet in other parts of the world, the freedom to protest without fear is being increasingly exercised:

In South Africa:
Environmental activism is not a whites-only issue | Opinion | M&G

And in West Africa:

Gambian Environmental Activists Take Swift Action Against Chinese Plant Accused of Polluting Their Water - Atlanta Black Star 

Gambians embrace new freedoms with environment activism

By ABDOULIE JOHN Associated Press Dec 4, 2018

BANJUL, Gambia (AP) — Hundreds of Gambians were grateful for the jobs created by a Chinese-run fish processing plant that arrived in 2014. Then they were shocked when dead fish began washing up on a nearby shore.

Residents of the coastal town of Gunjur reported chemical residue on their skin after swimming that made them itch. Environmental activists blamed the Chinese-owned company, Golden Lead Import & Export. After activists said the company had failed to remove a pipe accused of spewing toxic waste into the sea, local youth issued an ultimatum: Dig the pipe up, or we will. In March they did, storming the beach.

"We'll be willing to face any charges in defense of our community," their leader, Amadou Scattred Janneh, told The Associated Press. He is now out on bail facing criminal trespass charges.

For more than two decades, few in this tiny West African nation dared to speak out under the dictatorship of President Yahya Jammeh. Opposing voices were silenced by arrests and killings during his dictatorship.

A new era began when Jammeh was swept out of power and went into exile early last year. And as new President Adama Barrow's government has promised wider freedoms, Gambians are now speaking up as part of a nascent environmental movement.

After the protest over the fish processing plant, Gambia's government ultimately allowed the company to reinstate the pipe but required waste water to be treated before being discharged. The company's general manager, Bakary Darboe, denies causing marine pollution and has accused the activists of damaging property.

Janneh's arrest hasn't stopped other environmental activists in Gambia from holding regular demonstrations over the depletion of natural reserves along the country's coastline.

Such activism is long overdue, filmmaker and activist Prince Bubacarr Sankanu told The Associated Press. "The pressure on our meager natural resources is getting higher and higher, thus making proactive environmental activism an inevitable tool for good governance," he said.

Another high-profile demonstration earlier this year ended in the deaths of three protesters who had demanded the end of sand mining activities by the Julakay Entreprise company in the village of Faraba Banta. The sand is used in construction but the practice has been accused of damaging Gambia's coastline and local farming, which is often residents' only source of income.

Inspired in part by such confrontations, Gambia's president in September set up a land commission to look into the challenges of administering one of the country's most important resources. Nearly 80 percent of the population relies on agriculture for a living.

"As a country, we have been hurt because the foundation of our democracy had been shaken and corrupted," Barrow said during the commission's swearing-in ceremony. "The former government abused the rights of the citizens, and many communities lost their land for political or dubious reasons."

Finally, things might even be moving in China, from “responsive authoritarianism” 
The tensions underlying how China deals with environmental complaints | LSE Business Review

... to interventions by celebrities: 

Li Bingbing:
The actress who took on China's ivory trade

Shafi Musaddique 10 Dec 2018

Aghast with the lack of media attention on the ivory trade, she turned to her 40 million followers on popular Chinese social media site Weibo.

The Beijing-based actress has learned that the large following she has amassed can be harnessed for a greater cause. Li generated enough traction for the UN to describe her “Say No to Ivory” campaign as having the biggest impact of any other project that year.

She remains confident that ivory will fall out of favor largely due to changing tastes and awareness from young people on the impact illegal ivory can have on the environment. “As my generation, I didn’t see a lot of ivory trade. We didn’t even use those things,” she said.


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