This book is about environmental defenders and the violence they face while seeking to protect their land and the environment.
Between 2002 and 2019, at least two thousand people were killed in 57 countries for defending their lands and the environment. Recent policy initiatives and media coverage have provided much needed attention to the protection and support of defenders, but there has so far been little scholarly work. This edited volume explains who these defenders are, what threats they face, and what can be done to help support and protect them. Delving deep into the complex relations between and within communities, corporations, and government authorities, the book highlights the diversity of defenders, the collective character of their struggles, the many drivers and forms of violence they are facing, as well as the importance of emotions and gendered dimensions in protests and repression. Drawing on global case studies, it examines the violence taking place around different types of development projects, including fossil fuels, agro-industrial, renewable energy, and infrastructure. The volume also examines the violence surrounding conservation projects, including through militarized wildlife protection and surveillance technologies. The book concludes with a reflection on the perspectives of defenders about the best ways to support and protect them. It contrasts these with the lagging efforts of an international community often promoting economic growth over the lives of defenders.
This volume is essential reading for all interested in understanding the challenges faced by environmental defenders and how to help and support them. It will also appeal to students, scholars and practitioners involved in environmental protection, environmental activism, human rights, social movements and development studies.
Table of Contents
Philippe Le Billon and Mary Menton
Part 1 - On Defenders
2. Conflicts in the Amazon: The assassination of Zé Claudio and Maria
3. How young Cambodian environmental activists work under dictatorship
4. Human rights violations in the name of conservation: case of Ngorongoro District
5. "Environmental defenders": the power / disempowerment of a loaded term
Judith Verweijen, Fran Lambrick, Philippe Le Billon, et al.
6. Atmospheres of violence: on defenders’ intersecting experiences of violence
Mary Menton, Grettel Navas, and Philippe Le Billon
7. Environmental defenders: Killings, perpetrators, and drivers of violence
Philippe Le Billon and Päivi Lujala
8. The gendered criminalization of land defenders in Ecuador: from individualization to collective resistance in feminized territories
Melissa Moreano Venegas and Karolien van Teijlingen
9. Insurgent ideas from indigenous peoples in Brazil: counter-colonial epistemologies and the defense of life
Part 2 - 'Dirty' Projects
10. The Permutations of poverty
11. Violence and resistance in Indigenous Ceará, northeastern Brazil
Jurema Machado de A. Souza, Mary Menton, Antônia Silva Santos, et al.
12. ‘Land defenders’ and the political ecology of coal power in Bangladesh
Paul Robert Gilbert & Mohammad Tanzimuddin Khan
13. Manifestations of violence: Case study of Moolampilly eviction for a development project in Kerala
Chitra Karunakaran Prasanna
14. Land defenders and struggles against agro-industrial and mining projects
Louisa Prause and Philippe Le Billon
15. How violence is justified in ‘democratic countries’
Part 3 - 'Green' Projects
16. Resist or comply? Experiences of violence around dams in Cambodia
17. Pacifying autonomous land defenders in Oaxaca, Mexico: Human rights groups as social warfare mechanisms
Alexander Dunlap and Martín Correa Arce
18. Land defenders, infrastructural violence and environmental coloniality: Resisting a wastewater treatment plant in Eastern Nablus
19. Defending territory from the extraction and conservation nexus
Philippe Le Billon
20. BINGOs & environmental defenders: NGO complicity in atmospheres of violence and the possibilities for decolonial solidarity with defenders
Mary Menton and Paul Gilbert
21. Defending territories of life through Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas (ICCAs)
22. Interrogating international cooperation in support of environmental human rights defenders: the Geneva Roadmap 40/11 and the power of connecting solutions
Peter Bille Larsen and Yves Lador
Mary Menton is a Research Fellow in Environmental Justice with the Sussex Sustainability Research Programme at the University of Sussex, UK. She is a part of the core-team of Not1More, a collective that works to support at-risk environmental defenders.
Philippe Le Billon is Professor in the Department of Geography and the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs at the University of British Columbia, Canada. He is the author of multiple publications, including Fuelling War: Natural Resources and Armed Conflicts (Routledge, 2013), and collaborates with human rights and environmental investigation organizations.
"This is an important collection of carefully selected research on nature and dynamics of violence over conservation and development projects in different parts of the world. Highly recommended for all scholars and students of the social movements in general and environmental protests in particular." — Ashok Swain, Professor of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University, Sweden
"Environmental Defenders, Deadly Struggles for Life and Territory, an essential reading to understand the frontlines of the war for land, shaping the future of humanity and the planet. It will be a crucial handbook for organisations like mine to help us learn about the experiences of environmental defenders in places we have never yet been." — Patrick Alley, co-founder of Global Witness and author of Shadow Network: Chasing Down the Thieves and Crooks Who Secretly Run Our World (2022)
"How can we protect the extraordinary diversity of life on Earth if we cannot protect environmental defenders? This powerful, timely and insightful book tackles two converging global crises; humanity's war on nature and the systemic violence against the courageous communities and individuals struggling to defend life, nature and culture. Enriched by a diversity of voices from across the planet, Environmental Defenders identifies the root causes of exploitation and prescribes pathways towards peace, reconciliation and a sustainable future." — David R. Boyd, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Environment, Associate Professor of Law, Policy, and Sustainability, School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, The University of British Columbia
"A very importantant collection of narratives, essential to understand what motivates environmental defenders to become locked in a constant fight for communal territories when they also must struggle to keep themselves alive! To understand this, we need to emerse ourselves in this book, which brings touching testimonials of people who experience firsthand this long history of resistance." — Angela Mendes, Coordinator of the Chico Mendes Committee and daughter of Chico Mendes, who was assassinated in 1988 for his struggle to defend the environment and people of the Amazon.
"This is an important volume about an urgent topic: the violence that environmental defenders face while they seek to protect their lands from large scale extractive projects. The different contributions, written by well-known scholars and activists in the field, cover the complex dimensions of violence in conflicts over natural resources and extraction in different parts of the world in a rich mix of illuminating case-studies, methodological discussions and theoretical explorations. A must-read for students and scholars interested in political ecology, violence, and natural resource conflicts." — Elisabet Dueholm Rasch, Associate Professor in Anthropology of Development, Wageningen University and Research
"Environmental Defenders offers a storied account of the unsung heroes of the environmental movement and will be welcomed especially by students and scholars of environmental studies, environmental movements, environmental justice, and environmental protest. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower- and upper-division undergraduates." General readers. – CHOICE (T. Niazi, University of Wisconsin)