monarch butterflies.

The War on Land Defenders: Assassinations and Kidnappings Beset Environmentalists

As the following stories illustrate, land defense is dangerous. When we speak about the war being waged on the planet, we do not speak of a metaphor. With guns and machetes, with chainsaws and poisons, with nuclear waste and bulldozers, the living world is being dismembered, and those who fight to defend it often find themselves risking life and limb. We must become aware of this war in order to better participate on the side of the forests and of life. Be careful, be prepared.

Featured image: Monarch butterflies in the El Rosario reserve, home to fir forests whom monarchs visit each winter after their multi-generational migration from the north. Photo by Charlie Marchant, cc-by-2.0.


Six Murdered, Ten Kidnapped in Armed Attack on Nicaragua’s Bosawás Biosphere Reserve

Reuters — February 3rd

About 80 armed men killed six indigenous people on an isolated Nicaraguan nature reserve in an attack linked to raging land disputes, the indigenous Mayagna community said on Thursday, with 10 other Mayagnas kidnapped in the raid.

The men stormed a Mayagna commune about 500 kilometers (310 miles) north of capital Managua, deep in the north-central Bosawas Biosphere Reserve, the second-largest rainforest the Americas after the Amazon.

The raiders were part of a group of “settlers” in the area who do not belong to the indigenous communities that make up about 14% of Nicaragua’s 6.2 million people, according to a Mayagna lawyer from the region.

Missing Mexican Monarch Butterfly Defender Homero Gómez González Found Dead

Jessica Corbett / Common DreamsJanuary 30th

Mexican conservationist Homero Gómez González was found dead Wednesday, about two weeks after he was reported missing, provoking a wave sorrow from allies and advocates worldwide as they honored his work running a butterfly sanctuary in the state of Michoacán.

As Common Dreams reported last week, human rights advocates have expressed fears that Gómez González may have been targeted because of his activism by those involved in the local illegal logging industry, and the 50-year-old butterfly defender’s family told the media that he had received threats from a criminal organization.

A Global Witness report from last year named Mexico the world’s sixth-deadliest country for eco-defenders, part of “a worrying global trend” of environmentalists risking their safety by facing off against “governments, companies, and criminal gangs [that] are routinely stealing land and trashing habitats in pursuit of profit.”

Human Rights Advocates Call for Investigation Into Death of Second Monarch Butterfly Defender in Mexico

Julia Conley / Common Dreams — February 3rd

The body of Raúl Hernández Romero was found at the top of a hill in the El Rosario butterfly sanctuary on Saturday, one day after the manager of the preserve, Homero Gómez González, was buried. Gómez’s body was found last Wednesday after a two-week disappearance.

El Rosario sanctuary provides a home for millions of migrating monarch butterflies each year and draws thousands of tourists annually. But the reserve has also drawn the ire of illegal loggers in Mexico, who are banned from cutting down trees in the protected area.

Before the ban, more than 1,000 acres of the woodland were lost to the industry between 2005 and 2006.

Hernández’s family told the BBC that before he disappeared on Jan. 27, he had been receiving threats warning him to stop campaigning against illegal logging. Forensic experts said the activist appeared to have been beaten with a sharp object and had a deep wound in his head.

4 thoughts on “The War on Land Defenders: Assassinations and Kidnappings Beset Environmentalists”

  1. I once took an economic course, because even though I’m not interested in economics, I thought I should learn something about how people deal with money, since people are so obsessed with it. The course was taught by a former U.S. Steel economist turned Marxist (!). He dealt with a lot of rich people when he worked at U.S. Steel, and taught us that the only difference between the rich and everyone else is that the rich are more aggressive (to put it diplomatically) than other people.

    So of course the rich will kill to protect their profits. They have always done this, look at the history of coal miner unions fighting the owners & bosses (not that anyone should be digging into the Earth for anything, but that’s another issue), and I’m sure it goes back much farther than that.

    People who obsess on money, materialism, and greed are going to violently protect their money and material things, along with their access to ever more money and material things. This attitude, which is shared to a lesser extent by the majority of people, is the heart of the problem, and this is why I say that our environmental and ecological work, including getting rid of first industrial society and then civilization, is a battle for the hearts and minds of the people, not a physical battle. If we don’t win the hearts and minds, we lose, regardless of how much ecotage we do.

  2. Two related recent news items:

    1) Some Colombian drug barons used part of their illegal profits to set up private zoos of exotic animals. When the drug czars were brought down, most of their exotic animals were adopted by neighboring ranchers, etc.

    The one exception was 4 hippos, who were considered too dangerous to move, but too interesting and innocent to kill. In the roughly 20 years since, they have multiplied from 4 hippos to 80, and have spread into neighboring wetlands — threatening to become 2000 hippos, given another generation.

    Considered the most dangerous animal in Africa, this invasive species is now the most dangerous animal in South America, too — after homo sapiens from Europe.

    2) The World Wildlife Fund reported yesterday that civilization is now destroying a football field patch of forest every 2 seconds. WWF listed the top 3 threats to the Earth as fossil fuel use, agriculture, and habitat destruction, driven by greed and population increase. (Sounds like the WWF is inching toward our way of thinking!)

    One ray of sunlight on this problem: Since we don’t see the wisdom of a global spay and neuter program for ourselves (hey, it works for other invasive species, and is considered the humane option!), industrialization seems to have found an automatic solution. It will take awhile to work, but male fertility rates are plunging throughout the developed world, with sperm counts falling so fast that, at the current rate, we’ll be largely unable to reproduce by the turn of the century.

    Scientists are unsure of the cause. Suspects include plastics ingestion, microwave radiation, chemical exposure, or some combination of the above.

  3. @Mark E Behrend
    “Scientists are unsure of the cause” of the increase in male human infertility. Considering all the massive ecological and environmental harm that humans have done to the Earth and everything that lives here for the past 10,000 years, I’m astonished that there is still life on this planet. Humans and probably every other animal now have hundreds of synthetic chemicals in our bodies. Hell, they found PCBs in polar bears several decades ago. So it’s no wonder that humans are starting to become infertile. As you said, the sooner the better!

  4. Another tidbit, related to Jeff’s comment: Microscopic particles of plastic are now everywhere, from Himalayan mountaintops to fish at the bottom of the sea. And they have opposing effects on plant life. Though they inhibit the sprouting of seeds, they seem to increase root growth in established plants. They’re also suspected of causing infertility in several marine fish species.

    What a nice world it would be, if we could just take back the 20th century.

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