Protecting Those Protecting the Earth
Defending the environment is a valiant but dangerous calling. In 2017 alone, 197 land and environmental defenders were murdered—a fourfold increase from 2002. They were working to protect land, wildlife, and natural resources from mega projects, poachers, and land grabs. Thankfully, countries are beginning to take action. Officials from 24 states in Latin American and the Caribbean have signed a legally binding pact to protect land defenders. The pact codifies the right to a healthy environment and compels states to investigate and punish alleged killers. And there is global momentum, as well, with calls from the UN to formally recognize the right to a healthy environment and a new program from UN Environment to train judges, prosecutors, and police in environmental law. The scope of human rights has grown with each generation, and the inclusion of a right to the environment is overdue. The task is to make this right universal, hold countries accountable, and protect those who protect Earth.