In one-fifth of environmental conflicts around the world, activists face criminal charges or imprisonment as a result of their work defending natural resources, according to a new analysis by researchers at the Autonomous University of Barcelona.
The report, which examined nearly 2,800 cases where conflicts occurred over infrastructure and extractive industries since 2011, also found that in 18 percent of those cases, activists were victims of physical violence, and in 13 percent, they were murdered.
For indigenous activists and activists of color, these risks increased even more: in 27 percent of conflicts, activists faced criminalization; in 25 percent, they experienced physical violence, and in 19 percent, they were killed. The report was published last week in the journal Global Environmental Change.
“This is the environmentalism of the poor and the indigenous,” Joan Martínez-Alier, an economist at the Autonomous University of Barcelona and co-author of the new study, said in a statement.
The data is part of the Global Atlas of Environmental Justice project, which aims to create “a more systematic understanding of… underlying environmental conflicts,” including the threats activists face, as well as to better understand what makes a successful campaign. The new study found that activists helped to stop 11 percent of infrastructure or resource extraction projects by using forms of non-violent protest. When environmentalists combined community mobilization, protests, and litigation, the success rate climbed to 27 percent.
For more on this issue, read the e360 series Environmentalists at Risk.