Mark Chamberlain, The Independent
For the first time ever, the climate crisis has been recognised by the UN as a threat to global security. Sir David Attenborough addressed this week’s UN Security Council meeting, and made a passionate plea, calling on world leaders to “recognise the moral responsibility that wealthy nations have to the rest of the world and put a value on nature that goes far beyond money”.
During the past twelve months, 331 environmental and human rights defenders have been killed — so, just as Attenborough calls on wealthy nations to do more to protect the world against the threat of climate change, individual safety needs to be safeguarded, too.
Yet, for those already fighting against environmental destruction — women like Claudelice, an Amazon environmental defender — the time for the world to act to protect their security is running out.
The day before I met Claudelice, she’d received another “poison pen” letter. The note — hand-cut newsprint — had come through her mother’s door. The card’s short, chilling message, “I will kill the rest”, was a thinly veiled death threat; perfectly clear to Claudelice, her close circle of friends and family.
Ten years ago this May, Claudelice’s brother, José Claudio, and sister-in-law, Maria do Espirito Santo, were killed for their “crime” of trying to protect the Brazilian Amazon where they lived. Ambushed near their small, forest home, they were executed by gunmen.
Following their murder, Claudelice was one of the few from her small, jungle community that took up the cause. She wanted to protect the home she loves, the environment that we all hold dear; and she refused to let the spirit of her loved ones die. Claudelice is the “rest” referred to in the threat.
“I wasn’t scared before. Not until the recent threats came through,” she explained to me holding the note as I sat in her living room, deep in the Brazilian Amazon — a world away from my own home, a London flat.
She told me about the other threats she had received, including one chilling moment when she was on the road where her brother and sister-in-law were killed and someone stopped a car to simply say, “This road is very dangerous.”
“In that context, that was a serious threat,” she explained, “and the card that’s come through, I thought, ‘It’s all starting again.’”
After years of increasing violence, the situation for Claudelice — and the many others who speak out — has been getting increasingly dangerous. Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro’s strategy of “dismantling” environmental legislation and human rights protection has increased illegal logging and mining in the Amazon. His decision to amend gun laws — opposed by around two-thirds of Brazilians — means people can buy more firearms and ammunition, more easily; with less federal police and army oversight.
Although worried, this has only made Claudelice more determined to continue her work: “Yes, I’m afraid, but it doesn’t mean I’m going to stop what I’m doing,” she said, defiantly. “This cause is bigger than me. I know that I must be brave. I must go on.” Yet despite her desire to continue, she has been forced to take increased precautions to protect her safety.
The threats against Claudelice’s life are so serious that she has had to leave her home and to relocate to a secure location. This meant leaving her family and friends behind, leaving her history and identity, and living a life that would reduce most of us to constant fear.
The facts are clear: 2020 was the deadliest ever year for environmental and human rights defenders globally. According to Frontline Defenders’ most recent report, 331 human rights defenders were killed in the past twelve months. This is up from 304 killings the previous year and is the highest total ever.
Global warming pushed temperatures to near-record levels in 2020, in effect tying 2016 as the hottest year on record, according to data released Thursday by US science agencies. Last year’s average global surface temperature was 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit above the late 19th
The world entered 2021 faced with an alarming set of statistics. The six hottest years on record have all occurred since 2015, and 2021 is expected to continue the run. The last 14 years have seen the 14 lowest Arctic sea ice levels since satellite records
In Galveston, Texas, folks are all too used to natural disasters — but warm and wet ones from the Gulf of Mexico, like the notorious hurricane of 1900 that killed thousands. Nothing could have prepared the beachfront city for the icy dagger
India’s Environment Minister Bhupendra Yadav recently took to his twitter account to share the news that five more Indian wetlands have received Ramsar recognition as wetlands of international importance. These sites include Tamil Nadu’s Karikili Bird Sanctuary, Pallikaranai Marsh Reserve Forest, and Pichavaram
The destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine along the Dnipro River in the war between Ukraine and Russia has brought in a scary new dimension to the conflict between the two countries. The water that has flown from the reservoir has now flooded large parts of the Khersov region, and it has endangered the war
In politics, as in life, it’s all too easy to write off old people, especially when they are frail or disabled. President Joe Biden’s fall on stage during the Air Force Academy graduation ceremony on Thursday immediately raised questions of fitness. Even I, a geriatrician and anti-ageism advocate, looked at Dianne Feinstein’s recent return
Seven of eight earth system boundaries (ESBs) that are critical for stability of the planet’s health and survival of species have already been crossed, a new research paper by the Earth Commission published in the Nature journal said, suggesting that the very future of humanity may now be at risk from the climate crisis. Transgression of
Being human beings — the climax of the creation of the Creator who created this beautiful world — we have a huge responsibility to take care of not only humans but also natural resources and other creatures as well (“World must ‘work as one’ to end plastic pollution, says UN Chief Guterres,” June 5, Gulf Today website).