Print Friendly and PDF
only search openDemocracy.net

#ArchivoDemoAbierta2018: a year of environmental challenges

The protection of the environment is so crucial for upholding democracy that however the subject is approached, it is often impossible to express the real magnitude of the issue. That’s why we present some of the most important environmental conflicts of 2018. Español

Neoliberal policies have recently failed to recognise the importance of incorporating an environmental paradigm into their pursuits to exploit natural resources or carry out development projects.

It is in this scenario where the voices of activists, social leaders and social movements that fight for the right to prior consultation, sustainability, protection of ecosystems and environmental precautions become relevant.

Defending our environment and searching for solutions to acts of aggression against our biodiversity has become somewhat of a common cause, as mobilising as it is dangerous, in Latin America. 

Those who wage these battles against the environment face the challenge of incorporating ethical practices into their policies. The systematic violations of human rights throughout this year has left a trail of murdered social leaders, however important resistance movements that have discouraged the deforestation of the Amazon have also occurred. 

Defending our environment and searching for solutions to acts of aggression against our biodiversity has become somewhat of a common cause, as mobilising as it is dangerous, in Latin America. 

It is for these reasons that we present some of the crucial issues relating to the environment that we’ve covered throughout 2018 in democraciaAbierta.

The trial of Berta Cáceres 

One of the most emblematic figures of environmental activism is Honduran activist Berta Cáceres. Ever since she was murdered in her home in March 2016 for opposing a hydroelectric project on Lenca indigenous territory, her family continues seeking justice.

This week, the ruling of the court against 7 of the material authors of the crime has been considered by many as an incomplete sentence.

Despite the existence of this sentence, the Honduran judiciary have a responsibility to expose the truth and to identify every individual that planned and ordered the murder of Berta Cáceres, said Erika Guevara-Rojas, director of Amnesty International for the Americas.

During 2018, this case of impunity, trafficking of influences, and bureaucratic obstacles had the international community on a tight rope.

That same community is currently celebrating this significant step towards punishing those responsible for her murder, but is wary of the impunity surrounding the intellectual authors of the crime.

Her family continue to demand the capture of those who planned and paid for her murder. Only Roberto David Castillo, the president of DESA, the infrastructure giant accused of ordering the crime, is currently detained under charges relating to intellectual authoring. 

This case has become an example of the vulnerability of those who take up the battle to defend the environment, among them are many women, indigenous leaders, and peasants, with their convictions and dignity driving them forward. 

The way in which the intellectual authors of the murder of Berta will or will not be charged will no doubt send a huge message to the environmental movement worldwide.

The way in which the intellectual authors of the murder of Berta will or will not be charged will no doubt send a huge message to the environmental movement worldwide, as we indicated in our editorial published in September. 

Environmental leaders murdered in Colombia

Two years after the signing of the peace agreements, Colombia continues to experience high rates of violence and murder rates of social leaders this year have already reached the 226 mark. Many of them were environmental activists. 

Global Witness points out that between 2010 and 2016, around 122 environmentalists were murdered in Colombia, in a context of complete impunity. Until today, only 8% of these crimes have gone to court.

After 100 days of Duque in power, the issue seems to be only getting worse, with 120 fatalities in the past 3 months. 

According to El Tiempo, of the 226 victims this year so far, 80% were due to land disputes or protection of natural resources. 70% belonged to national peasant or indigenous organisations, or afro descendent communities.

This has raised alarms in the international community and has forced the government to launch an Action Plan with a new strategy, which will create an institutional coordination agenda that ensures the effectiveness of political protection of social leaders. The new strategy includes a decree to face threats and homicides with institutional and judicial tools.

As we pointed out in July this year, we must let citizen’s voices be heard and concrete government measures that guarantee protection must be created.

Deforestation in the Amazon

In 2018, deforestation rates in the Amazon region increased by 22% in comparison with the previous year. This devastating phenomenon has spiralled out of control. In 2016 it was reported that the rainforest lost 70 thousand hectares, and in 2017 this had increased to 144 thousand.

The relationship between extractivist policies and governments with little environmental protections in place, such as in Colombia and Brazil, put this vital ecosystem at risk, which contains one of the largest biodiversity reserves and one fifth of all river water in the world.

As we addressed in our episode of #Unboxing with Sandra Borda about the environmental crisis tearing through Latin America, the continued deforestation of the largest tropical rainforest in the world shows little sign of slowing.

With the arrival of Bolsonaro to the presidency in Brazil, a huge increase in the destruction of land in the Amazon region is right around the corner.

What’s more, with the arrival of Bolsonaro to the presidency in Brazil, a huge increase in the destruction of land in the Amazon region is right around the corner.

Bolsonaro has threatened to fuse together the agricultural and environmental ministry posts, although the strong ecological conscience of the Brazilian nation has forced him to abandon his plan for now. 

During his campaign, he threatened to put an end to ecological and environmental activism, to give a free pass to the agribusiness and mining industry, to question the Paris accords, and to refuse to host the next UN Climate Change Conference. 

These developments are worrying when painting a picture of what the future for environmentalism may look like in Latin America, and we at democraciaAbierta will remain vigilant throughout 2019.

We will be increasing our coverage on this issue that is not just vital for Latin America, but for the entire planet - and we hope you’ll join us on this journey. 

About the author

DemocraciaAbierta es la plataforma global que publica en español, portugués e inglés voces de América Latina y más allá, y las conecta con el debate global de openDemocracy. Twitter: @demoAbierta

DemocraciaAberta é a plataforma global publicado em vozes espanhol, português e inglês da América Latina e além, e se conecta ao debate global na openDemocracy. Twitter: @demoAbierta

DemocraciaAbierta is the global platform that publishes in Spanish, Portuguese and English voices from Latin America and beyond, and connects them with the openDemocracy global debate.Twitter: @demoAbierta

 


We encourage anyone to comment, please consult the
oD commenting guidelines if you have any questions.