A record number of environmental defenders were murdered last year, according to a report issued this week by advocacy group Global Witness. The report, "Last Line of Defense," counts 227 activists killed around the world in 2020—the highest number recorded for a second consecutive year. Many of the murders were linked to resource exploitation—logging, mining, agribusiness, and hydroelectric dams. Since the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, the organization found on average of four activists have been killed each week.
The Bombay High Court on Sept. 13 issued a notice to India's National Investigation Agency (NIA), directing it to file a reply to the bail plea of Anand Teltumbde, a Goa-based professor and civil rights activist who faces charges under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in relation to the notorious Bhima Koregaon case. In the case, dating to 2018, several advocates for Dalits ("untouchables") and Adivasis (tribal peoples) are accused of links to the Maoist guerillas known as the Naxalites. Fifteen face lengthy prison terms and are still being denied bail. The case was back in the news in July, when a 16th among the accused, Jesuit priest Father Stan Swamy, 84, died in a hospital in Mumbai after taking ill in jail. His medical bail plea was still pending when he expired.
Local indigenous peoples and their environmentalist supporters have rallied outside the federal courthouse in Reno, Nev., as they await a decision on their request for an injunction to stop the Thacker Pass Lithium Mine Project, set to be developed on public lands within the ancestral territory of the Paiute and Shoshone. Opponents have also established a protest camp near the mine site. If the injunction is denied, Lithium Nevada, a subsidiary of Canada-based Lithium Americas, will be able to move ahead with an archaeological survey in preparation for breaking ground on the mine.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on Aug. 23 agreed to hear a complaint against the state of Chile brought by the Rapa Nui indigenous people of Easter Island, demanding recovery of their ancestral lands. The complaint accuses Chile of numerous violations of the American Convention on Human Rights, especially citing Article 4 on the right to life, Article 12 on freedom of conscience and religion, Article 21 on property rights, and Article 25 on judicial protection. More than 70% of traditional Rapa Nui lands are now classified as "state lands," from which the island's indigenous inhabitants are effectively excluded—causing "irremediable damage" to their way of life and autonomy. The complaint charges that this constitutes a violation of the 1888 Acuerdo de Voluntades (Consent Agreement), under which the Rapa Nui formally accepted Chilean sovereignty. (El Ciudadano, Chile; Pagina12, Argentina)
Nigerian authorities imposed a curfew in Jos, capital of north-central Plateau state, after at least 20 Muslim travelers passing through the city were massacred by a presumed Christian militia Aug. 14. The Muslims, mostly of the Fulani ethnicity, were in a convoy of vehicles, returning to their homes in Ondo and Ekiti states from a celebration in neighboring Bauchi state marking the start of Muharram, the Islamic new year. In Jos, the convoy was caught in a traffic jam, and the vehicles set upon by militiamen—the occupants slain with machetes, daggers and other weapons. The assailants were apparently Christians of the Irigwe ethnicity. Northern and central Nigeria have for years seen growing violence between Muslim semi-nomadic herders and Christian farmers over control of land and water.
In Episode 81 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes stock of the fast-mounting manifestations of devastating climate destabilization—from Oregon to Siberia, from Germany to Henan. In Angola, traditional pastoralists are joining the ranks of "climate refugees" as their communal lands are stricken by drought. In Iran's restive and rapidly aridifying Ahwazi region, protests over access to water have turned deadly. These grim developments offer a foreboding of North America's imminent future. Yet media commentators continue to equivocate, asking whether these events are "linked to" or "caused by" climate change—rather than recognizing that they are climate change. And the opportunity for a crash conversion from fossil fuels that was posed by last year's pandemic-induced economic paralysis, when already depressed oil prices actually went negative, is now being squandered. Oil prices are again rising, with the return to pre-pandemic dystopian "normality."
Millions of people in southern Angola are facing an existential threat as drought continues to ravage the region, Amnesty International said July 22. The organization highlighted how the creation of commercial cattle ranches on communal lands has driven pastoralist communities from their territories since the end of the civil war in 2002. This shift has left huge sections of the population food-insecure, and especially vulnerable as the acute drought persists for over three years. As food and water grow increasingly scarce, thousands have fled their homes and sought refuge in neighboring Namibia.
The US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 on June 29 in PennEast Pipeline Co. v. New Jersey that the Natural Gas Act can grant private companies authority to take state-owned property to build a pipeline. Under the Natural Gas Act (NGA), a company seeking to build an interstate pipeline must obtain a certificate from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). This certificate authorizes the holder to exercise federal eminent domain in securing property for the pipeline.