You’re more likely to be murdered in cold blood for working in defense of the Amazon rainforest than you are if you’re working for America’s thin blue line.
The idea that policing in America is exceptionally dangerous is popular, however the truth belies this illusion. Statistically, police work doesn’t even make it into the top 10 most dangerous professions in America, trumped by blue collar jobs.
Here are occupations more dangerous than being a police officer. Number of deaths per 100,000 employed:
- Logging workers: 127.8
- Fishermen: 117.0
- Aircraft pilots: 53.4
- Roofers: 40.5
- Garbage collectors: 36.8
- Electrical power line installation/repair: 29.8
- Truck drivers: 22.8
- Oil and gas extraction: 21.9
- Farmers and ranchers: 21.3
- Construction workers: 17.4
In 2015, in the line of duty deaths for American police officers totaled 127, according to statistics compiled by the Officer Down Memorial Page. This is in the United States, a nation with over 1 million sworn in officers of the law, and many more in auxiliary law enforcement roles. Of these 127 in the line of duty deaths, up to 56 of them may qualify as homicides, but out of even these, none are noted as being the result of premeditated murder.
Contrast this with the largely unspoken of plight of the world’s environmental defenders, who throw themselves directly against the gears of corporate and state power in defense of the rights of indigenous people and the natural world. No one really knows how many serious environmental activists there are in the world, but we do have some idea of how many are being killed for their organization and resistance.
According to an accounting of murdered activists in 2015 by Democracy Now, at least 116 environmental defenders were killed last year (2015), every single one of them murdered explicitly or allegedly for their work as activists or activist leaders. Between 2002 and 2013, Global Witness reports on hundreds of activist murders around the globe, making environmental activism one of the most dangerous endeavors a noble person can take on.
Most of these murders may be better qualified as assassinations, and most occurred in Latin America where the pressures of corporate and political colonialism have always been extreme, but have been intensifying recent years as massive industrial projects and unchecked environmental devastation continues to level the world’s rainforests, displacing untold numbers of people.
Environmental Activists Murders 2002-2013
Most recently, Berta Cáceres, the Honduran social movement leader and world-renowned environmental activist, was assassinated in her home by hitmen in Honduras. Her activism in advocacy of indigenous rights is clearly the reason, and as an additional affront to Honduran social leaders, the government may even attempt to frame one of her best friends for the murder. Her daughter is now publicly insinuating involvement by the United States government in as agents of repression and violence in the Central American nation, demonstrating how much pressure really is on people who speak out and organize.
In 2005, American nun Dorothy Stang, was put on a death list for advocating sustainable farming practices, then brutally murdered in Brazil for her outspoken work in defending both the poor and the environment:
“Stang, born in Dayton, Ohio, spent three decades trying to preserve the rainforest and defend the rights of poor settlers who confronted powerful ranchers seeking their lands in the Amazon’s wild frontier. She was gunned down in February 2005 with six shots fired at close range from a revolver.” [Source]
Activists who love earth and traditional lifestyles know their activism is mortally dangerous, but for those truly connected to the earth and to the spirit of service, to die while protecting something as sacred as a forest is an honorable life and death. Rubber tapper José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva made the following haunting remarks in a 2010 TedX talk about protecting the Amazonias:
“I live from the forest, I’ll protect it at any cost. And that’s why I live with the constant threat of a bullet to my head, because I denounce the loggers and charcoal producers. I’m here talking to you today, but a month from now I might have disappeared.”
José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva
He and his wife were gunned down together in 2011 and his ear was ripped off by his assassin as proof of completion of the deed.
Even the lives of small time environmentalists are worth nothing to poachers and low level drug dealers, as is proven by cases like the tragedy of Jairo Mora Sandoval in Costa Rica, who was beaten and dragged behind a jeep till death for protecting the eggs of sea turtle nests. People seem to be more disconnected than ever from nature nowadays, and the fact that the killing of the world’s environmental activists goes underreported while the aggrandizement of all things police and military ramps up is a sign of a greater cultural imbalance.
Around the world, right now, thousands of under-reported struggles are underway around the world in the fight to protect land and people from corporate and colonial expansion, and increasingly, confronting capitalist power where it matters most is becoming a mortally dangerous thing to do.
Read more articles from Dylan Charles.
About the Author
Dylan Charles is a student and teacher of Shaolin Kung Fu, Tai Chi and Qi Gong, a practitioner of Yoga and Taoist arts, and an activist and idealist passionately engaged in the struggle for a more sustainable and just world for future generations. He is the editor of WakingTimes.com, the proprietor of OffgridOutpost.com, a grateful father and a man who seeks to enlighten others with the power of inspiring information and action. He may be contacted at email@example.com.
**Sources embedded in article.
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