Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • Comment
  • Published:

A global perspective is needed to protect environmental defenders

Recently publicized killings of environmental defenders are the latest iteration of a long and tragic history of violent conflict over access to land and resources. To bring about effective change, we must first understand the drivers and conditions that lead to violence in the sphere of environmental and land conflict.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy this article

Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Fig. 1

hanohikirf/Alamy Stock Photo.


  1. Environmental Activists (Global Witness, 2018);

  2. Klubock, T. M. La Frontera: Forests and Ecological Conflict in Chile’s Frontier Territory (Duke Univ. Press, Durham, 2014).

  3. Boyer, C. R. Political Landscapes: Forests, Conservation, and Community in Mexico (Duke Univ. Press, Durham, 2015).

  4. Hecht, S. & Cockburn, A. The Fate of the Forest: Developers, Destroyers, and Defenders of the Amazon (Univ. Chicago Press, Chicago, 2010).

  5. Peluso, N. L. & Lund, C. J. Peasant Stud. 38, 667–681 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. de Blas, D. E., Ruiz-Perez, M. & Vermeulen, C. Ecol. Soc. 16, 8 (2011).

  7. Lescuyer, G., Cerutti, P. O. & Robiglio, V. Forest Policy Econ. 32, 68–77 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Calfucura, E. Ecol. Econ. 145, 18–26 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Terborgh, J. & Peres, C. A. Land 6, 22 (2017).

  10. Nepstad, D. et al. Conserv. Biol. 20, 65–73 (2006).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. Berkes, F. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 104, 15188–15193 (2007).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. West, P., Igoe, J. & Brockington, D. Annu. Rev. Anthropol. 35, 251–277 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Agrawal, A. & Redford, K. Conserv. Soc. 7, 1–10 (2009).

  14. Neumann, R. P. Polit. Geogr. 23, 813–837 (2004).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Verweijen, J. & Marijnen, E. J. Peasant Stud. 45, 300–320 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Sarkar, S. & Montoya, M. Biol. Conserv. 144, 979–988 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Redpath, S. M. et al. Trends Ecol. Evol. 28, 100–109 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Chapin, F. S. et al. Trends Ecol. Evol. 25, 241–249 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Berkes, F., Colding, J. & Folke, C. Ecol. Appl. 10, 1251–1262 (2000).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Hunsberger, C. et al. Can. J. Dev. Stud. 38, 305–324 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Bodley, J. H. Victims of Progress 6th edn (Rowman and Littlefield, London, 2015).

  22. Promoting Greater Protection for Environmental Defenders (United Nations Environment Programme, Nairobi, 2018).

  23. Ornelas, R. T. Int. Indigen. Policy J. 5, 4 (2014).

  24. Mbembe, A. On the Postcolony (Univ. California Press, Oakland, 2001).

  25. Deutsche Bank Divests from Vietnamese Land Grabber HAGL Following Global Witness’ Expose (Global Witness, 2013);

  26. Dunlap, A. & Fairhead, J. Geopolitics 19, 937–961 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Scheba, A. & Rakotonarivo, O. S. Land Use Policy 57, 625–637 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Work, C. Forests 8, 47 (2017).

  29. Carver, E. Madagascar Environmental Activist Convicted, Sentenced — and Paroled (Mongabay, 2017);

  30. Watts, J. Berta Cáceres, Honduran human rights and environment activist, murdered. The Guardian (4 March 2016).

  31. Young, H. P. Annu. Rev. Econ. 7, 359–387 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Nyborg, K. et al. Science 354, 42–43 (2016).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  33. Peters, I. Cohesion and Fragmentation in Social Movements: How Frames and Identities Shape the Belo Monte Conflict (Springer, Wiesbaden, 2017).

  34. Deadly Environment: The Dramatic Rise in Killings of Environmental and Land Defenders (Global Witness, 2014).

  35. Marijnen, E. & Verweijen, J. Geoforum 75, 274–285 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jaboury Ghazoul.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Ghazoul, J., Kleinschroth, F. A global perspective is needed to protect environmental defenders. Nat Ecol Evol 2, 1340–1342 (2018).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


Quick links

Nature Briefing Anthropocene

Sign up for the Nature Briefing: Anthropocene newsletter — what matters in anthropocene research, free to your inbox weekly.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing: Anthropocene