By Captain Paul Watson
16 April 2014
(Facebook) – Being a wildlife conservationist or an environmentalist is now considered one of the planet’s most dangerous occupations.
We face very dangerous and powerful vested interests each day. They outnumber us and they are financially and politically connected. They are ruthless and they will deal harshly with anyone who intervenes against them and the resource or species they have in their sights.
Over the years I have been beaten, jailed, shot, and threatened repeatedly. Fortunately none of my crew or I have suffered any serious injuries.
Over the last two years we have endured a legal assault by the Japanese Institute for Cetacean Research (ICR) which resulted in a victory for Sea Shepherd yet the ICR are still throwing lawyers at us. Our enemies have the money to hit us in the courts repeatedly and failing that they turn to violent attacks on the high seas where their government will condone any actions they take.
I have known and supported activists in the field who have been murdered for defending nature and in most cases their killers were never caught or prosecuted.
How bad is it? According to a recent study by the Guardian newspaper, the casualties average two per week with 908 activists murdered between 2002 and 2013. And the numbers have increased each year with the 51 killed in 2002 rising to 151 in 2013.
Unfortunately, we do not hear about most of them because they are usually poor grass-root activists tackling issues in their own communities.
Last year despite attempts by the Costa Rican government to downplay the seriousness of the murder of Jairo Mora Sandoval, we were able turn the media spotlight onto the case and suspects were arrested. Although Jairo had been beaten to death on Moins Beach for protecting sea turtles, a government spokesperson initially dismissed it as an accident.
In fact a study called Deadly Environment by Global Watch found that 80% of the conservationist murders took place in Latin America. Brazil being the most dangerous nation with 448 of the 908 global killings. Of these 448 murders only ten of the cases resulted in prosecutions meaning that in Brazil, 438 activist murders remain unsolved. 54 murders have been linked to police or military involvement.
These statistics are of grave concern to Sea Shepherd because we have Sea Shepherd groups with active projects in Brazil, Costa Rica, Chile, Argentina, Mexico and Ecuador, Senegal, Liberia, and Japan.
DYING FOR CARBON CREDITS
Ironically in Honduras, the second most dangerous country for environmentalists, 93 poor farmers in the fertile Bajo Aguan region have been murdered since 2010 over land conflicts with agribusinesses expanding African palm plantations that are traded globally on the lucrative carbon credits scheme. Death Squads are now roaming the country looking for anti-African palm farmers.
Eerily, as I was writing this posting, I received the following bulletin:
“Virunga National Park’s Chief Warden, Emmanuel de Merode, was shot today in an ambush on the road from Goma to Rumangabo. He is in serious but stable condition with bullet wounds in the chest”
This is a man I actually know. I am hoping the injuries will not be fatal.
In 2002 I had lunch with Conservationist Jane Tipton in St. Lucia. A year later she was shot in the head in her driveway. The murder remains unsolved.
This is one of the reasons I refused to be extradited to Costa Rica where there is a price on my head. This is a country where not one murder of an environmentalist over the last decade has been solved.
There is not a single case of an environmentalist or a conservationist killing any person. But if it did happen, it would be the leading news story internationally.
We now live in a world where holding up a protest sign makes a person an eco-terrorist and also a target. Yet we can be killed without a corporate journalist lifting an eyebrow and certainly not lifting a pen.
The message is clear. “Get in the way of our profits and we will kill you.”
With Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott describing environmentalists as agents of Satan and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper calling conservationists a threat to the national security of the country, the political message is clear. It’s open season on those who would defend the Earth.
908 environmental activists murdered! And hardly anyone is aware of it and without the few still genuine newspapers still in existence like the Guardian, no one would have been aware of how the Greenies are being picked off in the field.
One of the reasons that Sea Shepherd is so high profile in the media with our own television show (Whale Wars) is because we don’t intend to be lethally dealt with in obscurity. Kill one of us and the world will know.
Unfortunately the death toll will increase as resources are diminished and eco-systems are destroyed. The problem is that at some point the Green Movement will fight back. I cherish the non-violent foundation of the conservation movement. We have a noble legacy, in fact it is the only global movement that can claim a complete 100% rejection of violence as a solution. I don’t want to see it devolve into retribution with retaliatory violence but that will become an increasing possibility if the killing of us by them continues.
Despite having this unblemished record, the propaganda continues to spew out of the mainstream media about how violent environmentalist are. You don’t see us on horseback with semi-automatic weapons looking for a show-down with the BLM. In the mind of our enemies, violence is holding a protest sign, blocking a whaling ship or making a film. The same words are used repeatedly like “eco-terrorist, extremist, or militant.”
Yet when a Japanese whaling ship deliberately cuts a Sea Shepherd vessel in half, no one is arrested or even questioned. When a conservationist like Jairo Mora Sandoval repeatedly requests protection for the turtles and himself, he is ignored then killed. When the Premier of Western Australia illegally slaughters endangered sharks, the people trying to save sharks are threatened with jail-time.
The shooting this very day of Emmanuel de Merode will get big play in the Belgian media because he is from Belgium, but it most likely will be ignored by the major networks unless they can wedge it in between the latest Kardashian nonsense and whatever silly fad is in vogue at the moment.
What is clear is that it is fast becoming a more dangerous world out there for those of us who wish to protect biodiversity and natural habitats. We need to be more cautious and more mindful of self defense.
And people asked me why I sometimes wear a bullet proof vest?
My old one has a bullet hole in it.