This book is about environmental defenders and the violence they face while seeking to protect their land and the environment.

Between 2002 and 2019, at least two thousand people were killed in 57 countries for defending their lands and the environment. Recent policy initiatives and media coverage have provided much needed attention to the protection and support of defenders, but there has so far been little scholarly work. This edited volume explains who these defenders are, what threats they face, and what can be done to help support and protect them. Delving deep into the complex relations between and within communities, corporations, and government authorities, the book highlights the diversity of defenders, the collective character of their struggles, the many drivers and forms of violence they are facing, as well as the importance of emotions and gendered dimensions in protests and repression. Drawing on global case studies, it examines the violence taking place around different types of development projects, including fossil fuels, agro-industrial, renewable energy, and infrastructure. The volume also examines the violence surrounding conservation projects, including through militarized wildlife protection and surveillance technologies. The book concludes with a reflection on the perspectives of defenders about the best ways to support and protect them. It contrasts these with the lagging efforts of an international community often promoting economic growth over the lives of defenders.

This volume is essential reading for all interested in understanding the challenges faced by environmental defenders and how to help and support them. It will also appeal to students, scholars and practitioners involved in environmental protection, environmental activism, human rights, social movements and development studies.

chapter 1|10 pages


ByPhilippe Le Billon, Mary Menton

part 1|84 pages

On defenders

chapter 2|10 pages

Conflicts in the Amazon

The assassination of Zé Claudio and Maria
ByClaudelice Santos

chapter 4|7 pages

Human rights violations in the name of conservation

Case of Ngorongoro district
ByYannick Ndoinyo

chapter 5|14 pages

“Environmental defenders”

The power/disempowerment of a loaded term
ByJudith Verweijen, Fran Lambrick, Philippe Le Billon, Felipe Milanez, Ansumana Manneh, Melissa Moreano Venegas

chapter 6|13 pages

Atmospheres of violence

On defenders’ intersecting experiences of violence
ByMary Menton, Grettel Navas, Philippe Le Billon

chapter 7|12 pages

Environmental defenders

Killings, perpetrators, and drivers of violence
ByPhilippe Le Billon, Päivi Lujala

chapter 8|12 pages

The gendered criminalization of land defenders in Ecuador

From individualization to collective resistance in feminized territories
ByMelissa Moreano Venegas, Karolien van Teijlingen

chapter 9|7 pages

Insurgent ideas from Indigenous peoples in Brazil

Counter-colonial epistemologies and the defense of life
ByFelipe Milanez

part 2|69 pages

‘Dirty’ projects

chapter 10|7 pages

The permutations of poverty

ByRob Nixon

chapter 11|8 pages

Violence and resistance in Indigenous Ceará, northeastern Brazil

ByJurema Machado de A. Souza, Mary Menton, Antônia Silva Santos, Daniela Alves de Araújo, Raquel da Silva Alves

chapter 12|14 pages

‘Land defenders’ and the political ecology of coal power in Bangladesh

ByPaul R. Gilbert, Mohammad Tanzimuddin Khan

chapter 13|10 pages

Manifestations of violence

Case study of Moolampilly eviction for a development project in Kerala
ByChitra Karunakaran Prasanna

chapter 14|19 pages

Land defenders and struggles against agro-industrial and mining projects

ByLouisa Prause, Philippe Le Billon

chapter 15|9 pages

How violence is justified in ‘democratic countries’

ByJustine Taylor

part 3|108 pages

‘Green’ projects

chapter 16|13 pages

Resist or comply?

Experiences of violence around dams in Cambodia
BySarah Milne

chapter 17|18 pages

Pacifying autonomous land defenders in Oaxaca, Mexico

Human rights groups as social warfare mechanisms
ByAlexander Dunlap, Martín Correa Arce

chapter 18|20 pages

Land defenders, infrastructural violence and environmental coloniality

Resisting a wastewater treatment plant in East Nablus
ByJeanne Perrier

chapter 19|10 pages

Defending territory from the extraction and conservation nexus

ByPhilippe Le Billon

chapter 20|17 pages

BINGOs and environmental defenders

NGO complicity in atmospheres of violence and the possibilities for decolonial solidarity with defenders
ByMary Menton, Paul R. Gilbert

chapter 22|18 pages

Interrogating international cooperation in support of environmental human rights defenders

The Geneva Roadmap 40/11 and the power of connecting solutions
ByPeter Bille Larsen, Yves Lador