On October 13th, Luiz Alberto Araújo of Brazil was gunned down in front of his family. What could possibly be the motivation for such a violent act? Araújo was the Secretary for the Environment for the City Council of the small Altamira municipality located in Pará, one of the poorest and most crime-ridden states in Brazil. It is also a state where many people refuse to let environmental regulations dictate how they do business. Illegal logging in the Amazon is a large problem in this state. Other crimes against the environment in this area include mining companies contaminating water supplies and a hydroelectric dam killing wildlife. In his position, Araújo fought against these injustices, even after receiving death threats.
Araújo’s death was not an isolated event. In fact, last year alone there were 185 murders of environmental activists across 16 countries. Among these countries, Brazil has the worst record with at least 150 people murdered for their environmental activism since 2012. Given this situation, it might not seem as though the death of Luiz Alberto Araújo is big news. However, what makes it stand out is that he was a government official, and the murders of government officials over the environment are very rare. His brazen assassination represents a worrisome development in Brazil, for both the environment and those trying to protect it.
Brazil is home to the Amazon, one of the most important ecological systems in the world. The Amazon is rich in biodiversity and contains an abundance of trees that play a large role in limiting the amount of carbon that enters the atmosphere. For these reasons, it is in desperate need of protection. Unfortunately, the murder of officials like Araújo seems to indicate that unless greater action is taken to prevent this kind of violence in Brazil, the environmental destruction in the region may only get worse.
by Daniel Klein (Intern)