Protect the Protectors
Every autumn, monarch butterflies in southern Canada and the northeastern United States embark on an awe-inspiring journey, flying thousands of miles to overwinter in Mexico. By all accounts, the scene, when they get there, is spectacular, as millions of butterflies cling to branches and flit between trees.
Due to habitat loss all along their migration path, these monarchs are struggling to hang on. But in Mexico, at least, they had allies in people like Raúl Hernández Romero and Homero Gómez González, both of whom worked at the El Rosario butterfly sanctuary in Michoacán that contains most of their overwintering habitat. Both men had spoken out about illegal logging that threatened the reserve, and both were found murdered, just days apart, recently.
Romero and González are, unfortunately, far from the only environmental defenders who’ve been murdered for their activism. According to Global Witness, at least 1,558 people across the world were killed between 2002 and 2017 while trying to protect their land, water, or local wildlife.
Here at the Journal, we regularly hear about the violence and terror perpetrated against environmentalists across the world. Just this week, we ran a story about how the Canadian Mounted Royal Police deployed armed officers, helicopters, and dogs to break up a peaceful blockade by the Wet’suwet’en Nation, which is trying to stop a controversial pipeline from crossing their unceded land.
The time for us to take a stand against this violence, and tackle its root causes, is long overdue.
Managing Editor, Earth Island Journal