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The Violent Cost of Conservation

Each year more people die while attempting to protect the world’s most biodiverse places. It’s a trend poised to devastate the planet itself. How can we stem the rising tide of attacks to ensure a safer future for us all?

Colombia is one of the most biodiverse nations on Earth, and by far the world’s richest country in terms of avian life. Its tapestry of ecosystems hosts nearly 2,000 bird species, many of them migrants that spend summers in North America. The nation also has the distinction of being the most dangerous place on Earth to defend the environment, with an average of more than two defenders killed each week in 2020.

A similar devastating pattern is playing out in countries around the world, where anti-environmentalist violence and intimidation are on the rise. Growing numbers of park managers, rangers, Indigenous forest guardians, and anti-mining activists are being threatened, run out of protected areas and ancestral lands, and, in many cases, murdered.