How many people will need to die before we really open our eyes to forest destruction?

Last month, an inspiring forest defender was brutally murdered in the Brazilian municipality of Altamira, Pará.  Luis Alberto Araujo, former environmental secretary for São Felix do Xingu, was killed in his car as he and his family pulled into the driveway of their home.

Araujo was the secretary for the environment on the city council of Altamira, recently leading efforts to improve urban sanitation. He was also responsible for getting properties registered under the Rural Environmental Registry (CAR), especially in areas that have been traditionally resistant to registration. He was making a difference in the fight against high deforestation rates.

While in São Félix do Xingu, where he worked between 2009 and 2012, Araujo was responsible for implementing the Municipal Pact to Reduce Deforestation. During his mandate deforestation levels decreased sharply in São Félix, and his tenure was marked by impartiality and a strong drive to implement environmental legislation.

People like Araujo have made a significant impact in stopping the unsustainable exploitation of forest resources. But many risk their lives to do so. Despite this, the international environmental community has so far paid little attention to the human rights abuses that intersect with forest protection.

In 2014 at least 116 environmental and land defenders were murdered – nearly double the number of journalists killed over the same period. While there are several international campaigns to prevent the killing of journalists, there is little public awareness of, and pressure to end, the killing of environmental defenders.

How many more need die?

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