Our planet is in crisis. The parts of the earth not facing historic fires are experiencing once in a millennium flooding. Every year, we lose an area of forest roughly the size of the UK. One million species are at a risk of extinction, and temperatures – and the emissions that drive them – keep rising.

Yet everywhere you look, you find people who believe our home is worth saving. All around the globe, on every continent and every country, people from marginalized or Indigenous communities, ordinary people of all ages, races, from all backgrounds are fighting back.

In the face of climate breakdown, of destruction, flooding and fire, people are peacefully protesting, organising, and advocating for a liveable environment and for climate justice. These are the defenders of the earth.

Their stories are even more remarkable when you consider the resistance and the risks they face. Global Witness data shows that four defenders have been murdered every week since the signing of the Paris Climate Accords in 2016.

Last year, 2020, was the deadliest on record. 227 people lost their lives standing up for their land and our planet, the natural world that is our common inheritance, that we all depend on, but that we are rapidly losing.

We need these defenders now more than ever, and here you can listen to some of their stories:

  • Derek Cabe, the Filipino community organizer continuing the work of Gloria Capitan, a murdered campaigner against coal plants in Bataan province.
  • Rita Naumenko, the teenage protestor taking on Putin’s Kremlin.
  • Silas Siakor, the Liberian environmentalist who exposed Charles Taylor’s regime’s reliance on the timber trade and is still today campaigning against illegal logging.
  • Juana Zuniga and the Guapinol community in Honduras, facing criminalisation from authorities as they peacefully protest the companies building an open pit mine in a national park, polluting their rivers.

Defenders like Rita, Juana, Derek and Silas are our last line of defence against climate breakdown, and we can take heart from the fact that even after decades of violence, people continue to stand up for their land, for our planet.

In every story of defiance against corporate theft and land grabbing, against deadly pollution and against environmental disaster, is hope that we can turn the tide on this crisis and learn to live in harmony with the natural world. Until we do, until we listen to them, the violence will continue.