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Record number of environmental defenders murdered
by BBC News, Global Witness
Sep. 2021 (BBC News)
A record number of activists working to protect the environment and land rights were murdered last year, according to a report by a campaign group.
227 people were killed in 2020, the highest number recorded for a second consecutive year, the report from Global Witness said.
Almost a third of the murders were reportedly linked to resource exploitation - logging, mining, large-scale agribusiness, hydroelectric dams and other infrastructure.
The report called the victims "environmental defenders" killed for protecting natural resources that need to be preserved, including forests, water supplies and oceans.
“On average, our data shows that four defenders have been killed every week since the signing of the Paris climate agreement [in 2016],” the report says. “As the climate crisis deepens, forest fires rampage across swathes of the planet, drought destroys farmland, and floods leave thousands dead, the situation for frontline communities and defenders of the Earth is getting worse.”
It said this "shocking figure" was likely to be an underestimate, because of growing restrictions on journalists and other civic freedoms.
Logging was the industry linked to the most murders with 23 cases - with attacks in Brazil, Nicaragua, Peru and the Philippines.
Indigenous peoples, most often on the frontline of climate change, accounted for a further one third of cases. Colombia had the highest recorded attacks, with 65 people killed last year.
A senior campaigner for Global Witness, Chris Madden, called on governments to "get serious about protecting defenders." He said companies must start "putting people and planet before profit' or he warned that "both climate breakdown and the killings" would continue.
"This dataset is another stark reminder that fighting the climate crisis carries an unbearably heavy burden for some, who risk their lives to save the forests, rivers and biospheres that are essential to counteract unsustainable global warming. This must stop'.
The organization called on governments to formally recognize the human right to a safe, healthy and sustainable environment, and ensure commitments made at November's UN climate change conference, COP26, integrate human rights protections.
Those murdered included South African Fikile Ntshangase, 65, who was involved in a legal dispute over the extension of an opencast mine operated by Tendele Coal near Somkhele in KwaZulu-Natal province. She was shot dead in her own living room.
Her daughter, Malungelo Xhakaza, 31, said her "mother's struggle lives on." She said, "To this day no arrests have been made in the investigation into my mother's murder. There has been no accountability. It seems to me that someone wants this mine expansion and the extraction to go ahead, no matter the cost."
Petmin Limited, which owns the Somkhele mine through its subsidiary Tendele Coal Mining, told Global Witness that it "acknowledges community tensions may have been a factor in Fikile's death." The company said it "strongly condemns any form of violence or intimidation" and has offered full co-operation with the police.
The killings also included Oscar Eyraud Adams, who was murdered in Mexico in September 2020. He was working to help the indigenous Kumiai community in Baja California have better access to water.
Global Witness said activists still under threat included communities in Guapinol in Honduras, where dozens of people have been protesting against an iron oxide mining concession that was granted by the central government in a protected area. Campaigners believe the Guapinol river, a vital water source, is threatened. The organisation says "many community members remain incarcerated."

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Climate Change and Digital Advertising
by Dylan Tanner
Aug. 2021
Climate Change and Digital Advertising: The Oil and Gas industry's Digital Advertising Strategy
"Despite Facebook's public support for climate action, it continues to allow its platform to be used to spread fossil fuel propaganda.
Not only is Facebook inadequately enforcing its existing advertising policies, it's clear that these policies are not keeping pace with the critical need for urgent climate action. If Facebook is serious about its climate commitments, it needs to rethink whether it's willing to keep taking the money of fossil fuel companies". Bill Weihl, ClimateVoice Founder & former Director of Sustainability at Facebook
"Based on a robust scientific methodology, this study shows how fossil fuel interests manipulate individuals using sophisticated social media strategies. Their ads play on existing community values to build support for the continuation of a carbon intensive economy, contradicting the supposed commitment of these firms to address the climate crisis. Climate advocates need to understand and work to counter these campaigns. InfluenceMap has provided a vital window into the propaganda efforts of fossil fuel interests". Dr. Robert Brulle, Professor of Environment, Brown University
Evidence shows that in the past, major oil and gas companies have both directly and indirectly denied or cast significant doubt on the science of climate change.
The purpose of denying climate change has been to prevent the implementation of regulation that would limit or mitigate climate change as such regulation would have reduced the demand for fossil fuels, including oil and gas.
With increasing scrutiny from investors, regulators and the public, however, outright denial has increasingly become an unviable tactic for these major companies. In its place, oil and gas companies have developed an increasingly nuanced and subtle set of messaging techniques, often utilizing elements of the science on climate change in misleading ways.
Many of these messages are used on Facebook and social media platforms, a new frontier and tool for influencing the debate around climate. With a wealth of information on its 2.85 billion monthly active users, Facebook presents advertisers with unparalleled opportunities to promote their message in a highly targeted and effective manner.
New research from InfluenceMap reveals the latest iteration of the oil and gas industry’s playbook on climate change. The research shows the oil and gas industry is now using social media as a key avenue for advertising, posting thousands of social issue, election, and political ads every year which are designed to prolong the use of oil and gas in the energy mix.
This research found 25,147 ads from just 25 oil and gas sector organizations on Facebook’s US platforms in 2020, which have been seen over 431 million times. This indicates the industry is now using social media to directly reach a vast audience and influence public opinions on climate change and the energy mix. These ads had a spend of $9,597,376.
The ads promoted either the climate-friendliness of the industry, including voluntary targets, investments into renewables, and promoting fossil gas as green, or promoted an ongoing role for oil and gas in the energy mix.
Crucially, many of these ads either contained misleading content or present information that was misaligned from the science of climate change according to both the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s and the International Energy Agency’s reports on reaching net zero by 2050.
Facebook’s Advertising Policy
Despite its own commitment to mitigate climate change, Facebook continues to receive millions of dollars from the oil and gas industry every year to post ads.
For the 25,147 social issue, election and political ads covered in this research, Facebook received $9,597,376. While continuing to accept this money, the research also found Facebook has not been consistently applying its own advertising policies regarding climate change ads.
As such, the real revenue Facebook receives from the oil and gas sector is likely to be significantly higher when accounting for the entire industry and the true number of climate change ads posted.

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