skip to content
My Green Pod Logo

‘Climate justice is stories’

Caroline Mair-Toby, lawyer and chief empowerment officer at SHE Changes Climate, on why sharing stories is a crucial element of climate justice
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Berta Cáceres

This article first appeared in our International Women’s Day issue of My Green Pod Magazine, published on 08 March 2023. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox

Main image: Berta Cáceres, credit ONU Brasil

Loss and damage. Adaptation. Insurance risk. Resilience. Carbon markets. Scope 2 emissions. These are such bloodless terms.

They are terms that mask the grief and the heartache that lie at the very end of those emissions.

They elide and erase the beating up of a grandmother by thugs hired by a large multinational company or local industry, the harassing of a local community leader for challenging destructive environmental and human rights practices, the retributive and punitive rape of a woman, the murder of environmental leaders.

Berta Cáceres was threatened, stalked and harassed before she was killed in 2016.

She had been battling the construction of a hydroelectric dam on the Gualcarque river, in the community of Río Blanco in her home country, in Indigenous Lenca territory in northwestern Honduras.

Berta was a well-recognised face and force in Western Honduras, for her work with Indigenous Lenca communities in many struggles to protect the land and water against exploitative and heavily polluting industry and development. 

Berta was not an invisible person, by any means. She was a high-profile, internationally recognised Indigenous leader, the co-founder and coordinator of the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH).

She was the winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015, which was the equivalent of the Nobel Peace Prize for the environment, for the same work battling the Agua Zarca Dam at Río Gualcarque in Indigenous Lenca territory in northwestern Honduras.

Environmental defenders

We know about the 2022 murder of the British journalist Dom Phillips and Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira in the Amazonian rainforest. They were teaching Indigenous defenders how to record abuses and to protect their territories.

What we don’t know is how many Indigenous defenders were killed in the genocide against Indigenous communities and the attack on the environment that was committed under the far-right regime of Brazil’s former president, Jair Bolsonaro.

We don’t all know that the hit was against Bruno Pereira for his work in protecting Indigenous peoples, as it affected profits. Dom Philips was just in the way. 

What we don’t know is the absolute ferocity with which the Indigenous defenders searched for their bodies.

They knew what was at stake in getting these stories out to the world; they must have seen Pereira and his associates, Phillips included, as lifelines to an outside world, sending testimonies and witness accounts as they fought for their lives.

And they were right: their disappearance generated intense international outcry and pressure for action. 

Climate justice is stories. It’s getting the chance to tell our stories to the rest of the world. SHE Changes Climate knows this.

We know that to support women at the forefront of climate collapse, we must listen to these women – hear these stories. We are throwing our full support behind environmental defenders, at the UN and at the grassroots level.

Because no one in this day and age should have to die for protecting the environment.

Hope from the courts

What measures can help Indigenous peoples in their fight to protect their rainforest and ocean homes? There is finally hope at the domestic court level, though I never thought I would say it.

David Castillo, the former head of Desarrollos Energeticos (DESA), which ran the $50m Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam project, was found guilty for planning the assassination of Berta Cáceres.

He was sentenced to 22 and a half years in prison by a Honduran court.

This year, the mastermind behind the killing of Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira was arrested, and last year three men were charged for their murder in Brazil. 

Regionally, there is the Escazú Agreement, the first international treaty in Latin America and the Caribbean concerning the environment.

It is the first in the world to include provisions on the rights of environmental defenders, imposing requirements upon member states concerning the rights of environmental defenders.

It is also important to increase the participation of Indigenous governments in the UN, to allow for the recognition and respect of Indigenous rights and to enable their self-determination and sovereignty. 

History will look back at these leaders in the light of Gandhi, leading as he did against the dark forces of imperial conquest.

But until then, we have to learn their names, say their names, celebrate them as the heroes that they are and amplify their voices – in the media, at courts, at international tribunals and at the UN.

Click here to discover how you can support Indigenous rights and women facing climate collapse.

Here's more related content

Join The Conversation

Leave a Reply

Here's More Ethical News News & Features

  • All
  • Africa
  • Amazon
  • Fairtrade
  • London
  • SDGs
  • Spirits
  • USA
  • activism
  • activists
  • animals
  • beach clean
  • beauty
  • biodiversity
  • business
  • circular economy
  • climate action
  • climate change
  • climate emergency
  • climate justice
  • community
  • conflict
  • conservation
  • consumption
  • deforestation
  • drinks
  • ecocide
  • economics
  • economy
  • education
  • environment
  • equality
  • ethical business
  • events
  • exhibition
  • farmers
  • farming
  • fires
  • fishing
  • fossil fuels
  • health
  • helath
  • human rights
  • indigenous
  • investment
  • justice
  • law
  • leadership
  • legal
  • lifestyle
  • marine protection
  • mental health
  • money
  • net zero
  • oceans
  • organic
  • packaging
  • peace
  • pension
  • plastic
  • plastic pollution
  • policy
  • politics
  • pollution
  • resources
  • rivers
  • schools
  • scotland
  • skincare
  • society
  • sports
  • travel
  • trees
  • war
  • waste
  • water
  • wellbeing
  • wildlife
  • women
  • work