Land use and control, combined with prohibition, is the fundamental motor driving environmental harm relating to production and sales of illicit drugs, as previous parts of this series have shown. Yet even eliminating illicit drugs, an impossibility, would not protect habitats that are systematically destroyed when they are turned over—officially, or effectively—to miners, cattle ranchers, developers, fossil fuel extraction companies or electricity plants.
Indigenous land defenders’ struggle to wrest back control of land—from both illicit actors (like drug trafficking organizations or wildcat, “artisanal” miners) and, increasingly and usually more significantly, legal or nominally legal ones—is a difficult, dangerous and terribly lopsided battle.
Perhaps, as Guatemalan ecological activist Julio González suggested to Filter, it is inevitable that people living in relative harmony with environmentally and culturally significant land will be pushed too far by those seeking to extract profit at any cost, and armed conflict will (continue to) erupt around the world.
But land defenders continue to pursue new avenues to end impunity for the destruction of irreplaceable ecological heritage and ways of life.