Dying to Save the World


Photo © iStockphoto.com/luoman
Reports of growing violence against environmental activists lead to a search for solutions.

By Mike Shanahanensia

Jeannette Kawas was an accountant whose concept of value was broader than any balance sheet. No number could capture for her the natural wealth she saw in the forests, rivers, beaches and mangrove swamps of Punta Sal, near her hometown of Tela in northern Honduras.

In the 1980s, cattle ranchers, resort developers and loggers all wanted a slice of this landscape. As their hunger grew, Kawas formed an environmental organization, PROLANSATE, to protect the land, and in 1994, it convinced the government to allow it to create and manage a new national park there.

Within three months PROLANSATE renamed Punta Sal National Park to honor its founder, who was shot dead in her home on February 6, 1995. Years later a ruling from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights said Kawas’s work in defense of the environment had motivated the murder.

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