Earth Day 2024: Take action on April 22 and beyond

Earth Day 2024 will be celebrated on April 22. It’s a day to support protecting our beautiful blue planet and all its life. Amid the urgency of the climate crisis, it’s clear that action is needed every day to protect the environment on which our shared future depends. It’s a matter of human rights – arguably the most pressing one we face.

In some regions, extreme heat, wildfires and drought threaten the right to water, food, health, housing, livelihoods, safety, and life for millions. Millions of people suffer equally devastating storms and flooding of unprecedented proportions.

This has a disproportionate impact on Indigenous, Black and other racialized communities in Canada and around the world.

No wonder these communities are leading the way, organizing and speaking up for what is needed to protect lands, water, forests, clean air and climate justice. It’s also no wonder this is putting them on a collision course with powerful companies, authorities, and economic interests who continue to put short-term profits before human rights.

Our priorities for Earth Day 2024 and beyond

This Earth Day, we are focusing our attention on three priorities in our hemisphere – in Colombia, in Canada, and in Ecuador. Read about these urgent situations, then scroll down for different actions you can take to make a difference – on Earth Day and beyond!

Keep Hope Alive for Environment Defenders in Colombia

Land and water defenders in Colombia inspire hope with their determined efforts to protect the environment on which their communities and all of us depend. They are literally risking their lives as they continue these vital efforts.

Quote from Jani SIlva, ADISPA "I dream that we can be a model of how to live without doing any damage to the environment, to the Amazon... We have to be guardians and show that it is possible to live in harmony with nature..."
Quote from Yuly Velasquez, FEDEPESAN "Everyone deserves the right to clean water. Yet our rivers are heavily polluted because of oil and gas. People are suffering from gastrointestinal diseases and rashes. We need pristine water to catch and sell fish. But because of the pollution, our catch is declining. It's troubling to see so many dead fish all year round. That's why I want to ensure those responsible for pollution are held accountable. It's not easy. I've been shot at and threatened. Despite the attacks and the threats, more women have joined our cause..."

Challenging contamination by oil and gas operations in the Amazon and the Magdalena River basin has put Yuly Velásquez, Jani Silva and other environment defenders in the crosshairs of armed attacks.

The crisis is a national one. Colombia is the most dangerous country in the world to defend land, Indigenous territory and the environment, according to the 2023 report of our highly respected partner organization, Global Witness. Approximately every two days, a defender is assassinated in Colombia. The danger is particularly acute for Indigenous, Afro-Colombian and campesino leaders, defending land and water. Women defenders face additional risks of gender-based violence and death threats against their children.

Amnesty International believes there has been an unprecedented opportunity for change since the election in 2022 for a reform government with a radically different agenda than its predecessors. However, as we documented in our most recent Colombia report, the government faces multiple challenges as it seeks to address systemic violence. That’s why Amnesty Canada has launched our Keep Hope Alive in Colombia campaign.

Stop Criminalization of Wet’suwet’en Land and Water Defenders

Quote from Chief Gisday'wa , Hereditary Chief of the Wet'suwet'en Nation. "Our territory, our river, our mountains are all sacred to us. The company comes in and clears out our land, and we've tried to stop them from doing that for years, and they just laugh it off."

The Wet’suwet’en Nation is seeking to safeguard ancestral lands and waters. That’s why they are resisting the construction of the Coastal GasLink liquified natural gas pipeline in their territory without their free, prior and informed consent. The research documented in our report ‘Removed from our land for defending it’: Criminalization, Intimidation, and Harassment of Wet’suwet’en Land Defenders, reveals the consultation process for the pipeline did not meet international human rights law standards, breaching the collective rights of the Wet’suwet’en Nation.

In December 2019, the British Columbia Supreme Court granted Coastal GasLink an injunction, barring land defenders and supporters from blocking a forest service road to halt pipeline construction on unceded indigenous territory. The injunction curtails self-governance, territorial control, and rights to freedom of expression and assembly. Operating under the injunction, the RCMP has intimidated, harassed, surveilled, and arrested Wet’suwet’en land defenders and their supporters. Large-scale police operations in November 2021 led to dozens of arrests.

Quote from Chief Na'Moks, Hereditary Chief of the Wet'suwet'en Nation. "We put the child at the centre, and we work from there. That is our law. That is how we operate. That is why our duty to the land, air, water, salmon, berries, moose, and our medicines is so strong. Every one of the Chiefs that you talk to, they'll say everything is for our grandchildren and our great-great grandchildren, those yet to be born."

Sleydo’ (Molly Wickham), Shaylynn Sampson, and Corey (Jayochee) Jocko were among those arrested and charged with violating the terms of an injunction order. In January, the British Columbia Supreme Court found them guilty of criminal contempt. The case is ongoing as the defendants have submitted abuse of process applications, alleging human rights violations they suffered during RCMP raids, arrests, and detention.

“Indigenous People are stewards of natural ecosystems that mitigate against the impacts of climate change. Prosecuting them for protecting those ecosystems is destructive and counterproductive,” said Ana Piquer, Americas director at Amnesty International. “At a time when Indigenous land defenders across the Americas are facing unprecedented danger for defending their territories against extractive projects, Canada should be protecting them instead of prosecuting them.”

Ana Piquer, Americas director at Amnesty International

In February, the BC Supreme Court also ruled against Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief Dtsa’hyl (Adam Gagnon) of the Likhts’amisyu Clan in connection with his defence of Wet’suwet’en land and laws in 2021. The Crown seeks a 60 to 90-day jail sentence, the maximum for such charges. Amnesty International strongly condemns these court decisions and concludes that such prosecutions should never have occurred. Peacefully defending unceded ancestral land should not be criminalized.

On Earth Day, we will meet with the BC Government to hand over all the petitions we have gathered to support Wet’suwet’en land and water defenders. There is still time to add your name (see below). Going to be in Victoria during Earth Month? Watch for our ads on city buses. Take a photo and post it on social media to amplify the message.

Protect the Environment and Environment Defenders in Ecuador

Canada is negotiating a new trade agreement with Ecuador that aims to promote more Canadian resource extraction in the South American country. At the request of mining industry stakeholders, Canada has stated it wants to include investor-state dispute settlement provisions that UN experts urge should be removed because of the “catastrophic consequences” for “climate action and the environment and human rights”.

Shuar Indigenous women march with signs that convey their rejection of mining in their territory
Shuar Arutam Indigenous women march with signs that convey their rejection of mining in defence of their lands. Photo: Amazon Watch Los Shuar Arutam ya han decidido: ¡No a la minería! | Amazon Watch

Amnesty International testified at a parliamentary hearing, echoing this recommendation. Our testimony shared the concerns of Mujeres Amazónicas Defensoras de la Selva (Amazonian Women Defenders of the Forest), a collective of Kichwa, Shuar, Achuar, Waorani, Shiwiar, Andoas and Sápara Indigenous women. We have also spoken out about the alleged use of excessive force by security forces against protests by indigenous communities in Cotopaxi against the impacts of the Canadian mine project.

Amazonian Women march holding a banner

We, the Amazonian Women of Ecuador, Defenders of the Amazon Rainforest, have organized to defend our human rights and to protect the Amazon from irreversible tipping points, which would have implications for the entire planet. We are very concerned about the free-trade agreement negotiations between Ecuador and Canada because increased investments in extractive projects in the Amazon could push it past a tipping point, violate our human rights, and lead to increased violence against Indigenous women and girls.

Mujeres Amazónicas Defensoras de la Selva
Amazonian girls look at a gas flare
The Amazonian girls, litigants in a landmark court case, look at the emissions that belch upward from two gas flares. Photo credit: @UDAPT

Another priority is solidarity with nine courageous Amazonian girls who are seeking to stop climate-destroying gas flares that are part of oil operations in Amazon communities devastated by cancer and contamination. The girls went to court and won a ruling ordering that the flares be phased out. The ruling has been ignored, and gas flares have increased. Meanwhile, the girls have faced stigmatizing false accusations by the Minister of Energy and Mines. Days later, a homemade bomb exploded outside the home of one of the girls.

EARTH DAY ACTIVITIES

Take Action on April 22 and beyond!

Smoke and gas flares rise from an oil operation in Alberta
Oil operation beside the Athabasca River in Alberta. Photo: Mark Ralston, AFP via Getty Images

E-Action

Only have a few minutes? The E-Actions below enable you to send an email we have crafted on your behalf quickly. You can personalize it by adding a sentence or two if you wish. Be a multiplier and invite your friends to sign the actions, too!

Write a Letter

Got 10 minutes to write a letter? Craft a short, polite, personal message that will carry weight with decision-makers. Make it a group activity with other letter writers, and feel the power of your pens! Then, post photos of your letters on social media for added impact. Tag us, and we will amplify.

Social Media Advocacy

Social media is an important way to show solidarity with defenders and demand that authorities respect and protect their rights.

JUSTICE FOR WEt'sUWET'en

Protecting life-sustaining waters and lands is a human right. It is not a crime. @Dave_Eby @NikiSharma2, it's time for the BC government to drop the charges against Wet'suwet'en land defenders. Every day is #EarthDay! #WetsuwetenStrong

Download one of our beautiful signs, created by activism leader Rachel Lim for the Wet’suwet’en campaign. Take a photo holding it in front of a government office or elsewhere in your community—post on social media with the hashtag #Wetsuwetenstrong. Be sure to tag @AmnestyNow (on X, formerly Twitter) and @AmnestyCanada (Facebook and Instagram) so we can share.

graphic showing  river and mountains. Title reads "Protect the Protectors: Stop the Criminalization of Wet'suwet'en Land and Water Defenders."
graphic showing  river and mountains. Title reads "Defending Life-Sustaining Waters and Lands is Not a Crime: Stop the Criminalization of Wet'suwet'en Land Defenders

Tabling, Postering and Public Events

Join Earth Day events in your community. Bring the downloadable signs for our Wet’suwet’en Campaign (see above) and our Colombia Campaign (see below), or create your own to deliver your message. Gather signatures on any of the following print petitions:

We also have a 4′ x 4′ banner for our Keep Hope Alive in Colombia campaign, which you can have on loan for activism events. Contact dwright@amnesty.ca in Western Canada and edumitru@amnesty.ca in Eastern Canada.

Banner image
Colombia campaign banner with QR code linking to the Colombia E-Action. This 4′ x 4′ banner can be used at events. It has grommets for hanging. Art work by Rachel Lim.

Hold a Watch Party

Hold a community screening or invite your friends over for a living room watch party. Then, take action by writing a letter and signing the petition.

Flyer for the webinar with 3 Ecuadorian women human rights defenders and the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment
Smiling protesters carry signs that say "Climate Action Now", "Learn From The Lorax" "Our Dependence on Fossil Fuels Must End", "People & the Environment Before Profit"

Earth Day for Kids

Art is a powerful way to deliver your message and catch the attention of others. It’s also a wonderful way to involve children and young people. Making signs for Earth Day celebrations is the perfect way to unleash the creativity of the young people in your life.

A woman at a rally in South Africa holds a sign that says: THERE IS NO PLANET B"
Brenton Geach/Gallo Images via Getty Images

Here’s another creative activity: use chalk to create images and messages on the sidewalk. It can help build a community of concern for the protection of the environment and climate action.

A young person chalks on the sidewalk outside JP Morgan's Annual Shareholder Meeting: Youth demand stop financing fossil fuels
A protester chalks a message on the sidewalk outside JP Morgan Headquarters in New York during their Annual Shareholder Meeting to pressure the bank to heed investors voting in favor of a proposed resolution to stop funding fossil fuel expansion. Photo by Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images

Rock-Painting for the Environment

Organize a gathering like the one outside our national office, in the photo below, where participants – and even passersby! – had fun painting rocks blue (like clean water and air), and decorating them to express how they feel about the environment. Reach out to your local library or community center to display the painted rocks and inspire others. Or find a place where you can plant or adopt a tree in your community and display your river of rocks around it. Take photos and share them on social media. This activity can be done at home with your kids. Connect with a teacher about making this a classroom activity

People paint blue and white stones stones to add to a swirling "river" of stones around a tree.
Community artist Claudia Salguero sits in front of the “river of solidarity” that she and Amnesty supporters created with painted rocks around a tree planted outside Amnesty Canada’s national office in Ottawa. The tree honours Lenca rights and river defender Berta Cáceres and all who speak up to protect land, Indigenous territory and the environment.
Painted rocks bear the words: Water Is Life in English
Water is Life! These are guiding words for the ever-growing global movement to achieve climate justice!
A stone painted with a tree, sun and rain.
 Blue and white painted stones bear symbols of nature and words like "life" and "Love Earth"
A stone painted blue bears the word "Hope"

Media Action

Make sure to contact your local media to tell them about what you are organizing and seek coverage. Alternatively, please write a letter to the editor and express support for the Climate Justice calls in our new Human Rights Agenda. If you need assistance or media advice, contact Amnesty’s media officer via CRuf@amnesty.ca

Cover of Amnesty's Report: No Future Without Courage: Human Rights Defenders in the Americas Speaking up on the Climate Crisis

Learn More

Want to learn more about Amnesty’s position on climate change and the analysis driving our calls to authorities? Want to hear what threatened climate defenders have to say?

Cover image of the Stop Burning Our Rights Amnesty report
Young women march with signs that say: PEOPLE BRING CHANGE and THE OCEANS ARE RISING, SO ARE WE.
Photo by Piero Cruciatti/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
A sign held up by a protester says "CLIMATE CAN'T WAIT"
Photo by Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images