Date of Award

Spring 5-11-2023

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)


Environmental Studies


John Van Buren

Second Advisor

Huda Gerard Seif


This paper addresses the political violence against environmental activists in Colombia and analyzes the roles colonization, political history, and identity play in this violence. It discusses the causes environmental activists have put their lives on the line for and the response of the state, which is often to murder, displace, silence, or brutalize these individuals. I argue that from the first instances of European colonization in the Americas to the modern extractive economies of globalization, the hegemony of foreign interests in Colombia has been maintained through the violence against Colombians resisting environmental degradation and the theft of wealth and resources from their country. While political violence continues to this day, the globalization of environmental causes offers some hope for accountability for the murder of activists and the reform of the governments enacting said violence. Chapter One defines the relevant terms necessary for understanding the nature of political violence and environmental activism and provides statistics from Global Witness to present the significance of the violence against environmental activists in Colombia. Chapter Two uses the discipline of environmental history to explore the colonial background of Colombia. It establishes the connection between colonial violence and the development of the extractive economy and explains the ways in which colonization continues to impact socioeconomic stability and environmental health today. Chapter Three lays out the past and present political climate of Colombia and explains the violence of the State through detailing on specific instances of political violence in Colombian history. Chapter Four uses Colombian-American anthropologist Arturo Escobar’s concept of racialized geographies to highlight the violence of displacement that disproportionately impacts the Indigenous communities of Colombia. Lastly, Chapter Five explores potential solutions to this issue, such as the further development of transnational activist networks and mutual aid programs, policy changes such as land reform made in discussion with Indigenous populations, and the addressing of human rights abuses of the past and present.