Ecocide, activism and why I refuse to remain silent

Polly Higgins
Monday, 8th April 2013

Ecocode is a crime against nature. It needs to be acknowledged, understood and fought. Read this open letter from Polly Higgins, an international lawyer and grassroots activist, and feel inspired and empowered to spread the word.

I am reaching out to you as a kindred spirit who cares deeply. Like you, it deeply pains me to see the mass damage and destruction that plays out daily; often I feel powerless to act because under the existing laws of our world it is the norm to make profit from ecocide. I see the land I love being despoiled and desecrated, ancient arboreal forests uprooted, primordial wetlands awash with toxic waste. Industrialized agriculture has foisted pesticides, roundup and neonicotinoids upon our once fertile lands, destroying all that lies in it's wake. Where biodiversity used to flourish, we now have mono-crops and terminator seeds. All of this and more makes my heart bleed. I feel the crushing weight bearing down upon us all.

Our system as it is, does not work.

I reach out to you as a person who refuses to remain silent. Like you, I have refused to sit back and do nothing and I ask you to stand up once again. We know it doesn't work to do harm and that's why you, like me, have taken a stand in all that you do. I know you understand and feel my deep pain and hear the same silent vow: this must end. I know you too have said the same: this must stop, this is not working and I refuse to stand by and do nothing. I cannot in all conscience remain complicit in a system that causes harm to people and planet; I know it does not work. My heart is the silent voice of all that cannot speak. No matter what, I will do all I can to make this world a better place.

Like you I am a grassroots activist and I have planted a seed. My seed is to create a law, a Crime Against Peace that outlaws mass damage, destruction and loss of ecosystems. This crime has a name: it is called Ecocide. For the past 3 years I have legally advised governments across the world. The law of Ecocide has been examined by experts. It has been tested by lawyers. It has been analysed by UN officials. And it has been made public.

There is no ownership of this seed. This is one seed that has the force of life and the might of a giant within. It has the power to change our world and all it needs is to be fed. It is a seed that I am offering to you to plant in your heart, and it is a seed that has the power to transform us all. This seed is very precious and is at risk of failing to take root. It's such a big seed that the watering it needs can only come from many hundreds of thousands of activists nourishing it.

I am asking you to help me. Please stand with me and be counted. The life of this seed is now our collective responsibility and I turn to my fellow grassroots activists because without all of us, this seed will never come to life. Seed this letter to every activist you know. We know that when a seed has germinated, the most important point in the life-cycle is when it takes root; if we choose not to water the root, it will wither and die.

Not one government can now say they know nothing of this crime. It is being committed every day in so many ways, be it through the use of dangerous industrial activity, or by the willful blindness of good men and women who are caught and trapped in a system that makes it lawful to put profit before people and planet. A law of Ecocide will change all of that in one fell swoop. It is a law that can burst forth and sweep away all that is no longer working. This is no small step; this calls upon us to become giants. Together we can be giants for just one day. And that day is today.

Governments alone cannot put this law in place. We all carry an obligation for the wellbeing of future generations. Governments need the mandate to act – and that can come from us. Imagine a world where the era of Ecocide has come to an end; instead of agro-industrial farming, permaculture and biodiversity flourishes, instead of extracting we harness nature's power, instead of taking life we put life back.

It's a simple dream, one of peace, not conflict. It's a dream that can be our reality. You and I and many millions of others can make this law happen. No longer do we simply stand for justice here and now; we stand for justice for the future too.

Our common cause that unites us is our belief that our world can be a better place. Our duty of care is our starting point. Together our strength lies in our voices being heard when we speak as one. When we do that, the quantum leap can be taken. Please join me in calling for an end to this era of Ecocide.

This is our time to stand as giants and give our powerful voices to our big ideas – to create a collective vision of the better world we want. Each of us is an activist if we choose to be; all it needs is for us to join together and become one huge choir. It's up to us to learn the new songs and to share them with others so that even more of us can step up onto the platform of life and sing the new songs too. Join me with your song at The more of us that think big, the more we shine a light for others to do the same. Systemic change on a global level – that can happen, all it needs is for us to think big and support a law of Ecocide.

Yours in service to the Earth,

Polly Higgins
Grassroots activist
Chairwoman, the Eradicating Ecocide Global Initiative
Chief Executive Officer, The Earth Community Trust
Arne Naess Chair for Global Justice and the Environment
International lawyer
Award-winning author 

More resources

Join the Wish20 map, a global citizens initiative that maps the growing support for the law for ecocide. The aim is to gather 1 million signatures/mappings to present to the heads of state at the forthcoming Rome Statute review conference, with a chance to have the International Law of Ecocide considered for 5th Crime Against peace: 

Use this link to share to others: 


Read the follow up to Maddy's interview with Polly Higgins (issue 69): Ecocide: The Power of International Law to Create the New World

Read: Rio+20 and Beyond: Ecocide and the key to triggering the green economy

Read: The Unexpected Flowering of a New Culture?

Read Polly Higgin's book: Eradicating Ecocide