In Permaculture magazine issue 69, I interviewed the barrister, Polly Higgins, who is proposing to the UN that Ecocide, the environmental equivalent of Genocide, becomes the 5th International Crime Against Peace, alongside Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity, Crimes of Aggression and War Crimes. Polly, with a group of UK barristers and lawyers are also drafting an Ecocide Bill for the Houses of Parliament. What does this mean and why is it relevant to us? The proposed new law of Ecocide is seen as fundamental to addressing humanitarian and environmental issues on a global scale. Currently, the Earth has no rights in law and Ecocide would protects the Earth's Right to Life. It would outlaw corporate Earthslaugter and close the door on commercial activities that destroy ecosystems. Currently, the world invests billions in technologies based on fossil fuels. Ecocide would sway the balance and stimulate investment in a new generation of clean technologies. It is not about prosecuting CEOs and corporate bodies but about requiring 'superior responsibility' from companies, changing how we do business on this planet, and influencing intergovernmental policy and action on climate change. Ecocide is a mechanism that shifts civilisations' understanding of what is acceptable.
Ecocide happens everywhere in our world: Arctic drilling, fracking in the UK, the deforestation of the Amazon, major oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico, Bauxite mining of the Niyamgiri mountain in India, tar sand extraction in Canada, deep sea mining of the Central and Eastern Manus Basin... Alone and in small groups, we are powerless to stop it but together and at national and international levels we can begin to change the odds using the power of law. I urge you to support the campaign (http://www.thisisecocide.com) and if you belong to an NGO or are a member of an environmental campaign ask them to get behind it.
At the end of September 2011 I attended an unprecedented event. The UK Supreme Court in London became the venue of a mock Ecocide trail. Two barristers, Michael Mansfield QC, for the prosecution, and Nigel Lickley QC for the defence together with their legal teams led a case for and against two fictional CEOs of major corporations. Legal arguments were put as to whether Ecocide and the Earth's Right to Life could be applied to the charges against them (major oil spill in the Gulf and tar sands extraction in Canada). The trial supposed that Ecocide had indeed been adopted by the UN and was heard in front of Judge and Jury, as well as press and public. It called upon expert witnesses to give evidence. This was not a piece of theatre, though it was compelling to watch, and nor was it pre-scripted. It had a serious purpose; to examine how the crime of Ecocide protects the Earth's Rights To Life. It was a fascinating experience to be in the very midst of British legal procedure and watch some brilliant minds apply themselves to the task. The mock trial saw the prosecution succeeding on two out of three counts but also offered Polly Higgins' legal team further insights as to how they can improve the draft law. The next event will be the mock sentencing on 31st March 2012.
I was deeply affected by the day, held in the heart of the British Establishment, next to Westminster Abbey and Parliament Square. I met many people who dedicate time, energy and resources to work tirelessly for the Earth. The strong leadership and powerful ethics of people like Polly and Michael Mansfield moved me. This was a consciousness raising and it gave me hope.
We often see people in black and white as good or bad, them and us. What I saw that day was all about us. We were reminded again that Wilberforce campaigned for years to abolish slavery but it was when the CEO of the British East India Company joined the campaign that the Act went through Parliament. Let's not close the door on solutions because they do not comply with our worldview or because we have been made cynical through disappointment. Let's be open to new possibilities. Our current system is breaking down but this disintegration will open the door to new ways of working in the world and they may well come from unexpected quarters.
To learn more about the Ecocide Campaign go to http://www.thisisecocide.com/
To donate please go to: http://www.justgiving.com/theearthcommunitytrust/Donate
For more information on Polly Higgins and Ecocide see Maddy Harland's interview.
Eradicating Ecocide is available with a special discount for £14.99 (rrp £17.95).