Ecocide: A New International Crime?

“The most striking thing about modern industry is that it requires so much and accomplishes so little.”
E. F. Schumacher.

Here’s an amazing woman – Polly Higgins – barrister with an  Earth-centred conscience.  I was lucky enough to hear her speak at the Schumacher Centenary Festival in Bristol last weekend, where she played us a video of the mock trial she’d organised at the Supreme Court in London. The trial was held as though the international crime of ecocide, the destruction of ecosystems, were already in place. It is this piece of legislation that Polly is currently campaigning for.

According to a post on the Guardian Sustainable Business blog:

“the cost of pollution and other damage to the natural environment caused by the world’s biggest companies would wipe out more than one-third of their profits if they were held financially responsible.
Implementing an international crime of ecocide has a number of benefits. It would stop damaging activity where other measures have failed. It would be a crime of consequence (actual damage caused), rather than intent. It would be focused on preventing harm rather than appointing blame. And it would enshrine into law the protection of the natural world upon which we all depend for our prosperity and quality of life.”

You can read the rest of their account here

A comment from Polly Higgins last Saturday that I found particularly memorable was that “There would be no need for legislation if we all took full personal and collective responsibility for our actions.” An interesting thought to lead us into the weekend, is it not?

2 Responses to Ecocide: A New International Crime?

  1. Jamie October 17, 2011 at 6:10 pm #

    Hi Sally,
    This was very interesting. I just hope the USA here does not block it. I read some reports about 5 years ago that were an attempt to put a dollar value on biological/ecosystems. For instance, a wetland would be worth a certain dollar amount per unit of area – based on the function or service that it provides all of us. Like storm water storage, water purification, shoreline protection, etc. It sounds a little cold and calculating, but the truth is that it might just seem like a swampy area to most but a wetland’s service to us needs to be replaced by some other systems. So it makes it easier to calculate a rather higher value that people can then understand and compare to other costs.
    I write this because if they assign an economic crime to destroying natural systems, the hardest part will be assigning a monetary value. If you “just” count the trees and plants, etc it might seem like must less of a cost.

    I always love your posts Sally, keep them coming!
    Jamie

  2. Sally October 18, 2011 at 10:38 am #

    Hi Jamie, Yes, let’s hope your fellow US citizens see the sense in this. There was the Stern report about 5 years ago, here in the UK:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/6098362.stm

    which also attempted to address the economic value of work that eco-systems do for us. It’s still rather an anthropocentric stance in my view, but one way of meeting Governments where they are with their profit focussed mentality, possibly.

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