Some big waves being made (no pun intended) in the UK this week on Ecocide: the destruction of ecosystems, typically by “human agency.” The Guardian’s great piece “Trial tests whether ‘ecocide’ could join genocide as global crime” describes the mock trial going on today, let by a one Polly Higgins, who runs ThisIsEcocide.com. I really like her take, summed up in the Guardian article:
Higgins says a key inspiration is William Wilberforce, whose campaigning led to the abolition of slavery in the UK. He changed to norm of how black people were treated, she says, and ecocide law would change the way the planet is treated. “We have go to the point when the ethical imperative trumps the economic imperative,” she says. At the moment in many countries, she points out, the first responsibility of CEOs is a financial one to their shareholders. If environmental destruction is not illegal but can boost profit, it will happen, she says.
But she is not anti-corporate or anti-profit, she says: “I started as a corporate lawyer. Now I want to make the problem part of the solution.” She says companies should be making profits from solving the problems of global warming, habitat destruction and the extinctions of animals and plants. The companies that traded in slaves did not go out of business after slavery was abolished, she claims. [emphasis mine]
The two “problems” chosen for mock trial are the “fictional” oil drilling in Canada, a la Tar Sands in Alberta (currently being protested in Canada after the large demonstration here), and the a Gulf of Mexico oil spill (BP, anyone?). As one can see from the Twitter hashtag #ecocidetrial, the arguing is quite real for a mock trial.
For a better description of what Ecocide is, Higgins has put together a short lecture on YouTube with the title “Ecocide is a Crime.” If hardcore is more your style, of course, there’s always this “Ecocide” (with lyrics here)
Currently the trial is streaming live on Sky News, though I they apparently in deliberation and will return later. As an environmentalist I fully support what Higgins is trying to do and the pressure to hold those accountable for ecocide. Carry on!
Edit 10/03/11: The verdict is in, and it is guilty! Nice job, prosecution. Now let’s see this turn into a real law!
“The chief executives may have been actors, the corporations fictional and the trial a mock-up, but the circumstances surrounding the so-called “crimes” – the destruction of ecosystems during both the Gulf oil spill and the mining of crude oil in Alberta – are real. So is the call for a new law protecting the natural world, placing ecocide among the most heinous crimes known.”
Photo credit: NFW Blogs