Ecocide Law: Give Mother Nature a Voice

07_ethno_akinleye_pipelinebrandMaking Ecocide a crime and legally punitive could be one way of getting corporations to respect the environment

Unlike humans, nature does not have a voice. It cannot voice its concerns for being mistreated, overused and abused and it cannot stop the harm it often undergoes; however, this may change soon. In April 2010, Polly Higgins proposed a law on ecocide to the UN Law Commission to stand alongside genocide as an international crime against peace.

Since then, Polly and her team have founded the Wish20 Global Citizens initiative to catalyze global momentum for an international ecocide law. Already the initiative has united governments, faith leaders and businesses with the common aim of holding those responsible for deliberate environmental destruction accountable to the law.

This is an urgent issue, particularly in the extractive sector where  several countries are suffering from the disastrous consequences of ecocide, including severe human rights violations and wide spread poverty.

s_n31_RTR2KPUQThe Wiwa vs Shell case in Nigeria, comes to mind. A twenty year legal battle which in 2009 was deemed a triumph for the winning plaintiffs but has not resolved the consequences of Shell’s actions. There is still endemic poverty for the Ogoni people and complete environmental destruction in the Niger delta.

Another case is Chevron in Ecuador, where unparalleled evidence of environmental destruction matched by severe human rights implications to the indigenous Amazonians stand as witness to the consequences of ecocide. Chevron is refusing to pay for damages totaling $19 billion and the legal battle is still being fought today – twenty years on.

Even more worrying is the increasing arrogance of major extractive corporations, with revenues several times the budgets of host countries, which are filing lawsuits as intimidation tactics against human rights defenders and environmental organizations.

environmental destruction, ecocide, polly higgins, nature, activismCould an ecocide law prevent environmental destruction in the future by holding individuals in corporations accountable for their actions?

On Saturday, 9 March, 2013, a forum on ecocide will be held at The 2013 Middle East Festival Forum on Ecocide, Culture and Peace. Polly Higgins and other panelists will be speaking about the progress of Ecocide Law in Edinburgh, Scotland.

For more information on the event click here or contact Neill Walker, [email protected], 0131 331 4469.

Images of oil spills in Ogoniland, Nigeria from National Journal 

About Linda Pappagallo

Linda's love for nature started when at the age of eight she discovered, with her dog, a magical river in the valley of a mountainous region in Lebanon. For four years Linda and her dog explored along the river, until one day she saw construction scrapers pushing rock boulders down the valley to make way for new construction sites. The rubble came crashing into the river destroying her little paradise, and her pathetic reaction was to shout at the mechanic monsters. Of course that was not enough to stop the destructive processes.As she continued to observe severe environmental degradation across the different places she lived in the Middle East and Africa, these terrible images remained impressed in her mind.However, environmental issues where not her first love. Her initial academic and career choices veered towards sustainable economic development, with particular interest in savings led microfinance schemes.Nevertheless, through experience, she soon realized a seemingly obvious but undervalued concept. While humans can somewhat defend themselves from the greed of other humans, nature cannot. Also nature, the environment, is the main “system” that humans depend on, not economics.These conclusions changed her path and she is now studying a Masters in International Affairs with a concentration in Energy and the Environment in New York. Her interests lie on ecosystems management: that is how to preserve the integrity of an Ecosystem while allowing for sustainable economic development, in particular in the Middle East and Africa.

One thought on “Ecocide Law: Give Mother Nature a Voice”

  1. Prisca says:

    Great article, Linda, thanks a lot! Are you aware of the European Citizens’ Initiative we are currently organising to criminalise ecocide in Europe (and outside when committed by EU companies or financed by EU banks and financial institutions). We need to collect one million signatures at within one year and then the European Commission has to consider our proposal, so it’s much more powerful than an ordinary petition. Please help promote this initiative!
    Also, you are using great pictures in your article. Did you get permission from the author and could you help us get in touch with them as well maybe? Thanks a lot!

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