Why ecocide should rank with genocide as a crime against us all

Speaker's Corner
Speaker's Corner

‘Bunch of idiots.’ That’s what one man muttered loudly as he walked past people selling tickets for a talk by international environmental campaigner and barrister Polly Higgins. I prefer “bunch of do-ers!”

Polly was coming to Ashlyns School in Berkhamsted to talk on the subject ‘Dare to Be Great: Eradicating Ecocide’.

Polly is lobbying the United Nations to make ecocide an international crime and campaigns globally, so the least Transition Town Berkhamsted could do was fill the hall!

And fill it we did – with 130 residents eager to know more about ecocide, and what we can do.

We learned that ecocide is defined as ‘the extensive destruction, damage to or loss of ecosystem(s) of a given territory, whether by human agency or by other causes, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been severely diminished’.

We all know that ecocide happens – for example, we know along the Amazon in South America an area of forest the size of France is lost every day.

But many of us prefer to not think about the human impact on our planet. It’s a bit over-whelming!

Polly brought her passion for confronting ecocide to Berkhamsted, illustrating her talk with worrying examples.

Canada’s Alberta Tar Sands produces four times more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil extraction, and ironically uses enough natural gas to heat three million Canadian homes.#

Then there’s the Pacific Trash Vortex – 100 million tonnes of floating rubbish polluting sea and coastlines, not to mention 100 species become extinct every day… the list is depressing.

But Polly is inspiringly determined to make ecocide the fifth crime against peace – alongside genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of aggression.

Perpetrators would therefore be liable to be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court.

Illogically, ecocide is already a crime in wartime – this makes no sense at all.

Nor does it makes sense that ecocide was on the Rome Statute but disappeared in 1997 without judicial process. Figure this out – the US, UK and Norway all objected to the proposal.

On the night, Polly dared the audience to be great, admitting she was nervous about starting her Eradicating Ecocide campaign, afraid of failing.

But not trying is failing, so the very least we can now do is join Polly’s campaign at www.eradicatingecocide.com.

And we can also do a little bit more. If you have any concerns about the environment, please join the action group that formed on the night.

It’s called B-WEL (Berk-hamsted Wants Ecocide Law). Call Sue Hampton on 07975 812866 or visit www.transitionberkhamsted.org.uk.

We’d be idiots not to do something.