New Internationalist

Fighting for the right to survive

Using the law to tackle environmental destruction could change our lives and secure the future of the planet. A group of dedicated volunteers is collecting one million signatures to make environmental destruction a crime.

Why are the needs of the few destroying the needs of the many? Why is the environment being carved up, burnt, cut down and decimated? Why is greed and money being allowed to rule over basic needs and life itself?

The human race is pushing the planet to a breaking point. There was a time when this seemed unstoppable, but today there is hope. So many of us realize how terrible this is and our voices are becoming stronger and stronger. We now need to work together to make the destruction of the Earth and its ecosystems a crime, and send a message that we will not tolerate this anymore.

In 2010 Polly Higgins proposed to the United Nations that ecocide – the extensive damage to, destruction of or loss of ecosystems of a given territory – should be an international crime. Those committing it would be brought to justice by the International Criminal Court.

This is not just a dream, this can be reality. It all starts by us uniting to first make ecocide a crime in Europe. The new law would hold European companies and individuals responsible for their actions. If they abused the Earth and its resources they would be prosecuted under criminal law. Essentially this could bring an end to the pollution of our seas and other precious habitats, stop mass extinction, halt the terrible loss of our forests, and much, much more. There is a great short video that helps explain ecocide in nutshell.

What can we do?

One million European citizens must sign a European Citizens’ Initiative to call on the Commission to make this law. This initiative gives the citizens of the EU the power to influence policy. It means if one million of us get together to propose a piece of legislation then the European Commission will carefully examine what we are asking, they will listen to us. Sometimes we may feel powerless in the political world, but here we have a way to bring about meaningful change; this is direct democracy for the people.

We are all lucky enough to call this planet home, and are supported by the amazing wildlife and ecosystems that have evolved beautiful complex relationships over millions of years. Without these biological wonders we will die and will kill so much else in the process. If we as a species want to continue existing here we must find a way to live with nature, with the Earth. Having a law that supports this and gives the Earth rights would be such a powerful tool.

Polly Higgins is an international barrister who has dedicated her energy to protecting our Earth. But she cannot do this alone. Twelve volunteers have come together to end ecocide in Europe. But they can’t do this alone either. We need to add our voices, our energy. Together humans have an unimaginable power, let us channel this to save our planet and ultimately ourselves.

Believe the world can change, you have that power. Sign here and spread this message of hope!

Kay HawKay Haw is a passionate conservationist and voice for nature. Her greatest desire is for humanity to live in peace with the Earth, for the benefit of all. Her work includes blogs for the Woodland Trust, Guardian and BBC, and she is the editor of Wood Wise, a woodland conservation publication.

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  1. #1 David J Haw 29 Mar 13

    I have for years agreed with the defenders of our planet, those who quite rightly view man (and woman) as it's greatest threat!
    The threat comes in the form of dwindling habitats for many species, be they birds who lose tens of thousands of miles of well-kept hedgerows so that farmers can increase production/income, or the incredible diversity of life lost when the likes of rain forests are destroyed.
    We pollute rivers and lakes, fish the oceans bare of essential fish stocks, often in the process scouring the sea bed in what is nothing more than an act of outrageous industrial vandalism, and try to blame the end results on anything other than human greed.
    We occupy a world with finite resources yet turn away from limiting the infinite demands we are increasingly placing upon it. We are a clever species, but one lacking a heart or even the ability to adopt practical means of living within 'our' means.
    I agree with the idea of having such disregard classed as a criminal offence, and the guilty, ranging from politicians to industrialists, financial opportunists etc, should be dealt with using the full rigour of criminal law.

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