Save our natural ecosystems

Ecocide  - the destruction of natural ecosystems

Ecocide, the extensive destruction of ecosystems, is occurring today. For example:

  • Large-scale land use change that causes the direct destruction of habitats – as is the case with deforestation in most tropical rainforests;
  • Significant pollution whether deliberate or incidental – such as oil dumping and spills;
  • Open cast mining where entire landscapes are removed – as is the case with oil sands and some coal and gold mining.

There is wide scientific agreement that the scale of these changes is not sustainable and that continued interference with the Earth's ecosystems will have significant consequences. Humanity has stepped out of what has been called a ‘safe operating space’ and has exceeded at least three defined planetary boundaries.

The United Nation’s Global Environmental Outlook 5 Report 2012 (GEO-5) summarises the anthropogenic impacts on the Earth System, reiterating that they are unprecedented in human history. We know that we cannot continue to impact ecosystems with impunity forever and for there to be no consequences. The only question that is worth asking is what we will do about it.

If you are facing Ecocide the International Senior Lawyers Project UK may be able to provide you with free advice. Contact the ISLP UK.

The solution: The law of Ecocide

Change on the scale that is necessary to address these immense, globally significant issues will not simply happen spontaneously. Nor will it occur if we rely on weak international agreements or voluntary action alone. What is needed is a change that addresses the core problem. The issue is that the existence of major environmental externalities means that it is more profitable for companies to cause Ecocide than to invest in renewable solutions. However, it does not have to be this way.

In 2010 international barrister and award winning author Polly Higgins proposed to the UN that Ecocide be implemented as the fifth Crime Against Peace.

Ecocide is the extensive damage to, destruction of 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 or will be severely diminished.

Polly and her legal team are dedicated to ending this era of Ecocide. The law that they advocate will create a new framework within which business and the global economy can operate in harmony with the Earth’s ecosystems, using them as renewable resources that will last forever, rather than commodities to be exploited just once. Progressive business leaders are calling governments to create such a strong legal framework so that they can put in place truly sustainable strategies. Thus the Law of Ecocide has the potential to trigger the transformation to the Green Economy.

The law of Ecocide is part of an emerging body of law called Earth Law; law which puts people and planet first.