Should Ecocide Be Criminalised?
It is against the law to steal from or hurt other people, and it is against the law to kill another person. But, is it against the law to destroy thousands of trees and the wildlife that depend on them? Is it against the law to pollute rivers with toxic chemicals and help cause and spread disease? Not yet…
In recent times, many people from Pope Francis to Greta Thunberg have called for ecocide to be recognised as a crime.
In November 2020 a panel was convened by Jojo Mehta, Chair of the Stop Ecocide Foundation on the request of interested parliamentarians from governing parties in Sweden. This panel full of environmental and legal experts was brought together at a significant time: 75 years after the Nuremberg trials created two other criminal terms ‘genocide’ (to kill a whole group of people based on their nationality, race, ethnicity, or religion) and ‘crimes against humanity’ (deliberate attacks on civilians in times of war or peace).
These laws were created so that humans have the right to live and be safe, happy and healthy. The Stop Ecocide Foundation Panel will work to draft a definition of ecocide and aim to make it a recognised criminal activity, so that the environment will be afforded the some of the same legal protections.
When companies and corporations destroy trees and wildlife and pollute our rivers and oceans they will be harming humans as well as all other species on Earth. For example deforestation doesn’t just destroy forests; it is a leading cause of global warming and this is affecting people worldwide. Industries are polluting our air and our water with greenhouse gases and toxic chemicals, which can cause disease and illnesses such as asthma.
A report published in 2010 stated that the actions of the world's top 3000 companies caused £1.4 trillion of damage to the environment in 2008. To read more about the report click here.
The aim of creating a new law against ecocide would be to make businesses consider the environment more, and to encourage them to protect the health of our planet and all the species, including humans, that call it home.
Read More: What Types of Actions would be Punishable Under Ecocide Laws?