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...
We humans have the right to live and be safe, happy and healthy. Do trees or animals have these rights too? What protects them from being destroyed or damaged? The problem is, when companies and corporations destroy trees and wildlife and pollute our rivers they often are harming other people! For example deforestation 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.
What can we do about this? How can we make businesses consider the environment more, and encourage them to protect the health of our planet and ourselves? Well, we can create a new law, the law of 'ecocide'.
What is Ecocide?
The word ecocide is made by combining 'eco', which has its roots in the ancient Greek word 'oikos', meaning house or the Latin word 'oeco' meaning 'household' and which over the years has come to mean 'habitat' or 'environment'; ' -cide' comes from the Latin verb 'caedere', meaning 'to cut down' or 'to kill'. A more familiar word - 'homicide' - means the killing of a human being, with 'homo' in Latin meaning 'a man'. Ecocide is a crime against ecosystems. At the moment there is no such law preventing crimes that can be called ecocide.
Examples of Ecocide
Do you remember the Gulf of Mexico oil spill? In April 2010 Deepwater Horizon, an oil drilling platform exploded, tragically killing eleven oil workers and leaving an oil well leaking thousands of barrels of oil into the sea every day for several months. The oil spill also killed hundreds of birds, fish and mammals and affected the livelihoods of those who lived onshore and who fished in the area. The disaster caused lasting damage to the local ecosystem. Dolphin deaths greatly increased (long term impacts are not yet known). Seabird losses may have numbered in the hundreds of thousands and invertebrates were hard hit. There were also some reports of deformed wildlife after the spill.
Over 1,000 miles of Gulf shoreline was damaged. This is an example of an ecocide.
In 2015, the environmental costs of the spill are still being assessed. The oil company liable for this damage, BP, is still undergoing trials to determine how much the company should pay in fines. The most recent figures agree that around 3.19million barrells of oil were spilt and the fine for this damage is currently held at £13.7 billion. The spill has already cost the company £42 billion.
With this example in mind, pressures are mounting to stop oil drilling in the Arctic where sea conditions are more severe and dangerous. The Arctic is also an ailing environment, already suffering the effects of climate change and global warming.
If Ecocide were Law
If ecocide were law then companies and corporations would be held responsible for such damage, and could be arrested for causing damage to ecosystems. They would have to carefully consider their actions in drilling into the sea for oil or clearing forests and pumping toxic waste into ecosystems - they would have to take the environment more seriously and would not escape without punishment or a fine.
Do you think this is a good idea? Let us know what you think. You can contact us by clicking here.
How can you help?
There are many ways that you can help - and we need your help! You can help by telling others about the law of ecocide and how it could help prevent or limit further destruction of the environment. You can tell them that this simple law could change the rights of nature forever and give our natural world the protection it needs. Visit the website below to find out more about ecocide.
One of the reasons that companies exist is because we buy or use their products. But it is very hard to know what we are buying, where it comes from and how it is produced. Food for example contains ingredients from all over the world, some may be sustainably sourced, others may be contributing to deforestation such as palm oil (which can be found in everything from shampoo and pizza to cat food)! We are consumers and we trust companies to have our best interests at heart, but what about the environment's interests? To find out more about how you can help protect the environment visit our factsheet 'Environment'.
Image: Ecocide by Thomas Hawk
Information sourced from:
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (2013), Gulf Oil Spill [online], Available from: http://ocean.si.edu/gulf-oil-spill [accessed 02/06/2015].