Have you ever thought: what the Earth needs is a good lawyer to protect her from all the harm multinational companies are doing. Well the good news is: she had one, and soon she will have millions. Polly Higgins devoted her life to creating a law hat protects the earth from being damaged by humans. This law makes Ecocide — the extensive damage, destruction or loss of ecosystems —into an international crime. Ecocide Law makes it possible to hold the ones destroying our natural environment, and thereby destroying the future of humanity, directly responsible for their actions.
Polly Higgins has been fighting for justice as a court lawyer all her life. About ten years ago she decided that there was one client that needed all of her attention: Mother Earth. She gave up her job, sold her house and started a worldwide campaign to show people that there is one law that can protect the earth on a global scale.
Polly is exactly what you would expect a Lawyer of Mother Earth to be. Kind, inspirational, honest and fierce. She uses the intelligence of nature, in which everything has a place in the whole and is respected, to devise laws that act accordingly. The Ecocide Law is therefore an essential part of a sustainable society. For many years Polly has made her case and inspired many different people around the globe. The beautiful thing is that it didn’t matter whether she spoke in front of the UN or in a small local meeting. She was always approachable, kind and clear. She is the kind of person who has influence not because she holds an official seat of power but because she has a high moral integrity and credibility.
In this short video below you can check how Polly explains her work!
An unexpected turn…
A few weeks ago Polly discovered that she had a very aggressive form of cancer. The doctors gave her a few weeks to live. Polly took up the matter with her usual love for life. She did everything she could from changes in her diet to resting, being with loved ones, receiving inspirational message and putting herself open for the wonders of the universe through a daily global intention experiment aimed at her healing. The Facebook Group that was created for her is a huge outpouring of love where it became clear how many lives she touched an how powerful her work has been. George Monbiot wrote a well read article about her in The Guardian and Polly said she hoped she would live to see 1 million people pledging to protect the earth.
As it goes in life things happen in their own way. Polly died on the seventh day of the huge Extinction Rebellion protest in London, which was inspired by her work. Thousands of people stood up to carry on her mission of protecting the earth. And they did so while holding in their pocket a legal document created by Polly to show that they are Conscientious Protectors. This document helps any court to see that non-violent actions to protect the earth are morally lawful and thereby obeying a higher law.
Off course the mission to make Ecocide a crime was never just Polly’s in the first place. But she acted as on of it’s most powerful proponents, thereby inspiring many others to stand up for the rights of nature and humanity. With Polly no longer with us, it befalls on all of us to proceed with this mission and make Ecocide an international crime.
There are still many things to be done to make Ecocide Law into a reality. And since it’s an essential piece of a sustainable future it deserves all our attention. The article below gives a simple explanation of what the Ecocide Law is and what you can do to make this into a reality.
What is Ecocide Law exactly?
The Ecocide Law is a law that goes right to heart of the injustices in our world. It makes CEO’s, heads of states and financial investors directly responsible for the damage they inflict upon ecosystems and it’s inhabitants. It will make things like fracking, deforestation and toxic agriculture illegal. How does it manage to do this? By making Ecocide the fifth international crime against peace. It will become part of The Rome Statute which is the governing document for the International Criminal Court. The crimes against peace are “the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole” and are over and above all other laws.
The power of the Ecocide Law lies in the fact that is internationally binding. Thereby surpassing ‘well intended but not legally binding’ agreements like the Paris agreement, Sustainable Development Goal’s and UN Global Compact. It’s also stronger than national Civil Law under which corporations are sometimes sued by individuals. The problem in these cases is that the only outcome can be a fine. Corporations can and do remain operating, causing more and more damage, while accommodating fines within their profits. Ecocide Law can and will change this by treating the people that cause large scale damage to ecosystems as international criminals.
The law against Ecocide is unique in the sense that it puts the natural world and it’s inhabitants centre stage. It’s therefore an important part of a wider body of Earth Laws that legally protect the rights of nature and future generations. Obviously Earth Laws are also protecting humans since we are nature’s inhabitants and depend on the natural world for our survival. Climate change, on of the biggest threats to human civilization, could be effectively dealt with under Ecocide Law. Corporations and governments that continue to emit large quantities of CO2 and fail to take real action, will be hold accountable in international courts and forced to change.
What does it take to make Ecocide a crime?
Ecocide crime has a clear history in The Rome Statue. Until 1996 it was part of the drafts of The Rome Statue and most states where in favor of making Ecocide the fifth international crime. Only at the last minute, under pressure from the Netherlands, the UK and France, was Ecocide removed from the list of international crimes. The Ecocide Law was then banished to oblivion until international lawyer Polly Higgins took up the case ten years ago.
Polly Higgins has worked hard to put the Ecocide Crime back on the map. She wrote 2 books on Ecocide, put together legal teams to draft model laws, started a campaign and inspired people all over the globe with her talks. In 2010 she proposed the Ecocide Law in front of the United Nations. In order for Ecocide to become an international crime, one or more states have to propose it. Then an amendment is open to signatories and when a 2/3 majority agrees, Ecocide will become an international criminal law.
Making Ecocide Law a reality
Obviously it will take hard work to make the Ecocide Law into a reality. Heads of state and CEO’s that operate alongside them are not very willing to make themselves subject to a law that will prosecute them as criminals when they undertake business that causes Ecocide. On the other hand more and more countries will suffer from the consequences of climate change making it more likely that that will want to hold the people that cause this accountable. Despite the argument that ‘all of us use oil’ it is still a very small group of people that decide how the global infrastructure and economy are run. Ecocide Law could hold them accountable and create a peaceful global system change.
Small island states like the Republic of Vanuatu, that are at the forefront of climate change, are currently working on tabling an amendment to the Rome statute, introducing the missing Ecocide law. Polly Higgins and her legal team created a platform called Earth Protectors where anyone can pledge a small donation to support the island states in their mission. Earth Protectors also get a legal document that shows they are Conscientious Protectors. By signing up as an Earth Protector you are clearly stating that you believe that damage and destruction to the Earth and its inhabitants is a crime – and you will have a unique Trust Fund document in your name to show this, which carries legal weight. So if you undertake non-violent civil disobedience you will have a legal document that will help you make your case in court.
Laying the framework for a sustainable society
As inhabitants of this earth we know when she, and we, are being harmed. It is our moral duty to protect the earth. Somehow we all feel that conscientious protectors of the 20th century like Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela we’re fighting for the right cause. But we often forget that what they did was illegal in their time. They went against the official laws to abide higher moral laws. And they played a part in anchoring these higher moral laws in society. Off course their work is not done yet and Ecocide Law is also carrying their work forward. Ecocide Law goes to the heart of oppressive and racist capitalists systems. It gives people from all over the world legal tools to stand up against capitalist corporations that are exploiting their natural environment and forcing them to work under slavery conditions.
By undertaking non-violent actions to protect the Earth we show that we are already living under Ecocide Law. Simply because honoring and protecting all life is one of the higher laws of the universe. Thanks to Polly’s work lawyers from all over the planet are now doing everything they can to put Ecocide Law in The Statue of Rome, where it rightfully belongs. We can support and protect them by making their work visible.
Making Ecocide a crime will create the framework for a truly sustainable society. Off course there are more elements that sustain this future society and that will transform our economy to be in line with the natural world. But Ecocide Law is an essential step because it has the power to stop those who are willingly pulling the earth into a cycle of damage and destruction. Ecocide Law puts the power back where it belongs: in the hands of everyday people fighting to live in a just and sustainable world.
It’s up to us to carry the groundbreaking work of Polly Higgins forward. The best thing you can do is tell as many people as possible about this groundbreaking law. And pledge to become an Earth Protector. Let’s all become lawyers of the Earth!