Crime Against the Environment

Companies – and governments –  are full of empty promises and nobody seems to be able to hold them accountable.

Catastrophic oil spills and big speeches on what we should do are on the order of the day. Little action follows them. Sometimes, however, justice is done.

Just recently “federal prosecutors in Brazil have filed criminal charges against 17 Chevron and Transocean company executives over an oil leak in the Atlantic Ocean in November 2011”, Aljazeera reports. What had happend in Brazil? “At least 416,000 litres of oil seeped through cracks on the ocean floor near a Chevron appraisal well off the Rio de Janeiro coast.” As such, a huge catastrophe but the outcome my be an important one. It might allow in the future for more prosecutions for “crimes against the environment” where not only the company as such but also its managers are put on trial. “If found guilty, the executives could face up to 31 years in prison.” I believe that such a risk for the CEOs might finally make them more prudent – even if it’s only to protect their own lifes. Let us hope the Brazilian courts go through with it.

Brazilian courts are generally producing good news these times. IPS quotes Antonio Herman Benjamin, judge of the Supreme Court of Brazil: “We are really tired of declarations. Despite some progress made since the 1992 Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, most governments have failed to fulfil their obligations.” Rio +20, the believe, should not be just empty words. That is why the Brazilian Supreme Court has launched “new initiative to promote role of law in advancing sustainable development. It is known as the World Congress on Justice, Governance and Law for Environmental Stability.” This meeting will try to look at ways of making sure that decisions and multilateral environmental agreements are really being implemented. Benjamin says: “Laws do not mean anything when they are not effectively implemented,” he said. “We need to close the gap between legal scholarship, parliaments and judges, because what is written can be ignored.”

Looking at the never-ending legal battles for example in Ecuador and the non-promising outlook for Rio+20, these are good news. Hopefully judges will more and more use their power to join the people in speaking up for the environment.

Picture by Jaywood_uk, thanks.

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3 thoughts on “Crime Against the Environment

  1. Great to see the environment being given a voice for a change! We are fighting to stop a pulp mill being built on the Tamar River in Northern Tasmania. All levels of government are supporting it despite people coming out of the woodwork all over the place against this filthy piece of government corruption. We just found out (through a solitary truth telling independant politician) that our state government (no money left…poured it all into propping up the forestry industry at the expense of law, health and education apparently that are now suffering massive cutbacks) has gone cap in hand for money to support this prospective ruination of a pristine and beautiful state to the federal government! Forgive me for inserting a local situation here, but it is exactly what you are talking about in this post. Big business, paying off politicians to turn a blind eye with the promise of rewards down the track, having laws changed in their favour to facilitate their nefarious deeds and running roughshod over a community with no voice because the local media and anyone of power is right in there with the corrupt business. We need to be able to hold these morally bankrupt money hungry corporations accountable for their actions so that their business ventures are a lot less easy to ram through planning and financial processes. Investors may think twice about investing in unethical and unsustainable money and power making ventures if they may themselves be held accountable for the actions of said operation. Cheers for your great posts and for bringing situations like this into the public eye (well…into my eye :)) and keep up the fantastic work.

    • I love your local stories, I think it’s very important to share them… so please keep us informed! It’s good to have such dedicated readers, thanks!

  2. Pingback: Ecocide is a Crime | Kosmos 9

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