The Earth Law activist Polly Higgins writes about how that could be possible and more in her new book Earth is Our Business. Changing the Roles of the Game.
First of all, Polly Higgins is a lawyer and during her practice in that job she started to take on an unsual client: she wanted to represent the Earth. However, she soon had to discover that there was a lack of law to base her work on. Law does not protect the Earth.
Before that, Higgins had actually represented companies and made sure that they get the money they claim, she told Red Pepper.
Polly Higgins coined the notion of Ecocide which she defines as “the destruction, damage and loss of ecosystems. It is happening on a mass scale, every day and it is getting worse. But we can change this – by making it a crime.” Examples are many, let’s just thinkg about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill or the case in Ecuador. Higgins proposes as international law of Ecocide which will hold states and companies responsible for their crimes against the environment. Only then “people and planet would become the number one priority.” Ecocide is only part of what we need according to Higgins, she imagines a whole body of Earth law. Here’s a video introduction to the project:
Higgins plans for Ecocide are big: “For the past ten years Polly has campaigned to have ecocide recognised by the UN as the fifth ‘crime against peace’. This would place it on a par with genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of aggression.” She believes that Ecocide is a crime like any other which could be stopped by implementing laws which make it punishable.
What is new about this idea? So far, we have been relying on politics to solve our environmental problems. The political arena, however, is not very likely to find any sustainable solutions. Law seems to be stronger in making people and companies change their behaviour. The same goes with governments: “if you make policies that allow the destruction to go on then you will have to answer in an international court of law and the offence is sanctionable by being put in prison. The minimum [custodial] sentence under international law is two year and it would apply to ministers, CEOs and investors. This is about individuals taking responsibility.”
After her first book Eradicating Ecocide where she describes Ecocide and how to act upon it, her second book Earth is Our Business “sets out a route-map for changing the minds of CEO’s and business by the creation of a new law for the Earth.” Regarding the contradictions of her stand you can read the full Red Pepper article.
Polly Higgins believes that “there are certain times in history when we say the moral has to trump the economic. We did it with the abolition of slavery, even though all our economies ran on it. We did it again with the civil rights movement and the ending of apartheid, because a lot of people made a lot of money out of that.”
To know more on how to safe the planet with law read also: Crime against the environment