On the surface this doesn’t appear to be all that bad an idea. Why shouldn’t ecocide be a crime in international law, be classified as a crime against humanity? Then we do a modest amount of thinking and it becomes clear why this would be a very bad idea indeed, for it would outlaw civilisation. Sure, there are those who think that the coming down out of the trees thing was a bad idea but most of us don’t share that view.
She is a barrister who has devoted her life to creating an international crime of ecocide. This means serious damage to, or destruction of, the natural world and the Earth’s systems. It would make the people who commission it – such as chief executives and government ministers – criminally liable for the harm they do to others, while creating a legal duty of care for life on Earth. I believe it would change everything. It would radically shift the balance of power, forcing anyone contemplating large-scale vandalism to ask themselves: “Will I end up in the international criminal court for this?” It could make the difference between a habitable and an uninhabitable planet.
But then look at the examples being given:
In West Papua, which is illegally occupied by Indonesia, the environmental group Mongabay reports that an international consortium intends, without the consent of indigenous peoples, to clear an area the size of Somerset of stunning rainforest to plant oil palm. Its Tanah Merah project is ripping a hole in an enormous expanse of pristine forest, swarming with species found nowhere else. According to Mongabay, if the scheme continues, it will produce as much greenhouse gas every year as the state of Virginia.
But equally clearing Somerset to grow lentils would be the destruction of the extant environment. Draining the Somerset Levels in order to grow crops has been so derided that the Environment Agency is deliberately stopping people from maintaining that drainage. Clearing the banks of the Thames to build London destroyed that extant whatever it was 3,000 years back.
That is, anything that humans do at all is destructive of some part of the environment. And 7 billion of us trying to live as hunter gatherers would destroy all of it near immediately too. We therefore can’t make killing some part of the environment a crime for that would mean that we’re all criminals just through the very act of existing.
Sure, it would mean that Heinz Kiosk was finally right, we’re all guilty, but do recall that he was satire.