The Earth needs a good Lawyer!

Polly Higgens, an English barrister, held a TEDx Exeter speech about the need of Ecocide and the need to give earth the right to exist as the earth is a living body that needs its own earth rights.

This is what she says in her speech:

  •  The earth is badly insured and harmed. Something needs to be done about that!
  • The earth is in need of a good lawyer!
  • What are the tools needed to represent the earth in a court? They don’t exist yet! But what is needed for that?
  • What if the earth had rights? After all we as humans have rights, so why not the earth? The most important right of all is the right to live. What if the earth had a right to live as well?
  • Why not just use the bunch of environmental law out there? All this existing environmental law is not working (enough). Look at the amazon. We are looking at massive damage and destruction there that is escalating every day. The existing environmental law is not stopping that.
  • The indigenous people get the idea that the earth has the right to live. Buddhists also understand this thought. So, many people think like Polly, it is just not written down in law yet.
  • We need a new language to deal with this massive damage and destruction that is happening of the earth, the ecosystems. That’s how Polly came up with the idea/concept of ecocide. And ecocide should be a crime. Is it possible to make ecocide a crime? She studied the idea and came to the solution that ecocide could be made a crime and that it is a missing fifth crime against peace.
    There are already four international crimes against peace. These are crimes against humanity, war crimes, genocide and crimes of aggression (was only added in 2010). They were put in place after World War 2. They are superlaw. Every law has to be in line with these. Ecocide should be added as the fifth one.
  • We already have laws that protected the well-being of life, of human lifes. We should extend this to all life, not just human life, but to all inhabitants on earth.
  • This is happening in the world in the moment: damage and destruction, Ecocide, resource depletion, conflict, war. By creating a law of ecocide we can stop this circle.
  • Ecocide: The extensive destruction, damage to or loss of ecosystem(s) of a given territory, whether by human agency or by other causes, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by inhabitants of that territory has been severely diminished.
    This is the beginning of the legal proposal that Polly submitted to the UN. The most important word of the description is inhabitants, since she is talking not just about people, but about inhabitants who live in a given territory as well. It is also a recognition of the interconnectiveness of life itself.
  • If we destroy the earth we stand on, we destroy the ability to live there peacefully.
  • There are tow types of ecocide: human caused ecocide (like in the amazon or the increasing amount of CO2 in the atmosphere). There is also natural occurring ecocide like tsunamis or earthquakes.
  • Ecocide creates a legal duty to care of the nations.
    Right now we put a price tag on the earth, we commoditize the earth and its resources. We use, we sell it, we abuse it, That’s all governed by the law of property. However, there is another way of viewing the earth and that is to see the earth as a living being.
  • We already did change the way of seeing the world when slavery was abandoned 200 years ago. William Wilberforce, a parliamentarian in Britain, stood up against slavery, because it is morally wrong, therefor we must stop it. But big industry said you can’t do that, because it is a necessity. Economies will collapse if slavery would be abandoned. The 300 biggest companies said they would agree to an voluntary agreement to solve the problem of slavery, but – of course – it didn’t work out. Today companies saying the same thing, that they will solve climate change and the resource crisis with voluntary agreements.
    By abending slavery no company went out of business, because there was a transition period. With ecocide, companies are not the problem, but part of the solution.
    William Wilberforce said for abandoning slavery 3 things are crucial: stop the subsidies, outlaw the problem and create new subsidies in the other direction. That’s actually what we are needing to do today.
  • Ecocide is a crime against humanity, nature, future generation and peace.
  • At the moment it is the law of companies to put profits first. They have the legal duty to maximize the profit of the legal shareholders. That served us well, but unfortunately we didn’t look to the consequences. Law of ecocide will supersede this and allows us to look at the consequences.
  • Ecocide allows us to tie ourself with natural justice.
  • For more information please visit Polly’s website.

The earth gets hurt, here by an open-pit coal mine close to Cologne in Germany (Photo: Molina Gosch, 2013).