The Destruction of Earth …

A day or so ago, I came across an OpEd in The Guardian that I felt worth sharing.  The writer poses an interesting idea … one that I agree with.

The destruction of the Earth is a crime. It should be prosecuted

George-Monbiotby George Monbiot

Why do we wait until someone has passed away before we honour them? I believe we should overcome our embarrassment, and say it while they are with us. In this spirit, I want to tell you about the world-changing work of Polly Higgins.

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.

There are no effective safeguards preventing a few powerful people, companies or states from wreaking havoc for the sake of profit or power. Though their actions may lead to the death of millions, they know they can’t be touched. Their impunity, as they engage in potential mass murder, reveals a gaping hole in international law.

Last week, for instance, the research group InfluenceMap reported that the world’s five biggest publicly listed oil and gas companies, led by BP and Shell, are spending nearly $200m a year on lobbying to delay efforts to prevent climate breakdown. According to Greenpeace UK, BP has successfully pressed the Trump government to overturn laws passed by the Obama administration preventing companies from releasing methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. The result – the equivalent of another 50m tonnes of CO2 over the next five years – is to push us faster towards a hothouse Earth.

Hundreds of dead dolphins are washing up on French beaches, often with horrendous injuries. Why? Because trawler companies fishing for sea bass are failing to take basic precautions to stop them being caught. The dolphins either drown in the nets or, when pulled up wounded, are stabbed to death (to make them sink) by fishermen. For a marginal increase in profits, the trawler firms could be driving common dolphins towards regional extinction.

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.

When governments collaborate (as in all these cases they do), how can such atrocities be prevented? Citizens can pursue civil suits, if they can find the money and the time, but the worst a company will face is a fine or compensation payments. None of its executives are prosecuted, though they may profit enormously from murderous destruction. They can continue their assaults on the living planet.

Cases against governments, such as the successful one against the Dutch state seeking a legal order to speed up its reduction of greenhouse gases, may be more productive, but only when national (or European) law permits, and when the government is prepared to abide by it. Otherwise, at international summits, where perpetrators share platforms with states that should hold them to account, we ask them nicely not to slaughter our children. These crimes against humanity should not be matters for negotiation but for prosecution.

Until 1996, drafts of the Rome statute, which lists international crimes against humanity, included the crime of ecocide. But it was dropped at a late stage at the behest of three states: the UK, France and the Netherlands. Ecocide looked like a lost cause until Higgins took it up 10 years ago.

She gave up her job and sold her house to finance this campaign on behalf of all of us. She has drafted model laws to show what the crime of ecocide would look like, published two books on the subject and, often against furious opposition, presented her proposals at international meetings. The Earth Protectors group she founded seeks to crowdfund the campaign. Recently she has been working with the Republic of Vanuatu with a view to tabling an amendment to the Rome statute, introducing the missing law.

Last week Polly was diagnosed, at the age of 50, with an aggressive cancer that has spread through much of her body. The doctors have told her she has six weeks to live. Given her determination and the support of those around her, I expect her to defy the prediction, which she has met with amazing fortitude. “If this is my time to go,” she told me, “my legal team will continue undeterred. But there are millions who care so much and feel so powerless about the future, and I would love to see them begin to understand the power of this one, simple law to protect the Earth – to realise it’s possible, even straightforward. I wish I could live to see a million Earth Protectors standing for it – because I believe they will.”

She has started something that will not end here. It could, with our support, do for all life on Earth what the criminalisation of genocide has done for vulnerable minorities: provide protection where none existed before. Let it become her legacy.

51 thoughts on “The Destruction of Earth …

  1. Hi Jill, I’m back. Sick with a terrible chest infection, but still standing.

    I have followed Polly Higgins work for a number of years. I hoped that her legal aspirations to take on multinational corporations and Governments over environmental disasters, would really get some traction. She has been trying for years to bring ‘Ecoside’ to the law courts as a crime equivalent to ‘genocide’ and punishable by international tribunals. Sadly, she has fought this uphill legal war without the support of those that really matter within the legal system. Her cause is so worthy and so important to the general public, yet she is thwarted by those in power and she simply has not got the funds to keep court cases in high profile.

    I am so sorry to hear of Polly’s cancer. She is a woman of high morals and integrity. It is sad to hear her so worn down by a corrupt system that she has become so ill. 😔

    Liked by 1 person

    • COLETTE!!!! Just last night I was thinking about you, wondering what adventure you might be off on that you hadn’t dropped by for a few weeks. I’m sorry you were so sick … I spent 6 weeks battling a chest infection and still haven’t quite gotten over the cough, so I definitely empathise! And I am definitely HAPPY ☺️☺️☺️ to see you back!

      I had never heard of Polly Higgins until I came across this article, but I am impressed by her level of dedication. Like you, I find it tragic that there are so many opposing forces that she hasn’t been able to complete her work, to succeed in her goal. I definitely think ‘ecocide’ should be punishable, for it is no less a crime against humanity than genocide. An admirable woman, one who deserves tremendous respect, and I’m saddened by her illness, but hope that others will pick up the torch and carry it to the finish line.

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  2. This is an area…environmental degradation….that will make worrying about politics and trump and his ilk of less importance. This will be a killer. And greed and profits rule the world and I’m afraid there is no stopping it until the destruction becomes undeniable even to the republicans and the far right religious people. And then it will probably be too late.

    I’ve been reading some books on ancient history and believe me, if they had had the means and the technology we have today, it would have happened back then as well. Human nature is evidently programmed by evolution to destroy in the name of short term money and profit and religious zeal.

    Yes there are many of us who care and do things to help and many scientific studies that prove beyond a shawdow of a doubt what’s coming. But the others…the trump cult and the profit loving greedy republicans don’t either believe or care. I’m afraid the writing is already on the wall.

    And this wonderful woman! To do what she’s tried to do to help and then to end up with perhaps a fatal cancer…so tragic and to think there are people who believe god put trump on earth to be president…to do what? Destroy and rescend evey environmental protection a black man and a democrat ever set into place. Now there’s some logical thinking for you!

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  3. What a powerful and moving story about a lady who is leaving us too soon. It has always frightened me when I realize my great grandchildren might grow up never knowing what grass and trees look like. Will they know the joy of growing their own vegetables in ground uncluttered by toxic waste or is it already too late for that? And I am just as guilty as the next person when I admit that I am not always a good steward of the land. I have added to the piles of garbage heaped up in the landfills, I have wasted precious food by negligence, and after all those years living on the farm I now keep my air conditioner running at max capacity, allow the water to drip all night because I’m too tired to get up and shut it off properly, keep lights burning around the clock just because my vision is fading quickly and I need the illusion of light to feel comfortable. I am thankful that I will not be around much longer, and with one more fall like the last one it could happen at any time. The children all need to read this column, even make it required reading in the schools, but they need to know what we have done! Thank you for sharing this one, Jill.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You are so right, my friend. It should be required reading for everyone. I am like you … I could do better. I still buy water in plastic bottles, waste far more than I would like, keep the thermostat (when the furnace works, that is) at what I consider a comfortable level, etc. But, I am trying to do better. The fact that “corporate America” largely denies the effects of climate change and pollution is discouraging. For instance, by now I should think that somebody would have come up with a good substitute for plastic, which never biodegrades and is filling our landfills and oceans. But, rather than in vest the time and money, it is ignored. Climate change deniers are, I think, fully cognizant of the truth, but it isn’t convenient nor profitable for them to acknowledge that their activities are destroying our planet. Like you, some days I am glad I’m old. Now stop falling!!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t fall on purpose — it just happens without any warning. Not so much since that last one though. I have the furniture and junk moved around the apartment so there is always something close for me to hang on to while I’m moving, and I don’t move very much lately.
        Our biggest mistake was right in the beginning of founding this country. Until the white men came this country was held in trust for the generations to follow by the Native Americans, always cognizant of the fact that no human can own the earth! But typically as is usually the case, we white interlopers wanted to own our own land/farm/homestead/business/whatever. And we began that ownership in way that has become a way of life here — by stealing it from the Natives who never claimed ownership in the first place. Greed was and is the order of the day. And that practice goes on still and will as long as we live because it is too easy for the few to order the many off their land to make way for the next shopping mall that will make them richer while impoverishing the many, or maybe a new highway that goes nowhere just because some high up person wants a nicer way to ride home in comfort! If you are in congress or know someone in congress around here you can get the potholes filled, or a stoplight in a ridiculous place, but otherwise I think 9 people have to die in accidents at any given intersection before a traffic light is installed by the state. Hopefully that has changed by now but when I first read that 25 years ago while my parents were trying to get a light at an intersection with a high accident rate they were told that none of the accidents had been fatal so the light wasn’t necessary. At the same time a gravel road was paved for a friend of one of the people in congress at the time, money changed hands under the table, and while the friend was happy and the congress person was wealthier, it didn’t do anything at all for the good of the common person. If only I had the energy to write :”The Rise And Fall Of The American Empire” ! Of course no one would read it — well considering how short it would be maybe they would, because we have almost completely accomplished in a century and a half what it took millenniums for the Roman Empire. Greed in both cases, but we have more advanced technology so we can do more in a few minutes than the romans could do in a century.
        I’m gonna climb down off the soapbox now because no one wants to hear all of that. One more hard fall and I will be the next body found a week or so later in this building. I think the record is the 10 days it took last month for anyone to miss the poor guy. I could take longer for me though because not that many people care or even know I live here. And they wonder why the building is full of bugs!

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  4. True enough! Yet the notion that there is “private ownership” of any part of it. Is the first step;, toward any destruction. Strangely? Soon after the bankers moved their operation to London. Laws of Enclosure appeared and people thrown off the land their families had lived on and cared for, for centuries. Then you have corporations who tell you, they own the land and it is their right? People do it too. Governments are just the puppets, of the owners. In the end the land endures and we are just one mini-nova away from having it all end. Before anyone laughs? If you feel overwhelmed by it? Trust to the cosmos.It is more inter-connected than we really understand, right now? Cheers Jamie.

    Liked by 3 people

    • The greed of the corporations and government, and yes, I’ll even throw in the bankers, have robbed the human race of its future. There was an article in The Washington Post a few months ago questioning whether human extinction would really be such a bad thing. I think I can reasonably say at this point, that no, it might well be a very good thing, for humans seem to destroy everything they touch. Overwhelmed by it? Yeah, defeated, devoured, overwhelmed …
      Cheers.

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  5. Jill, great work. I am encouraged that the lawsuit against the US government for moving too slowly to address climate change by 20 or so kids is moving forward. The case is based on actual data from the US government, so it has merit.

    I also saw a positive news story on PBS Newshour about the mangrove forests growing further north replacing sea marshes. This is largely good because mangroves absorb lots of carbon, diminish ocean waves and are nurseries for many kinds of fish. In the book called “Climate of Hope,” the proliferation of mangroves is seen as a plus,

    Lastly, with the production of coal energy now costing more than renewable energy in 75% of US coal plants, the economics of coal will hasten its demise.

    Keith

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Keith! I debated whether to share this one or not, but now I’m glad I did. It is true that there are encouraging signs that people … at least some people … are waking up and trying to make a positive difference, but I remain discouraged, I’m afraid, for it may be a case of too little, too late. So many fools continue to put their own convenience ahead of the survival of life on this planet, and time is running out. Remember the old cartoons where the villian (was it Snidely Whiplash?) had the girl tied to the railroad tracks and there was a train coming on down the line? I feel like all living species are that girl. Who is Snidely Whiplash? In my world, it is Trump & Co., but in others’ it may be Theresa May or Vladimir Putin or … Bolsonaro.

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      • Jill, we need more people shouting the train is coming. I believe it is OK for candidates to clearly state that leaders must act with better stewardship of our planet. They need to know certain data points when chided or questioned.
        – The term “sunny day flooding” is essential as coastal cities are seeing a significant increase in days of non-storm flooding.
        – Renewable energy is now mostly cheaper to produce than coal energy. There are four times the solar jobs than coal jobs.
        – Iowa gets 1/3 of its electricity from wind energy

        And, so on. Keith

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  6. I appreciate this lady’s work, and her determination, but I really fear it is too little too late. I would love it if she and the Earth Protectors could accomplush their goals, and throw all the ecocide promoters in jail for life, including all government leaders who support and protect them, whatever their preposterous reasons might be, because that might save some of the hardier species of life from extinction. But for humans, and most higher species, there is little hope. Would that we had a few centuries to save all forms of life, but we have only decades, possibly less. That is not enough time.
    My search right now is how to communicate with the future, how to let future intelligence know the mistakes we made that could have saved us, and most life, had we paid attention and taken warnings seriously. We certainly cannot count on anyone accessing the internet, where most of our knowledge is stored. Neither can we depend on written languages, only if we knew that our successors would develop written languages would we have any hope of creating Rosetta Stones to help them understand us. We cannot even count on them having vision to look at our fallen creations. Talk about a near-impossible task. How to communicate with beings we cannot even imagine. And how to convince them we went extinct because we believed we were too intelligent to go extinct. Arrogance, how do you communicate that?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Something you just said … “We went extinct because we believed we were too intelligent to go extinct”. That’s it! That is exactly what and why! I’ve been digging in my brain, trying to put a finger on just how & why this has happened, but you just summed it up in few words. Humans are the epitome of arrogance. How you communicate that to some future species? I have no idea, and really doubt that there will be a future “opposable thumb” species, for I see humans as a failed experiment.

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  7. Of the many informative and important articles that you have shared, this may well be one of the very best. I must explore Polly Higgins and her work in greater depth, it interests me greatly. Thank-you!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Ellen. I debated for a couple of hours about sharing this, fearing it might be found boring. Obviously, I had nothing to worry about, for it has been well received. I think you are right, that this may be one of the most important posts I have shared. Let me know what you find about Polly Higgins!

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  8. Pingback: Reblog: The Destruction of Earth … — Filosofa’s Word – suziland too or obsolete childhood

  9. A brave dogged fighter.
    Will this work?
    Or are we a flawed species which the ecosystem which is the world will swallow up?
    When you consider Life has been on this planet for 3.5 billion years and the planet may survive for another 7 billion then consider Humanity can only ratchet up a few hundred thousands being barely a smear on the fossil record is a likely outcome to our excesses.
    It’s no use these companies and their pet governments trying to produce their own versions of events, this planet’s history point in quite another direction. If a species doesn’t fit or adapt, down it goes.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Will it work? I suspect that eventually the evidence will be so overwhelming that it will have to work, but in the interim, profit and greed will fight it tooth and nail. If it works, it will not likely be in our lifetime. Sigh.

      Liked by 1 person

        • Too true … I hear people all the time saying that “it will all work out”, with no idea how and no plans to help make it ‘work out’. It’s been said that humans are an intelligent life form, but some days I wonder.

          Liked by 1 person

            • Oh yes, of course … how could I have forgotten? And the tooth faerie and the Easter bunny will provide all that we need for a happy life, yes? And now, I have that blasted song in my head … Chim chiminey, chim chiminey, chim chim cher-ee
              A sweep is as lucky as lucky can be
              Chim chiminey, chim chiminey, chim chim cher-oo
              Good luck will rub off when I shakes ‘ands with you

              Liked by 1 person

                    • Now babes … you all love Uncle Woger, right? And if you love him, you must not encourage him to hop back on his pogo stick, for he will break his bloomin’ neck! Now, I want you all to tell Uncle Woger you love him too much and then ask him to tell you a story about way back when, to distract him, whilst I hide his pogo stick, okay? Got it?
                      🙀🙀🙀🙀🙀🙀

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Hi Kitties.
                      No worries, my pogo stick days are over.
                      Now. Would you like to hear the story about the fat old man with orange hair who came to a door marked ‘Push’ and tried to open it by pulling and kept getting crosser and crosser ’cause his way wouldn’t work, but’ he kept on saying that ‘Push’ was just ‘Fake News’ 😺😺😺😺😺😺

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • OK the kitties gather around.
                      Once upon a time there was this fat old man. He had not been a nice man all his life, and liked to pretend he was not getting old by having orange hair. Because he talked a lot some folk thought he was smart, and some folk who wanted to make bags of gold out of him being around, well they pretened they agreed.
                      Anyway one day it was time for a new king and the fat old man said he should be king, because he still young and had orange hair and lots of people thought he was, because at that time the land was cursed by several witches who said they were Alternative (whatever that meant). The land was cursed by The Crazy.
                      Anyway although not everyone voted for him to be king, he still got to be king because of The Crazy. By then he had got so crazy himself he thought whatever he said must be right and wouldn’t listen to anyone and just kept getting fatter and more orange. He also kept getting red in the face because some people saud he was wrong.
                      Most of the people in the land wished he would go away, but couldn’t think how, because of The Crazy. Then one day there came a person who was clever enough not be known, because being known and not liking the fat old man was a bad thing in Crazy-Land. This person stole into the fat old man’s castle and found a door which they could push to open and they put up a sign with ‘Push’ and added a little note which said ‘Says Nancy’. They then crept out.
                      The next morning the fat old man came striding out all huffing and puffing and saw the door. Now he hated Nancy, because all his followers hated Nancy, because she was Nancy and the witches said everyone should hate her. He became very angry and did the very opposite, because he said if Nancy says it, it must be wrong, and he pulled and pulled and pulled at the door, getting redder and redder and his orange hair slopped about the place. If anyone said try pushing he would get crosser and roar at them that that was ‘Fake News’.
                      He roared so much and shook the door so much that the ceiling of the room cracked and fell in locking him in the room.
                      And do you know what kitties? To this day he is still there pulling away at that door.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Oooooooohhhh … Uncle Woger … dat man sounds scawy!!! We seed a man kinna like dat on Gwammie’s compooter one day an’ she was sayin’ bad words at da man! We remember da orange hair! Scawy, scawy man! We glad he gots stuck in da room!!!! Izzy got so scawed she runned back under da sofa! Thanks for the stowy, Uncle Woger! 😺😺😺😺😺 🐾

                      Liked by 1 person

  10. What a remarkable and determined lady. We owe it to her to ensure this law is enacted and used. Firms and Governments do not own the rights over the lands of indigenous people. Mankind holds them in trust for generations to come.
    Cwtch

    Liked by 2 people

    • Indeed … I am humbled by all she has done and wish the world would wake up and see what she sees, call on their governments … nay, DEMAND that their governments take their responsibilities seriously. I am disgusted by the likes of our own so-called president who use their power to destroy rather than to preserve. I hope this becomes international law, but I am fairly certain that if it does happen, it won’t be in our lifetime. Sigh.
      Cwtch

      Liked by 1 person

        • I don’t know if any other nations have pulled out of the Accord, but last I knew, the U.S. was the only nation on the globe that wasn’t in it. I know that Bolsonaro talked about pulling Brazil out of it, but I don’t know if he has done so. Trump brags to his base about it … in my book, it is not something to be proud of. Sigh.
          Cwtch

          Liked by 1 person

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