Magazine article New Internationalist

Putting the 'I' in Ecocide

Magazine article New Internationalist

Putting the 'I' in Ecocide

Article excerpt



Last year, a mock trial at London's Supreme Court saw the jury take just 50 minutes to slap a guilty verdict on the CEOs of two oil companies currently devastating vast tracts of land in the Athabasca tar sands in Canada. Planet Earth 1, CEOs 0.

If Polly Higgins, ex-barrister and passionate environmental campaigner, gets her way, the crime of ecocide could soon be a reality. In April 2010 she proposed a new ecocide law to the UN. Higgins defines ecocide as 'the massive environmental destruction that is harming people and our planet' and believes that the only way to stop the devastation is to make CEOs and heads of state personally responsible for it in law.

Michael Mansfield QC, the leading human rights lawyer who acted for the prosecution in the mock trial, is adamant that individual liability is key: 'The object of the Ecocide Act is not just aimed at companies,' he says. 'It is aimed at individuals. Individual responsibility is the only way there will be any change.'

While convincing profit-hungry CEOs to abandon environmentally destructive projects may seem like a pipedream, Higgins has outlined the steps to make it happen. …

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