Deepwater Horizon, Fukushima, the Niger Delta or Canadian tar sands – these are just some examples of environmental disasters caused by humans. The large-scale destruction of our planet’s ecosystems threatens life all over the world. More often than not large multinationals and their craving for profit are behind such massive damages to our planet. Usually these catastrophes remain unpunished. The initiative End Ecocide in Europe, an multinational organisation run by volunteers, is hoping to tackle this issue.
The main idea of the initiative is intriguingly simple: Environmental destruction must become a crime for which those responsible can be held accountable. Companies don’t want to be involved in any illegal practices and that’s why the initiative requests a criminal liability for those responsible for ecocide. Prisca Merz, the director of the initiative, explains:
‘With this law, we want to shift the consciousness. By making [large firms’] destruction a crime, we recognise the intrinsic value of ecosystems for human and non-human life on earth. We cannot survive without a healthy environment.’
The term ecocide, the extensive destruction of ecosystems, has been around since the 1970s. It derives from the Greek oikos meaning house or home and the Latin caedere meaning demolish. It literally translates to killing our home and describes the destruction of our natural environment. From the 1970s onwards many academics and legal scholars argued for the criminalisation of ecocide and debated the elements required for such an international crime. In 2010, award-winning author and lawyer Polly Higgins handed in a proposal at the UN Law Commission, defining ecocide as the ‘extensive damage to, destruction of 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 the inhabitants of that territory has been or will be severely diminished’.
End Ecocide in Europe is supported by personalities such as Vivienne Westwood. The fashion designer and activist says:
‘Our financial rulers and the politicians who help them are playing a giant game of Monopoly with the world's finite resources – completely abstract from reality – even though they accept the facts of climate change. And yet, you can't play Monopoly when everybody's dead. They don't care so long as they win.’
She calls upon EU citizens to vote for End Ecocide in Europe. For the EU to consider the proposed law one million signatures are required. The deadline for this is the 21st of February.
To support the cause please sign here.