UN to launch study on environmental crime
A new era…
A decade ago Nobel Prize-winning scientist Paul Crutzen first suggested that we are moving out of the geological Holocene phase; a 12,000 year old geological phase which has maintained the conditions on Earth to allow life to flourish. We are now entering a new geological epoch: the Anthropocene.
In thousands of years to come, the shameful tale of the planetary destruction our civilisation is causing will be revealed by the wounded mountains, scarred into the rocks and burnt into the tree rings in ancient forests. Our Earth does not forget, its memory is available to be unveiled for those that investigate and through investigation we have learnt that countless civilisations before us have collapsed due to factors including environmental destruction. Will history repeat itself once more?
The Anthropocene marks a significant turning point in history; either our demise, or the birth of a new era, when humanity takes a giant evolutionary leap and learns to live in harmony with nature. Already there are many who are living sustainably who provide a shining example for others to follow.
Time to be a hummingbird…
Knowing this can be overwhelming, but we do have a choice which path to take. For the wellbeing of all life on Earth we can chose to make Ecocide a crime. To do this we must all play our part, just like the humming bird in the video to the left as told by Wangari Maathai. People all over the world are already playing their part by calling for Ecocide to be made the fifth Crime Against Peace; lawyers, business leaders and civil society and more are speaking out as momentum grows.Sign and share Wish20 and find more ways to get involved.
UN conference on environmental crime
Last week I was invited by the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) in cooperation with United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the Italian Ministry of Environment, to speak about the law of Ecocide on an expert round table on the future of environmental crime at the international conference ‘Environmental Crime: Current and Emerging Threats’ held in Rome at the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation Headquarters.
The conference brought together legal experts who are all playing their part all around the world, to discuss problems with existing environmental crimes and compile an action plan for its future development. It was significant in that it marked recognition by UNICRI and UNEP that criminal law, and perhaps a law of Ecocide, can play a major role in stopping the extensive damage and destruction to our environment.
Throughout the conference it became evident that whilst there were some experts who were unfamiliar with the proposal to make Ecocide a Crime Against Peace, others had been following the issue closely and were very engaged. It was therefore a good opportunity to raise awareness as well as make some strong contacts with those who were supportive of the concept.
At the conference I met many lawyers who are moral leaders in their own right. For example, Professor Rob White, University of Tasmania, arguably the leading academic on environmental crime is pioneering a victims of environmental crime charter, which would recognise the non human world as victims.
Mr Mahesh Chander Mehta, an outstanding Indian lawyer with an incredibly strong moral radar has pioneered environmental law in India taking on cases where he has stood against 250,000 companies and won.
Professor Sergio Marchisio, University of Rome, talked about the history of the Crimes Against Peace and had read the University of London’s report ‘Ecocide is the Missing Fifth Crime Against Peace.’
The conference marked the beginning of a new era. One of the first steps on the journey of humanity becoming responsible stewards of the Earth. The outcome was very positive; UNEP and UNICRI will head up a study into the definition of environmental crime and look into suggesting new environmental crime considering the history of making Ecocide a Crime Against Peace. We will be sure to feed in to the process to ensure that making Ecocide a Crime Against Peace is considered.
The conference outcome will now be reported back to a number of organsiations including the World Congress on Law Justice and Environmental Governance for Sustainability participants. I attended the World Congress earlier this year in Rio where I spoke out about the need for a Law of Ecocide, which received support from a number of members present and was reported in the Guardian.
One of the experts mentioned to me in passing “if it’s an idea whose time has come, it will happen”. Indeed the time to make ecocide a crime, has come. This time is different to the 70s when it was previously considered, problems are far more urgent, we are seeing growing support for making Ecocide the fifth Crime Against Peace from governments, business, and civil society and Earth Law is being developed around the world. It is only a matter of time before extensive damage and destruction to the earth, something which is malum un se, morally wrong in itself, becomes recognised as an international crime.