3rd Book

IDYTBGI dare you to be great – go, on stand up and speak out. We get to determine what the future is. Let’s engage in the big questions of our time, not the ones we already know the answers to. Ask questions – big ones that make a difference. And once you find the answer, let’s make it happen.

I Dare You To Be Great explores Polly Higgins’ story as an Earth lawyer as she discovers how we can create a legal duty of care for the Earth – a law of Ecocide. We have a choice: break our chains and create a greater freedom, or remain enslaved to an era of Ecocide. Polly invites in a conversation of a different kind; firing up a neural pathway of exploration that takes us into the unknown yet expands our vision of what our legacy could be. Sharing her insights, she sheds a light on what is possible – a vision far greater and more beautiful than we have dared before.

Greatness is a quest: one that speaks to all of us. By daring to be great – rediscovering how to use the creativity, passion and power that lie within us – we can find freedom and inspiration to break the cycles of harm playing out in our world. This is the message of a new and inspiring book by prizewinning author Polly Higgins.

I Dare You To Be Great, Clink Street, London & New York, 2014 £6.99.

You can buy online here.

World Livestream Event


What happens next is up to us. Come help mobilise a law of Ecocide

A day of global & local direct action planning

Make history and be part of the growing local and global community. The Ecocide Law Day of Action is being filmed for the documentary Facing Crossroads – your voice counts. Stroud is one of the communities being filmed as the world follows. Lets put Ecocide law on the world map. People from across the world shall be joining us, both online and in person (see below for programme). Everyone is a participant.

#Ecocidelaw 1 Day Event: http://bit.ly/EcoLive & http://eradicatingecocide.com/events


10 am Welcome, opening intros, EcoLivestream goes live
10.05 Voice 1: Facing Crossroads team
10.10 -> 10.40 Polly on Ecocide Law
10.40 Voice 2
10.45 -> 11.15 World Cafe & Peg-points
11.15 -> 11.35 coffee break
11.35 Voice 3 David Dene, Voice for Ecocide El Rio De Aguas Spain
11.40 -> 12.20 World Cafe
12.20 -> 12.35 Feedback
12.35 -> 12.50 Polly Q&A
12.50 -> 1.30 Lunch
1.30 Voice 4: EndEcocide.eu Team
1.35 -> 2.00 World Cafe
2.00 -> 2.35 Harvesting
2.35 Voice 5
2.40 -> 2.50 Global input reporting in
2.50 -> 3.10 Local input reporting in
3.10 Voice 6: Douglas Williamson, Earth Charter International
3.15 -> 3.30 Closing space & key forum groups

Time: UK 10 am – 3.30pm*

Brisbane:     7pm – 0.30am
New York:     5am – 10.30am
Costa Rica:     3am – 8.30am
*Convert your time zone? Go to: timeanddate.com

You can download the poster here

Thank-you to all our local supporters of the livestream event.

Local support

Arne Naess Symposium: Ecocide & Leadership

The following is a transcript of Dr Polly Higgins speech at the inauguration of her Honorary Professorship at Oslo University, on the 11th of October 2013.

“It is my honour to be the Arne Naess Professor this year, here in Olso, following in the footsteps of a great man who paved the way for me being here today. My contribution to Deep Ecology is my deep commitment to using my skills as a lawyer, my deep enquiry into how we can create laws that put people and planet first and my deep love of the Earth. There are too few of us who give our lives in service to something greater than the self, so many more are needed now than ever before to become Voices for the Earth. It is only by many more of us saying ‘Enough, this must end’ that the Ecocide will stop. And I for one shall continue until the job is done.

It is my commitment to you that a law of Ecocide shall become a crime. It’s now only a matter of time.

So what is Ecocide? Ecocide, as defined by me, is the extensive damage to, destruction of or loss of ecosystem(s) of a given territory, whether by human agency or by other causes. So there are two types of Ecocide; one, human-caused and the other non-human.Ecocide is a crime of consequence – no intent is required. This is because most Ecocide, especially corporate Ecocide, is not done with intent. What is intended is to create profit without being held to account for the consequences.

My time on the podium is short so I shall focus on just one Ecocide that has particular relevance to Norway: the Tar Sands in Canada which are probably the most hidden, yet most horrific example of Ecocide I have experienced. Early last year I received an email from a photographer friend working on an assignment for WWF who wrote to me about what he had experienced. These are his words:

“It is truly shocking up here. The environmental devastation is unbelievable. The local folk, at least the white guys seem to turn a blind eye to the damage. Maybe that’s because about 90% of the population of Fort McMurray are employed by the oil industry. A dump truck driver up here can earn $200,000 a year, so all they seem to be bothered about is the cash.

I am getting massive hassle off security guards, who are following me everywhere. The Shell ones are particularly aggressive. So far the only time I have escaped them was when I commissioned a helicopter for 2 hours to get some aerials. You don’t really see much from ground level, but from the air it is breathtakingly massive. They really do not want you to see what is going on up here. Today I was driving along, no where near any tar sands mines, when I was pulled over by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. They pointed out they had had complaints about me, and that I had to be very careful taking pictures, if I didn’t want to be arrested. This follows complaints from Shell security guards. When I explained to them that I thought Canada was a free country with freedom to photograph, they got rather tongue tied. They couldn’t quite decide whether I was doing anything wrong or not.

My problems have been as nought compared to Dr John O’Connor, whom I have met a couple of times now. He has worked as a doctor in the First Nation communities up here for many years. He became aware that the communities downstream of the tar sands mines were seeing high rates of rare cancers. One in particular, bile duct cancer is normally seen in one in 100,000 people. He found six cases in a village of 1200 people. When he raised his concerns that this might be connected to the tar sands, he expected the authorities would launch an investigation. How wrong was he, instead they charged him with 4 cases of professional misconduct. He has spent the last five years fighting his case, and the college of physicians has just found that the government claims are completely without any basis, and have exonerated him. He is still very much a watched man, as he is determined to bring this problem to the attention of the world. I went up to Fort McKay to meet him this afternoon. He had arranged for one of his patients to come into the surgery so I could get some photographs of her being treated. She has kidney cancer, and has had half of both her kidneys removed. I also met and photographed a 4 year old boy, who had been born with an under developed heart. He has since undergone four major operations. Apparently this was seen commonly in Russian babies born near Chernobyl, after the nuclear explosion. It is pretty moving and humbling to meet this people and to have the priveledge of being able to photograph them. I just hope that when I get home, I can muster some publicity to try and raise the awareness of whats going on up here.

I can’t wait to get out of Fort Mac, away from the security guards, police and the appalling air pollution.”

So I ask myself, why should this stop? Because unconventional fossil fuel operations and their attendant infrastructure and waste disposal practices pollute air, destroy water, exacerbate climate change, stifle investments in renewable energy, provide jobs that are toxic and temporary, use land as a quick fix, destroy ancient arboreal forests, peatland and wetlands, industrialize the rural landscape, bring light pollution and noise pollution into our rural communities, destroy roads, increase traffic fatalities, spread spiderwebs of potentially explosive pipelines across the landscape, destroy the bedrock of our world, and inject our lands with massive amounts of carcinogenic chemicals. It’s an outlaw enterprise that doesn’t apply in tomorrow’s vision of a better world. It should be abolished. Period.

We have here today one of the bravest men I know, Clayton Thomas-Mueller, who like me has given his life to standing up and speaking out to bring an end to this particularly horrific Ecocide. Clayton speaks on behalf of the indigenous world – and what he has to say applies to many millions of indigenous people across the world who suffer similar fates, be it through destructive fossil fuel practices, mining of thorium, or the use of industrial chemicals, pesticides, GM and mono-cropping. Clayton, welcome.

I reach out as a Celt and as someone who greatly supports the Idle No More movement that is fast spreading across the waters from Canada and America.  Idle No More is a Peaceful Revolution that begins with each of us.

You will all know I am sure of the Earth Charter principles, the primary principle being the respect of Earth and life in all it’s diversity. In-fact, the Earth Charter principles were adopted by decision of Oslo’s Community Parliament in 2003, and unlike most countries in the world Norway has embedded an environmental well-being provision in it’s Constitution. Tomorrow in Oslo the Nobel Peace Prize will be announced by Thorbjørn Jagland, Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, yet your leaders turn a blind eye to the finance and businesses that flow into the Tar Sands. Nothing is being done to stem this flow. A law of Ecocide will stop this.

When our leaders fail to look to the consequences, or make decisions that lead to mass damage and destruction, that contribute to CO2 and other greenhouse gases that are in excess – then we must hold them to account. Decisions that lead to Ecocide are no longer justified.

I call this leadership crime. Where good men and women fail to face the cancer of our time, the cancer that is destroying our Earth and compromising our well-being, the cancer continues to spread despite all the indicators that tell us we are on the verge of collapse.

But this story of our time can have a different ending – the decision is up to us. Not just me, but every person in this room. What is our legacy? Mass damage and destruction or a world where we live in peace. Destroying our world is a violence of the greatest magnitude that carries with it enormous consequences that play out in the lives of people who are not yet born. Ecocide is a crime against nature, humanity, future generations and most importantly of all a crime against peace.

Remarkably Ecocide was to become a crime in the mid-1990’s. The Rome Statute, which is the most important legal document that put in place the International Criminal Court and codified the Crimes Against Peace, had in it’s draft a 5th Crime.  For a period of 11 years many people were involved in this closed-door process; lawyers, member States and UN Special Rappateurs. At the 11th hour, Ecocide was removed, not only as a war crime but also as a peace crime despite the fact that countries had already given their support. Objections were made, but no reasons were given. At the very top level our leaders failed to put in place the one international crime that would stop mass damage and destruction.

Imagine the world we would be in now had it been a crime back then. Statoil would be Statrenewable, Shell – who just announced 2 days ago that they were moving their practices into clean energy – and BP who tried and failed to go beyond petroleum before, would all be tomorrow’s solution instead of today’s problem.

So Ecocide is a law to make our problem into a solution. At the end of the day the important thing is to create a mandatory mechanism – not voluntary – that puts in place the Earth Charter principles that begins with the primary foundation of respect of Earth and life in all it’s diversity. If we adhere to this, then all decisions that flow from it can only be life-affirming not life-destroying. A leader that puts at the heart of all that she or he does shall have no problem in supporting a law of Ecocide.

By closing the door to dangerous industrial activity, we open the space to allow the innovation and solutions to scale up fast. This can be done. Last year I legally advised ministers of state, UN Ambassadors and governmental lawyers form 54 states after the submission of a Concept Paper into every government in the world.

This law is an idea that refuses to die. And I refuse to let it die. Yours is a country that can give it a platform and take it out to the world. I ask you to help me do that. It needs just one leader to stand up and call for the amendment to the Rome Statute – that’s all this needs: when that happens it can be tabled and then all it needs is the support of 2/3rds of the signatories to the Rome Statute. In other words 81 people in the world can make this an international law. The leader that does that will go into the books that will be written about this time as the leader who took the  bold and brave step.  And it is a brave step to stand up and speak out in support of a law that will change the history of humanity.

So I am calling upon Norway to demonstrate leadership. And not just from your Prime Minister but also from you. I invite you to ask yourself, what is the legacy I choose to create in my lifetime? I invite you to dare to be great. The world now, more than ever before needs greatness from each of us.

I believe in something which is bigger than humans but which I find difficult to define. This is for me a quest for Peace. I know it can be done, and I believe this is a country that can make it happen.

It matters not whether you are a Buddhist or an atheist, a humanist or a spiritualist. This is a deeper wisdom: a wisdom that starts from a premise of ‘first do no harm.’ I invite those who are spiritually engaged to join me in my quest and if you are not, I invite you too. This is a quest to end the era of Ecocide that unties us all.

Arne Naess’s Deep Ecology can be called a form of spirituality – a spirituality premised on the greatness of life itself and the sense of intrinsic value of our Earth. It’s not about ecosystem services, it’s deeper than that – it’s about the very guidelines we put in place for making wise decisions through the process of systematic reasoning which results in concrete consequences. That is a spirituality that aligns with my own. I adhere to the Deep Ecology Platform, given voice by Arne Naess and my friend Stephan Harding, a previous Arne Naess Chair.  These are their words:

1. All life has value in itself, independent of its usefulness to humans.
2. Richness and diversity contribute to life’s well-being and have value in themselves.
3. Humans have no right to reduce this richness and diversity except to satisfy vital needs in a responsible way.
4. The impact of humans in the world is excessive and rapidly getting worse.
5. Human lifestyles and population are key elements of this impact.
6. The diversity of life, including cultures, can flourish only with reduced human impact.
7. Basic ideological, political, economic and technological structures must therefore change.
8. Those who accept the forgoing points have an obligation to participate in implementing the necessary changes and to do so peacefully and democratically.

During my tenureship here it is my intent to shine a light onto that which we fear to face. For me that is a spiritual endeavor because it calls upon me to look deep into the soul. What is the soul? For me it’s the place where I find qualities that speak of courage, love and peace. Just imagine a world where we don’t have to think what decision to make, we don’t have to ask whether it is destructive. Imagine a world where it just is the norm to make Earth our business. Just imagine – waking up in the knowledge that our time has come.

So here is my invitation to you – to come together with common intent to be idle no more and put in place a law that shall help pave the way to world peace.”






Hofburg Palace, Vienna: EARTHtalks

I write to you from Vienna, a city I know from my student days when I lived here. Now, 24 years later, I have been invited back to take the stage at the world famous EARTHtalks, hosted by NeonGreen Network at the Hofburg Palace.

The press took up my call for Austria to lead for the amendment to the Rome StatuteKleine Zeitung, Der Standard, Biorama and Kurier as well as Austrian radio reported the support for a global law of Ecocide by fellow speaker Greenpeace’s CEO of Central and Eastern Europe, Alexander Egit, and prominent figurehead in the Austrian environmental movement Freda Meissner-Blau.

A motion has already been tabled in the Austrian Government to build cross-party support for an amendment to the Rome Statute to include a law of Ecocide and Austria’s Green Party have gone public with their support.

You can watch my talk at the Hofburg Palace here (and in German here).

‘Enough – this must stop’

Speaking in the Hofburg Palace has historical significance. In 1815 world leaders responded to the call to end the era of slavery. Many people throughout the world had at that time said ‘Enough – this must stop.’ In 1815 the final document to end the slave trade was signed at the historic Vienna Congress; in 2015 a new Vienna Congress could be held to herald end the era of Ecocide.

It took a special kind of leadership back then – it took bold, moral and courageous leadership – and my call is to Austria to take the key step that is needed to end Ecocide. Austria can be great once again – this time to end the era of Ecocide.

Austria was one of the countries who engaged in an international law of Ecocide first time round, when it was included in the earlier drafts of the Rome Statute. In fact, Austria was the country that spoke out to say that Ecocide was rarely a crime of intent. This is correct in law; most Ecocide is caused as a result of unintended consequences, often because profit is put before people and planet.  You can read more about the history of a law of Ecocide and why it was not included, despite many countries officially supporting it, here.

You can watch Polly’s EARTHtalks Keynote Speech here:

EARTHtalks 2013 Polly Higgins

European Students Forum

Early in November 2012 Polly spoke about ending Ecocide in Europe to around 800 young people at the European Students’ Forum’s (AEGEE) annual Agora in Budapest.

AEGEE was born 27 years ago and is Europe’s largest student association. It promotes cooperation, communication and integration amongst young people in Europe and has working groups which foster environmental protection and human rights amongst many other issues.

Youth in Europe are leading the way to end ecocide. The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI); End Ecocide in Europe has been approved by the European Commission. The ECI is being coordinated by a group of European citizens and in order to criminalise ecocide in European territory and Ecocide committed by European companies or individuals abroad, a draft Ecocide Directive has been proposed.

At the Agora in Budapest, around 800 AEGEE members discussed about the future of the association – including the role of AEGEE in the new ECI on Ending Ecocide in Europe.

Find out more about AEGEE
Find out more about the End Ecocide ECI

UN: Ecocide was the 5th Crime Against Peace

A groundbreaking discovery; the crime of Ecocide was for decades included by the UN as the fifth Crime Against Peace.

Imagine my surprise when a journalist called me to ask for my comment on the news that a law of Ecocide had been considered to be an international crime over 15 years ago. All he had was one document that referred to 3 countries who had objected to it being included as Crime Against Peace. This one document took Dr Damian Short of the School of Advanced Legal Studies Human Rights Consortium at University of London on a paper trail with a team of his students. They unearthed written documentation and evidence of the history of Ecocide Law spanning the past 40 years.

Today we now have a paper trail that takes us back to 1972. The call to make Ecocide an international crime was, we discovered, nothing new – over 7,000 people took to the streets in Stockholm in 1972 to demand that Ecocide be a crime. It was the time of the Vietnam War and world leaders had met in Stockholm to resolve environmental issues at an international level for the first time. At the same time, The People’s Forum brought together some of the top experts of the day to discuss Ecocide. A draft Ecocide Convention was submitted into the UN in 1973, a direct outcome of the Stockholm conference.

Fast forward a decade; 1985 saw the flame of the Law of Ecocide burn brightly again. Most significantly was the draft Code of Crimes Against the Peace and Security of Mankind (precursor to the Rome Statute) which included Ecocide. For a further 11 years the United Nations partook in concerted debate, discussion and research.  What happened next is set out in the research paper Ecocide is the Missing 5th Crime Against Peace.

Launched 19th July 2012 by The Human Rights Consortium at the School of Advanced Studies, University of London, The Ecocide Project will continue to unravel the question as to why the Crime of Ecocide law was shelved. The report draws attention to the preamble of the draft Ecocide Convention, where there is the explicit recognition that Ecocide is not always a crime of intent – and that Ecocide is caused in both times of war and peace.

These are words that have just as much relevance today as they did when they were written in the draft Ecocide Convention in 1973:

Man has consciously and unconsciously inflicted irreparable damage to the environment in times of war and peace.

Like the name of the research paper suggests – Ecocide is the missing 5th Crime Against Peace –  when we outlaw mass damage and destruction, the missing 5th crime is put back in its rightful place, as an international Crime Against Peace.