Making Ecocide an International Crime

Why Earth Destruction is a Crime

VPRO (2015)

Film Review

This is a documentary about the late Scottish lawyer Polly Higgins and Spanish jurist Baltazar Garzon and their efforts to have the UN declare ecocide (damage to the Earth) a crime against humanity.

Higgins who died unexpectedly in April, gave up her corporate law practice in 2010 to mobilize support for an amendment to the UN Rome Statute defining crimes against humanity. This would make corporate executives (rather than corporation) personally responsible for environmental crimes committed by their companies. Higgins believed the interests of the Earth could only be protected by international law, as most countries have laws requiring corporations to put shareholders above any other interests.

Garzon, a former Spanish judge, first attracted international prominence in 2000 for having former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet arrested in London for crimes against humanity. The jurist presently serves on Julian Assange’s legal team. With his daughter Maria’s help, he has established a nonprofit foundation to assist communities sue international corporations whose mining and international activities have destroyed ecosystems they rely on for their basic needs.

In the early 70s, Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme launched the first campaign to have the UN declare ecocide as a crime against humanity. He did so in reaction to America’s total decimation of Vietnam’s jungle habitat via Agent Orange and indiscriminate bombing,  Although Palme was assassinated in 1986, his supporters’ resolution was nearly adopted in 1996. Unfortunately backdoor lobbying by  the US, UK, France and the Netherlands blocked the UN General Assembly from adopting it.

 

Robbing From Nature and People to Produce Profit

 

Eco Social Justice on the Global Frontlines

Vendana Shiva (2017)

The following is a compelling Earth Day presentation by Indian activist Vendana Shiva linking ecocide and genocide to the brutal “free market” drive to rob from nature and people to produce profit.  This wide ranging talk combines a unique perspective on the violent British colonization of both India and North America, the more recent role of major chemical and food companies (eg Dow, Dupont and Monsanto) in imposing free trade treaties such as GATT and the TPP, and the growing anti-corporate resistance movement in India and elsewhere.

Vendana begins by describing an agricultural conference she attended in 1987, at which the major chemical manufacturers laid out plans to increase their profits by introducing GMO seeds and lobbying for laws and treaties that would prohibit seed saving by farmers. She goes on to talk about Navdanya, the nonprofit organization she founded in 1984 to resist the so-called “Green Revolution” that imposed industrial farming on Indian farmers. In promoting seed saving and other traditional organic farming methods, Navdanya was influenced by Gandhi’s use of sustainable self-reliance as a weapon against colonialism.

At the 1987 conference, the chemical companies bragged the entire world would be growing GMO crops by 2000. Thanks to strong global citizens movements, this never happened. Ninety percent of the world’s food is GMO-free, thanks to wholesale rejection of this technology in Europe, Africa and Asia. Likewise only 30% of the world’s food production is industrialized.

Vendana maintains the primary purpose of industrial farming isn’t to produce food but to increase profit. Due to the massive energy input it requires, factory farming is an extremely inefficient method of food production. Traditional farms producing a diversity of crops will always provide more nutritional output than an industrial farm producing a single monoculture crop.

She blames the forced introduction of industrial farming for India’s high level of malnutrition – 1/4 of the general population and 1/2 of Indian children lack adequate nutrients in their diet.


*GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) was the international treaty that created the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995 (under President Bill Clinto)n.