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What is Ecocide and What Can You Do About it?

Ecocide (noun): the extensive destruction, damage to 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 severely diminished.

What is Ecocide?

Have you ever thought that the planet should have legal rights to protect it from mass harm? A ‘voice’ of its own, so that those who destroy the natural environment can be held accountable for it in a court of law? It may sound like an odd concept at first, but there was a time when species of animals, flora and fauna on Earth were not legally protected and thus became extinct due to human interference. We realised that this was a bad thing, and made it illegal to pick certain plant species, to hunt animals to extinction, or to hunt some species at all.

If the environment was protected from exploitation as many species and communities are on our planet, large corporations and the individuals who work for them would have to rethink the impact their industries have on our natural environment. This would have a potentially huge and positive impact on the health of our green planet. Manmade disasters such as the Gulf Oil Spill and tar sands extraction in Canada would require the perpetrators to be treated in the same way as they would if they were hurting human beings. It’s not, after all, a large leap to make between humans on this planet and the environment which they are a part of. Destruction of the Earth affects us all, but at present there are no legal requirements to hold people accountable for the damage.

This is why environmental layer Polly Higgens has become a pioneer for getting ecocide on the political agenda worldwide. Higgens has provided a succinct definition for the term ‘ecocide’, and with many thousands of supporters she wants the UN to recognise the term, and for ecocide to be made the fifth international crime against peace.

Ecocide is a heavy topic but it also holds the potential for drastic change to the way humans treat their natural environment, including in parts of the world that we may never visit or think about. This means equality for those who cannot defend themselves or whose lands are at more risk of exploitation from big industry than western nations may be.

So What Can You Do?

As the This is Ecocide website states, ‘The campaign to make Earth law can only happen with your help.’ This is heartening and clearly true, as the site is also a thriving community of concerned green people all around the world, and ecocide is now frequently in the media. This is Ecocide is a platform for bringing green activists of every kind together to take action locally to get ecocide on the political agenda worldwide. Here’s a summary of suggestions from us and This is Ecocide’s website of what you can do to help.

  • Spread the word about ecocide, contribute to the website community, and donate money to the cause. These are the fastest and easiest ways of helping to up the campaign.
  • Women can write to world leaders asking that they recognise ecocide using this page.
  • Vote to make ecocide a 38degrees campaign using this page.
  • Start a local campaign group, or if you are already a member of a green group then ask that ecocide be added to the agenda.
  • ·        Performance artists can stage a mock trial to publicise ecocide, or organise a public flashmob to highlight some of the issues.  
  • The movement needs people to make short videos and longer documentaries to explain ecocide to people via online media. If you can do this, contact the team here.
  • Organise an event to raise money for the campaign. You don’t have to be an experienced fundraiser to do this- a bake sale can do wonders for spreading the word and raising money at the same time.
  • If you have a blog or your own website, write about ecocide and why you think it’s worth talking about and fighting for.
  • If you are a student, ask your school or university teachers to incorporate ecocide into subjects, using debates and discussions.
  • If you have other skills and ideas you can help the ecocide movement, contact the team. You never know what a few enthusiastic and passionate minds can achieve together.

Have your own idea on how people can contribute? Add it to our list by writing it below!