What’s An Ecocide?

Image Credit: Josh Edelson/Agence France-Presse @ Getty Images

Forest fires rage through the Amazon. Oil rigs explode, polluting the seas. Companies continuously pump greenhouse gases into our atmosphere. People carelessly toss their garbage onto the streets. Plastic finds its way into ecosystems. The list goes on.

What’s to stop these disasters from occurring?

The Ecocide Law

The term “ecocide” has been defined as “the unlawful or wanton acts committed with knowledge that there is a substantial likelihood of severe and widespread or long-term damage to the environment being caused by those acts.” Essentially, ecocide is a purposeful act against the environment, caused by those who disregard all signs of harm. Examples of what the law would address include the Amazon deforestation and major oil spills.

Image Credit: NPR @ Stop Ecocide Foundation

The original definition is 165 words in length. When defining the term, some panelist members wanted to include climate change explicitly in the definition. However, this notion was rejected because of the desire to make it even more difficult for countries and corporations alike to oppose the law.

Drafted by 12 lawyers from around the world, the term “ecocide” will help to save our Earth. Initiated with the hopes of the International Criminal Court (ICC) adopting the law, defining ecocides could help to prosecute all those who have escaped consequence for their wrongful actions towards the environment.

The Potential

If adopted by international courts, it would become the fifth offense used in prosecution — alongside crimes against humanity, crimes of aggression, genocide, and war crimes. As seen, the other laws focus on society’s well-being, whereas this would be the first to prioritize the environment. Historically, the last law adopted by the ICC was during the 1945–46 Nuremberg trials. Next, in 2016, the ICC was criticized for not investigating environmental crimes after saying that crimes against humanity could be extended to include the detriment of the environment.

The addition of the ecocide law could set an example for the general public. Understanding that we all have a moral duty to protect the environment would further discourage people from ignoring environmental harm warning signs. From reducing one’s littering to using less single-use plastic, establishing this law will prompt people to take better care of the environment.

The fight for the ecocide law’s inclusion has just begun. Here are a couple of petitions to sign, in support of the ecocide law:

  1. https://www.stopecocide.earth/become
  2. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfxf7bbzFViS_AdXLi__P75Od62C_A02YSsX0_smuGpDTg-0w/viewform

References & Resources to Learn More

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The Environmental Justice Coalition is a youth-led organization fighting for intersectional environmental justice and uplifting BIPOC and marginalized communities through political advocacy, policy writing, community organizing, educational initiatives, and content creation.

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Alysha Selvarajah

Alysha Selvarajah

biology & clinical psych

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