Environmental activists are trying to criminalise any act that harms the planet through a campaign known as Stop Ecocide.
Founded by activist Jojo Mehta and the late lawyer Polly Higgins in 2017, the movement is managed by the charitable Stop Ecocide Foundation and aims to make damaging and destroying ecosystems an international crime.
If successful, harmful acts would be categorised alongside crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression and would prevent harm to nature from going unchecked.
The campaign argues that decades of widespread and systemic harm to nature caused by detrimental industrial activities is the reason the planet is now facing an ecological emergency, and warns that by destroying the natural world we’re also taking away our chances of maintaining a planet that we can live on.
In spite of the long-lasting impacts these detrimental activities can have, companies that fund destructive environmental practices are only punished with lawsuits and fines which they can typically pay off in their budget.
Stop Ecocide hopes that by making the acts a crime, CEOs and financiers will be held liable for criminal prosecution and in turn less likely to continue harmful practices.
Discussing the movement, per The Guardian, Mehta explained:
CEOs have an obligation to maximize profit within the law. They may not, for example, allow mass killing to take place en route to profit. Currently, banks and investors continue to fund ecocidal activity. When asked why, the answer is simple: ‘It’s not a crime.’
Listing ecocide as an atrocity crime accurately reflects the very real, long-term and existential threat to humanity and our life-support systems from ecocidal activities.
Mehta has pointed out that while we are ‘not short of solutions’ to tackle damaging practices, for example through renewable materials, regenerative farming and circular economy approaches, the transition to a harm-free world is not likely to move fast enough ‘unless the harmful practices are stopped’.
She continued, ‘Establishing ecocide crime has the potential to level that playing field, re-channel finance and unleash innovation and rapid transition. And since COVID-19, nobody can claim that rapid action isn’t possible – ecocide law is the necessary nudge.’
The campaign has received recognition from leaders in France, Belgium and the Vatican, as well as a wealth of support from younger generations who are keen to maintain a sustainable planet while we still can.
In a bid to gain further support for Stop Ecocide, Mehta has said that ‘spreading the word and expanding the conversation’ is key to encouraging governments across the globe to declare support for the movement.
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