Eradicating Ecocide – an evening with Polly Higgins

“Bunch of idiots”.

That’s what one man muttered loudly as he walked past people selling tickets for a talk by international environmental campaigner and barrister, Polly Higgins. I prefer “bunch of do-ers!”

Polly was coming to Ashlyns School to talk about ‘Dare to Be Great: Eradicating Ecocide’. Polly is lobbying the UN to make Ecocide an international crime and campaigns globally, so the least Transition Town Berkhamsted could do was fill the hall!

And fill it we did – with 130 residents eager to know about Ecocide, and what we can do.

We learnt Ecocide is ‘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’. We all know Ecocide happens – for example, we know the Amazon loses forest the size of France every day. But many of us prefer to not think about human impact on our planet. It’s a bit over-whelming!

So, Polly brought her passion on Ecocide to Berkhamsted, illustrating her talk with worrying examples: Canada’s Alberta Tar Sands produces four times more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil extraction, and ironically uses enough natural gas to heat three million Canadian homes, there’s the Pacific Trash Vortex – 100 million tonnes of floating rubbish  polluting sea and coastlines, 100 species become extinct every day… the list is depressing.

But Polly is inspiringly determined to make Ecocide the fifth crime against peace – alongside genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of aggression. Perpetrators would therefore be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court.

Illogically, Ecocide is already a crime in war-time – this makes no sense at all. Nor does it makes sense that Ecocide was on the Rome Statute but disappeared in 1997 without judicial process. Figure this out – the US, UK and Norway objected to the proposal.

On the night, Polly dared the audience to be Great, admitting it took her a while to set her idea in motion. The ‘not trying’ is failing. So, the very least we can now do is to join Polly’s campaign at www.eradicatingecocide.com.

And we can also do a little bit more… if you have any concerns about the environment, please join the action group that formed on the night. It’s called  B-WEL (Berkhamsted- Wants Ecocide Law). Call Sue on 07975 812866 or visit www.transitionberkhamsted.org.uk/b-wel.

We’d be idiots not to do something.

Bex Plenderleith, Mummy of Max (8) and Tilly (4), the reasons why I joined TTB and Polly’s campaign, Eradicating Ecocide.

Photos © Andrew Tweedie

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