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Ecocide: a Crime Against Peace?

Just when you thought the environmental ­movement couldn’t get worse.

May 10, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 32 • By WESLEY J. SMITH
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Environmentalism is growing increasingly antihuman. Having left Teddy Roosevelt-style conservation and Earth Day consciousness-raising behind, the cutting edge of the movement is pursuing utopian “save the planet” agendas while angrily castigating mankind for supposedly sucking the life out of Gaia. 

Ecocide: a Crime Against Peace?

Such environmental misanthropy used to be confined to the fringe. For more than three decades proponents of Deep Ecology have urged “environmental egalitarianism” and radical depopulation to beat back the human “invasion” of nature. Alas, in recent years such advocacy moved from the flanks toward the center of environmentalism—to the point that some of the world’s leading global warming warriors now echo the radical depopulation agenda as an urgent imperative to protect polar bears and keep glaciers from melting.

Global warming alarmists and other über-environmentalists also promote anti-prosperity, seeking to convince developed nations to constrict their economies drastically and redistribute much of their remaining wealth to developing countries as an inducement for them to remain mired in low emissions poverty. The advocates of this view see economic decline as a goal. Thus, in the run up to the failed Copenhagen global warming summit, New Yorker writer David Owen asserted that “the world’s principal source of man-made greenhouse gases has always been prosperity.” He warned darkly that the recent “environmental benefits of economic decline, though real, are fragile, because they are vulnerable to intervention by governments.” 

The antihuman and anti-prosperity impulses in environmentalism have also led to granting human-type rights to the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees. Under the influence of American environmental radicals, the leftist government of Ecuador won ratification for a new constitution that formalized the “rights of nature” along with those of humans. Several municipalities in the United States have taken the same route. In 2007, Tamaqua, Pennsylvania, enacted an ordinance purporting to strip sludge-and-dredge corporations of all constitutional rights within the town—an empty gesture given the town had no such authority—while granting rights to “nature” enforceable in court by any resident.

Allowing radical environmentalists to enforce the putative rights of nature could certainly stifle development. But it might not eliminate it. To do that, punitive action is required. Indeed, how better to push us back toward a hunter/gatherer (or just plain gatherer) ideal than to criminalize large-scale economic development? 

That’s precisely the goal of This Is Ecocide, a new environmental campaign that seeks to outlaw serious pollution as an international “crime against peace,” akin to war crimes or genocide. Anyone indicted for ecocide would find himself in the dock at the International Criminal Court alongside such alleged mass murderers as Serbia’s Radovan Karadzic and Liberia’s Charles Taylor. 

But what is ecocide, precisely? Practically any business activity that environmentalists loathe, from large scale resource development to nonrenewable energy generation, along with any accidental ecological disaster would potentially qualify as a crime against peace. As envisioned by ecocide’s rising star, Polly Higgins, who recently addressed the United Nations promoting a Universal Declaration of Planetary Rights, the This Is Ecocide website states:

Ecocide is the extensive destruction, damage to or loss of ecosystem(s) of a given territory, whether by human agency or other causes, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been severely diminished.

Note that “peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants” is a very broad term, intended to include everything from grass, fish, and insects to mice, snakes, and people. And diminishment of “peaceful enjoyment” would not require actual pollution, but could mean a declining supply of forage or a loss of foliage caused by almost any use of the land, perhaps even simple urban growth. 

Not only that, but the crime of ecocide would be so encompassing that any company involved in large scale resource development would almost certainly commit it. Again, from the website:

• Ecocide arises out of human intervention. Heavy extraction, toxic dumping, release of pollutants can all result in ecocide.

• Ecocide is a crime of consequence, e.g., where an energy company procures its energy by extracting fossil fuels, as opposed to creation from renewable energy, that would result in ecocide. 

• Ecocide is not a crime of intent. The intention is rarely to render damage on a given territory, more often it is an outcome of another primary (economic or war) activity.

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