Putting humans on environmental trial / Columns / The Foreigner

Putting humans on environmental trial. We are killing our ecosystems. Urban expansion, poaching, exploitive fishing, climate change, and persistent pollutants, amongst other human activities, are wiping out species and interfering with biological processes at a terrifyingly rapid rate. What can we do about it? Norway's long history of environmentalism provides inspiration. The Mardøla waterfall and the Alta River in the 1970's were scenes of protests against river dams. That was part of sparking an environmental consciousness across Norway, just as oil was becoming a major income source for the country.

globalwarming, climatechange, environmentalcrime



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Putting humans on environmental trial

Published on Friday, 2nd November, 2012 at 09:04 under the columns category, by Ilan Kelman.

We are killing our ecosystems. Urban expansion, poaching, exploitive fishing, climate change, and persistent pollutants, amongst other human activities, are wiping out species and interfering with biological processes at a terrifyingly rapid rate.

Professor Arne Næss (R)
Norwegian philosopher Arne Næss coined the term Professor Arne Næss (R)
Photo: Vindheim/Wikimedia Commons


What can we do about it? Norway's long history of environmentalism provides inspiration.

The Mardøla waterfall and the Alta River in the 1970's were scenes of protests against river dams. That was part of sparking an environmental consciousness across Norway, just as oil was becoming a major income source for the country.

One of those active against the Mardøla development was philosopher Arne Næss, who coined the term "Deep Ecology" a few years later. Deep Ecology has been described as a philosophy, a movement, and a value. One core idea is that environmental policies and actions should reflect the premise that all living beings have inherent value which ought to be respected.

Could such a principle be legally enshrined? Eradicating Ecocide aims to build on the work of Næss and others to make ecocide a crime against peace under international law.

Ecocide occurs when ecosystems are destroyed or severely harmed by human activity. Ecosystem and biodiversity loss negatively impact all of humanity. Consequently, ecocide is suggested as being the fifth crime against peace, with the other four being genocide, crimes against humanity, crimes of aggression, and war crimes.

The idea has been propelled by Polly Higgins, an international barrister from the U.K. who has won awards for her publications and actions. She proposed to the United Nations in 2010 that ecocide be accepted legally as a crime against peace.

Her work last year included setting up a mock trial at the Supreme Court of England and Wales in which two fictional company executives were tried for their companies’ environmentally destructive actions. They were found guilty, suggesting that a law against ecocide could function in real courts.

The time has come to act against the killing of our ecosystems. Eradicating ecocide requires both prevention and punishment. Norway's environmentalist history could lead the way.

Dr. Ilan Kelman is a Senior Research Fellow at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research - Oslo (CICERO).



Published on Friday, 2nd November, 2012 at 09:04 under the columns category, by Ilan Kelman.

This post has the following tags: globalwarming, climatechange, environmentalcrime.





  
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