Skip to Main content

Europe: Eradicate Ecocide

By Nick Meynen.

Last January, 11 citizens launched a European Citizens Initiative (ECI) to call for a law of Ecocide in the EU. Eco-cide derives from the Greek oikos meaning house or home and the Latin caedere meaning strike down, demolish, kill. So ecocide literally translates to killing our home: planet earth. With current rates of climate change, resource depletion, biodiversity loss and so on … that defines well the present course of humanity.

In the words of Canadian-Australian lawyer Mark Gray, the author of ‘The international crime of ecocide’ (1994) that proposed a definition of ecocide 25 years ago: “This legal foundation, if applied to transboundary action or neglect of sufficient magnitude and consequence which is wasteful and unnecessary for human survival, can form the basis of a new international crime. Europe, with its high degree of industrialisation and interdependence, combined with a sophisticated legal and regulatory framework, is a great place to start.”

This ECI is no wooly petition launched by some naïve bunch of activists. Lawyers and professors from many countries support it. The final goal is to make ecocide fall under the Rome Statute as the 5th crime against peace. At present, the Rome Statute established four core international crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression.

The strategy of this campaign is to start with Europe. If 1 million votes by the citizens of the EU, including minimum votes from 7 EU countries, come in – then the draft Ecocide Directive will be tabled in the European Parliament. This is unlike other petitions because it has the legal authority given by the EU to influence EU policy. They gave us a toolbox, a group of knowledgeable and concerned people used it to create a coherent policy proposal and now it is up to us to decide if we think that crimes against the environment should become part of international law. EJOLT thinks it should.

Why we believe that the Ecocide Directive is so important? Here are just 3 reasons:

  • to act as one law to end different types of environmental destruction
  • to hold decision makers directly liable
  • to protect entire ecosystems, not just individual elements such as soil or air

Europe does not have a law that governs dangerous industrial practices; an Ecocide Directive will ensure consequence based analysis and accountability mechanisms come first in any decision-making process. Persons in positions of superior responsibility can no longer side-step the consequences – unintended and intended – of their decision-making that can have adverse impacts on both citizens and their eco-systems. The ECI gives EU citizens a chance to put the establishment of this law on the policymaker agenda.

According to supporter and professor of International Law Steven Freeland, “Existing international laws that have been codified and which may be relevant are, generally, either too compromised in their terms or have not been respected for lack of effective sanctions. Many are now working towards rectifying this situation, and the work of the European Citizens Initiative to ‘End Ecocide in Europe’ represents an important part of this process and should be supported in every possible way.”

Another professor that supports the initiative is Niko Paech. He said that ecocide “Affects particularly people in Africa, Asia and Latin America. For – as a consequence of the destruction of European natural habitats – we are increasingly using the landscapes of other continents, for example through land grabbing.”

Basically, this initiative is aiming for the high-hanging fruit: to recognize crimes against nature as we recognize crimes against humanity. We needed a second world war to recognize the latter. At EJOLT we believe that we have seen enough ‘war on terra’ or terrarism to recognize ecocide.

Check here to learn how you can vote and help to spread the news!

Click here to the ECI on Ecocide explained in a 3-minute video.

Click here to learn about a global movement to eradicate ecocide by 2020.

If you need further convincing of the ongoing ecocide, feel free to check some of our reports like the one on mining (with 24 cases), tree plantations or industrial waste.

One comment

  1. On Geraldine said:

    We need an awful lot more signatures to reach our goal of 1 million by January 2014 so please share the initiative far and wide!