The UK government just responded to our petition calling for ecocide to be recognised as a criminal offence in the UK – and the response was sadly inadequate to the ecological crisis we face: “The Government neither recognises the term ‘ecocide’ nor does it intend the suggested concept a criminal offence. There are already strong regulations in place…”
Such regulations are inadequately enforced and the enforcement agencies woefully underfunded, but the problem actually runs far deeper than lack of enforcement of existing environmental regulations. It’s about the inability to understand how intimately not only our health but our survival is linked with a thriving natural world. If environmental regulation was enough we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in.
Stopping the harm is not about enforcing the rules, it’s about changing the rules, at such a fundamental level that it is about morals and survival. This is the arena of CRIMINAL law. Murder is a crime because we recognise that killing another human being is unacceptable on a moral level and because it protects human life. Ecocide should likewise be a crime because large-scale destruction of nature is not only morally unacceptable but unless we protect ALL life, we cannot protect human life for very much longer, as climate and ecological science are telling us very clearly.
As a very simple example, you wouldn’t sit down with a business idea and try to work out how not to kill or seriously harm anybody doing it. There is already an underlying assumption that those are things that have to be avoided and so you don’t even contemplate a business based on them. With environmental harm, we go to the government and get permits for it. Can you imagine saying to a government minister “may I have a permit for my new business? it may well involve beating people up on a regular basis and we may kill a number of people in the course of business but it will be great for job creation…”
And yet you can get a permit for fracking. You can get a permit to rig up a 5G communications system which includes chopping down trees wherever you like. You can get a permit to burn any old waste in one big incinerator and create load of brand new dangerous toxins in the process. I’m not even sure you need a permit to put pesticides on your land that destroy whole complex soil ecosystems.
This is how deeply the disconnect is embedded. That is why people are talking climate negotiations and green new deals and ambition and mitigation and litigation. It’s all mopping the floor with the tap still running – but perhaps more graphically, it’s like arguing over where and how often you can hit a woman without the damage actually preventing her from feeding her children… and how much you have to pay her children if you do. It’s BONKERS. “Let’s try a bit harder not to suffocate this woman…” Really?!?!? How are we even having this discussion?