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Book Review: Eradicating Ecocide

Amelia's Magazine reviews "Eradicating Ecocide, Laws and governance to prevent the destruction of our planet" the new book by Barrister and Human Rights Lawyer, Polly Higgins.

Written by Silent City

big deal- jon baker
Big Deal_JonBaker_03smAM
Photo by Jon Baker

They met when he was hired by her mother to teach her to play the guitar. They, information pills as in Big Deal: Alice Costelloe and kc Underwood, order a boy and a girl, a blonde and a brunette. They sound like Best Coast, Tennis and Cults wrapped up and swirled up in a hot tub, with the sun shining, bunnies and frogs hopping around the edges. Electric guitar dominates, but doesn’t overpower the combined voices of our protagonists. It’s almost as if the guitar is having a ball, dancing around without them, and they’re looking at it from the skies, singing our story. As Moshi Moshi say: ‘aching harmony’. Costelloe’s voice is nonchalant and sweet, 60s with modern gusto and pout. His is gentle and supportive, a deep backbone, crucial and pleasant. They are steamy, hot and full of either middle distance moodiness or penetrating eye contact into your confused youthful self. I’m thinking they will be perfect for a summer of love and all the elation and despairs it brings. Looking out of the window and simultaneously wishing to take back the last thing and for the next thing to happen. The embracing of the heat’s blurring of judgement, highly ambitious ideas, the sun setting on drama. You can almost feel it in the air can’t you? Brewing.


Big Deal‘s single; Talk, is out today on Moshi Moshi records. They have recently signed to Mute Records.

Book Jacket for Eradicating Ecocide, buy more about

What is Ecocide?
Has the formation of laws and legislation had unforeseen and possibly disastrous consequences?
Has the protection of the environment been abandoned by the law?
What can we do?

These are the questions Eradicating Ecocide, thumb a new book by Polly Higgins sets out to answer.

Polly Higgins is a Barrister, viagra 100mg a Human Right’s Lawyer and author of Eradicating Ecocide. On her blog The Lazy Environmentalist Higgins defines Ecocide as the “damage, destruction to or loss of ecosystems, 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.

Published in 2010 by Shepeard-Walwyn, Eradicating Ecocide, is a carefully considered polemic on the consequences of leaving environmental concerns at the sidelines, (the destruction of the rainforest, tar sands, Oil, Global Warming) in favour of infinite growth and unregulated capitalism. Higgins believes that the “law as it currently stands is not fit for purpose. It rarely protects the wider earth community interests of both people and planet. Instead, all too often it is the interests of the very the few that are protected, of those with ownership. This causes great injustice at both micro and macro level.” In short, Eradicating Ecocide is a call to arms, an appeal to the protection of the environment in the face of wanton and needless destruction.

Humanity is at a Crossroads by Abi Daker

Eradicating Ecocide opens with a contemporary reminder about the consequences of runaway ecocide and unregulated industry; the 2010 BP Oil Spill in the Mexican Gulf. Higgins’ arguement implies that as it stands both law making and the planet are being held to ransom by profit-driven corporations.

For Higgins the environment is all too often neglected in favour of short term profit, pointing out that part of the problem lies with “Governments, driven by the obsessive pursuit of economic gain, often undervalue subsequent ecological losses that can arise out of profit making activity… Myopic financial policy takes preeminence over longer term damage and destruction, by keeping the focus firmly on the short-term, problems mouth for others to address at some indeterminate later date.” Not only do we need to fight big business, we need to take the challenge to our own blindfolded Governments.

In her calm and through exploration of the unforeseen consequences of law making,? Eradicating Ecocide takes us through the convoluted changes in law and the pivotal court cases that lead to the development (in law) of corporations being held to account for damages made to the environment as “fictional persons” The example Higgins cites is the Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad trial of 1886, where for “the first time that the word ‘person’ in the fourteenth Amendment was presumed to include corporations.” See Eradicating Ecocide for further details on the outcome of this pre-trial statement.

Illustration by Gabriel Ayala

Eradicating Ecocide also focuses on the development of ‘compromise laws’ by big business and the law courts in order to pacify pollution concerns. The subsequently formed ‘compromise legislation’ merely side steps environmental responsibility whilst failing to provide any real deterrence against the destruction of the planet. The biggest failure in compromise recently was at Cop 15 in Copenhagen. Desperate to end the conference with some form of good news, politicians’ delivered the “The Copenhagen Accord“. As this document is not legally binding, nothing within this treaty has yet to be implemented in local or worldwide politics, as of yet there is no binding successor to equally compromised Kyoto Protocol.

For myself, Eradicating Ecocide highlights that the problem with placing profit over all else is that monetary worth becomes the barometer against which all ‘worth’ is measured. Subsequently the earth and its ‘resources’ become a mere asset. Once the earth is seen as an asset, it ceases to be alive and once it ‘dies’ it becomes easier for the bio habitat to be seen as singular commodities (a trend which began with the Industrial Revolution). Subsequently we, the citizens of the planet, must fight to save the planet as a living organisim in its entirety, not solely the sections we personally inhabit.

The Destruction of the Tar Sands by Gareth A Hopkins

A brave book, Eradicating Ecocide takes the stance that by allowing the “commercial exploration and destruction of resources” to take “precedence over the obligation of the sacred trust”, corporations have become the colonisers of the 21st Century. Within the UN framework, the concept behind the sacred trust is to ask for “community interests to be placed over private and corporate decisions.” (p.57)

Eradicating Ecocide is an inspiring, informative read and an incredible history lesson on the role of law (so often seemingly abstract from our lives) in shaping our society, our business and the way we view the earth. Personally, the book is incredible for its demand that we use that which is already present within the UN – The development of International Criminal Law in the wake of World War Two and the concept of Trusteeship- to implement these necessary changes. Because the framework for Crimes against Peace already exists, Ecocide could be included without the need to create any new organisations.

The book’s brilliance is that it functions as a template for what both citizen and state can do to protect the environment. Eradicating Ecocide contains useful advice on how we, citizens of the world can implement change. For example, by joining existing climate change networks or starting your own, we can apply pressure on Governments to recognizing Ecocide as a breach against peace. We have the power of the multiple and the power of the streets on our side. With an ever-increasing population, we need to accept the earths resources’ are finite and move away from a market driven economy.

Illustration by Gabriel Ayala

For an update on the Climate Change debate in the wake of Cop 15, I recommend reading Higgins’ account of Cancun (Cop 16) and her summery of the RED++ deal; “The commercialisation of forests into the hands of the corporate sector to make money out of supposedly saving forests.”

A brilliant book and one that needs to be read, especially in the light of the recent news that oil companies plan to resume deep sea drilling.

If middle England can stand up against the Coalition’s plans to sell 15% of British Forests, we can ALL stand up against a destruction on a far wider scale -the loss of “the Earth’s lungs”- too.

For further information please visit the book’s website: This is Ecocide’s.


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