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Sustainability Quiz 25: Ecocide

Sustainability Quiz 25: Ecocide

Sustainability Quiz 25. Ecocide is a term used to describe the impact of over 75 million litres of toxic chemical herbicides sprayed by US military over South Vietnam to destroy forest cover and food sources used by enemy troops

In Vietnam, the chemicals left a devastating trail of cancer, birth defects and barren forests, prompting American biologist Arthur W. Galston to coin term “ecocide” in the 1970s to protest the mass environmental and social harm that had occurred. The term is now more relevant than ever, but on a planetary scale.

Ecocide is not a new term, but it’s making a resurgence with more recent events. What is ecocide?

     Sudden mass loss of fish
     Mass destruction of ecosystems
     Coral reef bleaching
     Polar bears encroaching cities

Legal definition of ecocide

Ecocide is defined as “unlawful or wanton acts committed with knowledge that there is a substantial likelihood of severe and either widespread or long-term damage to the environment being caused by those acts”. This definition was crafted in June 2021 by an independent expert panel of 12 lawyers from around the world, convened by Stop Ecocide Foundation.

The importance of a global definition of ecocide

This definition is an initial step to making ecocide an international crime and have it added as a fifth crime alongside the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (an intergovernmental court recognised by 123 states), which lists four international crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. 

Ecocide as an international crime

The groundswell to criminalise ecocide as the fifth crime in the International Criminal Court (ICC) is growing. Activists say that adding ecocide to this list would profoundly change both the status quo and acceptable behaviour. Unlike the existing four international crimes, ecocide would be the only crime in which human harm is not a prerequisite for prosecution. Effectively you're looking at something that has, at least in part, potential to be a crime against nature, not just a crime against people.  

What can you do?

Talk about it. Any amendment process could take years to decades, which is way too late for climate action. The importance of this process is the fact that this conversation is happening and that is already making a difference, growing more awareness and education. Calling out and pointing to bad actors and morally unacceptable actions. 

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