Ecocidal thoughts

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Ecocide, unlike Geocide, has yet to be embedded in international law.

Ecocide, as envisaged, would perhaps be reserved for extreme forms of our everyday Planet Abuse and directed at corporates and government leaders whose policies wreak so much damage.  Even so, the chances of such condemnation becoming law are minimal – and the chances of it acting as any deterrent, even less.  Like so much else in the hot air of climate debating circles, the notion of Ecocide is as purely symbolic as national flag waving or political greenwashing.

On the other hand, everyday Planet Abuse is more easily understood by individual citizens and communities.  For sure, there are challenges in tracking useful metrics: many places and people will see different priorities, and we are still a very long way from the general taboos that progressive societies try to muster for, say, Domestic or Racial Abuse.

But, as each day passes more and more attention is being paid to man-made disasters of heat, floods, air pollution, contaminations, pandemics, coastal erosions, fossil fuel fiascos, subsidence, and species losses.  Communities and individuals are waking up to the realisation that each and everyone of us is guilty, directly or indirectly, of everyday Planet Abuse.  It is not someone else’s problem – we all own this, and we all must deal with it.

Of course, it would help if political leaders showed clear leadership, but trust in top-down effectiveness is a bit thin on the ground.  Governments have themselves been abused (sometimes all too willingly) by corporate Planet Abusers, and their general addiction to never-ending economic growth is what the late, great, Bernard Levin, might well have dismissed as ‘one of the popular substitutes for five minutes thought’.

So, attention must now switch away from distrusted centralists and towards communities where an understanding of Planet Abuse and its impacts has local relevance.  We can build local community effort to evaluate the extent to which we reduce Planet Abuse.  We can surely better educate our children to respect their planet.  We can even try to educate our appointed leaders – the corporates and financiers as well as those elected (and paid) to serve everyone except themselves.

You may suppose that individual small voices can make little difference.  But, by not making the effort, each and every one of us will add to, and not subtract from, Planet Abuse.   Some will say that this is surely someone else’s problem – that our rule-makers need to change their rules, that drastic actions are needed.  Some will seek revenge and try to prosecute crimes of Ecocide – even though this is nowhere codified in international law.  But we all know such charges will make little difference – except perhaps to add a silky satin sheen to governmental green paint . . .  the better to hide their dogmatic cracks.

So please, don’t fixate on growth of GDP.  Tell me how much and how fast we are reducing Planet Abuse – make that our primary measure of national wellbeing.  Go on, admit it. Say it out loud.  I am guilty of Planet Abuse.  Your question, now, is: what will I do about it?



* David Brunnen is media liaison officer for Fareham Liberal Democrats. He writes on Municipal Autonomy, Intelligent Communities, Sustainability & Digital Challenges.

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  • Brad Barrows 8th Jul '21 - 2:49pm

    I find this article concerning – I trust that no one with such an extreme approach will ever find themselves in a position with the power to impose their agenda on the rest of us.

  • We humans are in a position where we have altered all the ecosystems on the planet. We have polluted our air, our land our seas.
    The reason why we are not able to manage this situation is that we have made almost no progress in jointly managing the planet. We need to start by working towards co-operating with our fellow humans to start to design a better future.
    This is the challenge we all face. We need to start with our own organisations.
    We need to act as a beacon of hope.

  • @Brad Barrows – “I trust that no one with such an extreme approach will ever find themselves in a position with the power to impose their agenda on the rest of us.”
    The “perfect storm” is approaching; as we’ve seen with the Eyjafjallajokull volcano (2010), Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami (2011), CoViD (2020)… nature is a very effective and unstoppable change agent…

  • Paul Barker 8th Jul '21 - 6:50pm

    While broadly supporting the thrust of this article I would beg everyone not to get dragged into the Anti-Growth Agenda. Looking at Human History its pretty clear that Economic Growth is Natural – the only Societies that dont show growth are those in deep crisis. That does not mean that all Growth is equal – Wind Farms & Oil Wells may both generate Economic Growth.
    The whole “Zero Growth” movement is chillingly reminiscent of the Zero Popuulation Growth strategy that was hip half a Century ago & that led directly to Forced Sterilisation in India & Forced Abortions in China.
    Economic Growth is Neutral – what we need to decide is how to direct it into useful & harmless channels.

  • Brad Barrows 9th Jul '21 - 11:16am

    Of course, I’m sure those same views would have been expressed during the Black Death (14th century), after the eruption of Krakatoa (1883).

  • Nonconformistradical 9th Jul '21 - 11:27am

    “The “perfect storm” is approaching; as we’ve seen with the Eyjafjallajokull volcano (2010), Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami (2011), CoViD (2020)… nature is a very effective and unstoppable change agent…”
    Plate tectonics – the essential factor behind all 3 events you mention – happens anyway. No human involvement needed. So why choose those examples?

  • Peter Hirst 9th Jul '21 - 6:05pm

    Responding to your intial idea, we do need an ecocidal law enforcable through the United Nations by majority voting and applicable to nation states. As we approach crisis point we need to be able to act against countries that go counter to zero emissions. A similar law could be enacted against major companies via a different route. The penalty for contravening could include fines, exclusion from international events such as the Olympics or possibly trade embargoes.

  • Antony Watts 17th Jul '21 - 9:14am

    Then what about Covicide? Seems to me that is what Johnson is doing right now, planning deaths and illness

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