In the wake of the BP catastrophe it was predictable that some on the Left would leap on board the ecocide campaign to destroy prosperity. As I described more fully in the Weekly Standard, ecocide is a proposed new international “crime against peace” deemed equal in severity to evils such as the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide, and the Killing Fields of Cambodia. It thus personalizes nature by including activities that result in large changes to the natural environment as worthy of the kind of condemnation and punishment heretofore reserved for the worst of humanity’s evils. After describing the many ways in which nature is being personalized, for example, the “rights of nature in Ecuador’s constitution, I get to the subject at hand. From my piece:
Allowing radical environmentalists to enforce the putative rights of nature could certainly stifle development. But it might not eliminate it. To do that, punitive action is required. Indeed, how better to push us back toward a hunter/gatherer (or just plain gatherer) ideal than to criminalize large-scale economic development?…
But what is ecocide, precisely? Practically any business activity that environmentalists loathe, from large scale resource development to nonrenewable energy generation, along with any accidental ecological disaster would potentially qualify as a crime against peace. As envisioned by ecocide’s rising star, Polly Higgins, who recently addressed the United Nations promoting a Universal Declaration of Planetary Rights, the This Is Ecocide website states:
Ecocide is the extensive destruction, damage to or loss of ecosystem(s) of a given territory, whether by human agency or other causes, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been severely diminished.
Note that “peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants” is a very broad term, intended to include everything from grass, fish, and insects to mice, snakes, and people. And diminishment of “peaceful enjoyment” would not require actual pollution, but could mean a declining supply of forage or a loss of foliage caused by almost any use of the land, perhaps even simple urban growth.
I knew the oil spill would fuel the ecocide panic. Right on schedule, over at the Huffington Post, environmentalist blogger David de Rothschild embraced the campaign. From his post, “Planet Ocean:”
But what if we were to take awareness one stage further and try and create a legal frame work that would actually offer nature some real protection? To declare the mass destruction of ecosystems as an international crime against peace — alongside genocide and crimes against humanity?…
The radical idea of the campaign is the brainchild of British Polly Higgins. Her vision uses a simple equation: extraction leads to ecocide, which leads to resource depletion, and resource depletion leads to conflict. However, it wouldn’t just stop there: “ecocide” would include damage done to any species. Under an ecocide law, you would see prosecutions against individuals rather than just the companies. In turn, you then might just see traditional energy companies having to become largely clean energy companies or extractive mining groups would have to either be scaled back massively or stopped, chemicals which contaminate soil and water and kill wildlife would also have to be abandoned and large-scale deforestation would not be possible at all. The potential impact of this could be more than monumental. Especially as its these types of visionary projects that keep me positive, inspired and driven that we are soon not only going to see an increase in awareness bubbling to forefront of the collective consciousness but see some really exciting real world solutions and legislation coming on-line. Ultimately, this can only but help build towards a happier healthier Ocean, Nature, planet and humanity!
In fact, it is just the opposite. Stifling most large scale development by turning it into an international crime would cause increased poverty, disease, malnourishment, squalor,and hopelessness–all of the afflictions that have been substantially relieved in the developed world where the industrial revolution transformed the human condition, allowing us to become so removed from the struggle for mere survival that the pampered some of us seriously contemplate shutting down the world’s economic engines. Indeed, to relieve the awful destitution of billions in places like Africa, Asia, and South America, we need more development and proper exploitation of resources, not less.
British Petroleum and its insurers are going to pay dearly for the terrible harm they have caused–as well they should. If crimes were committed, by all means prosecute. But the CEO of BP does not belong in the dock at the Hague. If ecocide is ever adopted, the losses caused by this disaster will pale in comparison to the toll on suffering humanity.