The movie “12 years a Slave” opened up a very sensitive subject in the history of humanity. Most of us would watch this movie and wonder how we actually agreed that this type of treatment of humans was acceptable. (This blog is not about the many millions of people who are still in slavery now, a topic for another blog perhaps.)
History has many of these punctuation points, where we slowly but suddenly look at our past actions with shame.
I believe that in 50 or 100 years our children’s children will look back at our time from WW2 until now with the same amount of puzzlement and heart ache as we look at the time when we uprooted millions of people from their homes in Africa and set them on the seas to become objects of indentured labor/exploitation/cruelty/death.
And central to this reflection will be leadership crime. However, let it be clear that we have all played our part.
This last week I was indeed blessed to be present at a talk given by the wonderful Polly Higgins, British Lawyer and Barrister, who is now 100% dedicated to introducing into International Law the law of Ecocide. This will become the 5th Law of Peace, along side the law of genocide. You can read further on this at Eradicating Ecocide.
Ecocide is the extensive damage to, destruction of or loss of ecosystem(s) of a given territory, whether by human agency or by other causes, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been or will be severely diminished.
It will soon be considered a leadership crime to participate in ecocide. This crime will include leaders of governments and industry. Small and large business. As International Law the crime of ecocide will be on par with the crime of genocide. It will transcend the Supreme Courts of all the lands.
The way Polly is proposing the introduction of ecocide as law is not based on fear, scarcity or even shame. It is based on love. As she says, love and law rarely go together. But it is about time they did.
The US economy did not collapse when human slavery was made illegal. Changes were made, and new worlds of possibility opened. Humanity grew a little more compassionate and considerate.
Most of us know that we must stop our rape and pillage of earth. Most of us know it is killing us all. Even the CEO’s of the big exploiters/extractive industries know this. But they too are trapped in a system that has them by law focus on a return for the shareholder. And the shareholder, well, that is us. We all have our fingers in this pie. And we are all seeking a way to stop.
Polly Higgins work is one of the most important pieces of work I have seen in our era. It will change us all and open new pathways of respect and care. She needs our support. So get to the site and do what you can.
And from the poet Drew Dillinger, in case you are still hesitating,
It’s 3:23 in the morning and I’m awake
because my great, great, grandchildren won’t let me sleep.
My great, great, grandchildren ask me in dreams
what did you do while the planet was plundered?
what did you do when the earth was unraveling?
surely you did something when the seasons started failing
as the mammals, reptiles and birds were all dying?
did you fill the streets with protest when democracy was stolen?
what did you do