Ecocide: The Fifth Crime Against Peace?

This has been a recent topic that has stirred my interest following a TED talk which I watched by Polly Higgins (link here). Her argument is compelling: alongside genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression, the final crime against peace should be the extensive damage to, destruction of or loss of ecosystems to such an extent that ‘peaceful enjoyment’ by inhabitants is severely diminished, i.e. ecocide.

She argues that natural resource depletion due to mismanagement fuels conflict. We all depend on our environment and the ecosystem services it provides. With growing populations and the recurring abuse and misuse of ecosystem services, the degradation of our natural environment can only be expected to worsen. Especially in the face of climate change, we will see increasingly scarce water, food and land resources.

What I furthermore find interesting is that it includes not only humans, but all living creatures with the wording of ‘inhabitants’ within its definition. Therefore, whether or not humans have been directly negatively affected does not undermine the potential for prosecuting a catastrophic soil or water contamination. Under this new law; large scale deforestation would stop, destructive mining would have to be scaled down or halted, energy providers would have to turn green, and the list goes on. But it encourages innovation: if we can find better ways of using natural resources, our economies can still flourish – and they would do so for longer, promoting a more sustainably functioning world.

It sure sounds like an idea worth sharing to me. What do you think? There is a lot more to read about Ecocide which you can find on the website here. Certainly an interesting read.

If you agree with Polly Higgins’ idea, make sure to share it widely!


4 responses to “Ecocide: The Fifth Crime Against Peace?

  1. Pingback: International Peace Day: End Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity, War Crimes, Crimes of Aggression…and Ecocide | EcoPost·

  2. Pingback: ECOCIDE: THE FIFTH CRIME AGAINST PEACE? | Ecocide Alert·

  3. Thanks for the link, it might actually come in handy for my dissertation! If you’re interested in this you should definitely read Latour’s “Politics of Nature”, he kind of argues for the same thing- that both humans and nonhumans be regarded as a collective rather than separate entities. Interestingly, he argues that we need to get rid of the very idea of nature itself, as this would eliminate the idea of “others” and “us” (which has typically been created by Western conceptions of nature and society): “Once we have exited from the great political diorama of “nature in general”, we are left with only the banality of multiple associations of humans and nonhumans waiting for their unity to be provided by work carried out by the collective, which has to be specified through the use of the resources, concepts, and institutions of all peoples who may be called upon to live in common on an earth that might become, through a long work of collection, the same earth for all.” (Latour 2004: 46). Just thought it would be an interesting comparison! At the same time, calling it “Ecocide” (in opposition to “Genocide”) arguably continues this distinction between the environment and people… (sorry for the long post!)


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