In the past many visionaries and leaders have been lawyers – think of Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. So when I arrived at the World Congress on Justice, Law and Governance for Environmental Sustainability (a pre-Rio conference) I was full of hope that just maybe we might be able to come up with some concrete legal solutions (i.e making Ecocide a crime), to halt humanity in its current trajectory of destroying the environment.
The World Congress is a closed-door invitation-only event. It brought together some of the top legal minds in the world; Attorney-Generals, Chief Prosecutors, Auditors-General, Chief Justices, Senior Judges and other legal practitioners to discuss the role of the law in achieving sustainable development and to create a document to be taken to world leaders at the Earth Summit.
The event opened on the 17th at the impressive Tribunal de Justica, Rio De Janeiro. Achim Steiner, the UN’s Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director, gave an inspiring speech whilst Ricardo Lorenzetti, the Supreme Court Chief Justice of Argentina, made clear the importance of the judiciary in ensuring governments do not renege on their promises. We then took a shuttle bus 100 km out of Rio to the Portabello Resort in Mangaratiba; where surrounded by luscious green mountains and a palm tree-lined private beach, it was quite easy to forget the urgency of addressing the critical issues humanity and the Earth are facing.
In Mangaratiba the first day opened with Bakary Kante, UNEP’s Director of the Division of Environmental Conventions. He is a clear leader with a strong moral radar. Kante emphasised that the outcome of the World Congress “must mark environmental law history” and that “we cannot have an elephant give birth to a mouse”. The following days were long, and heated discussions took place relating to the nexus between human rights and environmental rights, and the need to identify transnational environmental crimes. In these sessions I emphasised the need to create a crime of Ecocide which led to fruitful discussions; it was evident that there was much support for the idea. I also took up Bakary Kante’s call for participants to put in writing any substantial proposals to be included in the final outcome document. It was then up to fate. Whilst a select few disappeared behind closed doors to determine the content of the final document, we were left with Bobby McFerrin’s classic tune being strummed on a guitar with the hopeful words ringing in our ears, “Don’t worry, be happy.” Read More …
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Many of us have great hope riding on the result of the Rio+20 Earth Summit. We’re not sure what the outcome will be, but we know that the Eradicating Ecocide team have done everything possible to put Ecocide on the map before the summit even began.
Two of the Eradicating Ecocide team are out in Rio as you read this. Louise, who heads up their Legal Outreach, was invited to speak at the Conference of Youth for Rio+20. This was a great success: 2000 youth have called for making Ecocide a crime and included it as one of their 20 Solutions for a Sustainable Future at the 6th World Youth Congress in Rio last week. Their other team member, Sarah, spoke at the People’s Summit and will be reporting back from both inside the official conference and outside amongst the people to tell us what is being discussed by people from both ends of the spectrum. You can read what Sarah and Louise have to say about Rio in ChinaDialogue.
The press have also picked up on the campaign; the BBC has written “Ecocide: a Legal Green High?” and The Independent has written “The Earth’s Advocate: Defending our Environment”. Treehugger.com has published the thought-piece: “Why Outlawing Ecocide is Essential for the Economy”.
Side events at the Rio+20 Earth Summit have discussed Earth Rights and Ecocide. We have been receiving many reports back that there is much discussion about the law of Ecocide. Sarah and Louise say that there’s a real feeling of growing momentum, especially with recent endorsements by Caroline Lucas, head of the UK Green Party, and Kumi Naidoo, International Executive Director at Greenpeace.
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Walter Rybeck’s Re-solving the Economic Puzzle, we are sorry to say, did not win the People’s Book Prize for 2012, but voters left some insightful comments, expressing their appreciation of the book which may be viewed at this link.
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The book outlines an international Law of Ecocide that Polly has proposed to the United Nations. This would enable environmental destruction to be declared illegal by making it the Fifth International Crime Against Peace.
Ecocide is defined as: “The extensive damage, destruction to or loss of ecosystems 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 severely diminished.”
The Law of Ecocide would make CEOs and Heads of State legally responsible for protecting the Earth. Polly is calling on world leaders to add an amendment to the Rome Statute which requires two-thirds of the statute’s signatories (81 votes) to become law.
The release of the book coincides with the launch of the ‘Who is Charles Grant?’ campaign, an international campaign aiming to find industry leaders ready to stand up against mass destruction of the environment. The Biggest Job on Earth advert has been placed in Forbes Magazine.
Who is Charles Grant? campaign: the campaign seeks a modern-day Charles Grant figure – a champion for the Earth. Grant was a director of the East India Trading Company in the 19th Century and publicly renounced slavery. Once he ceased to use this practice in his business he inspired other business leaders to follow. Grant played a big part in a revolution that lead to the abolition of slavery.
High profile supporters of the Eradicating Ecocide campaign include Daryl Hannah, Nnimmo Bassey, Jane Goodall, Vandana Shiva, Pablo Solon, Fransesca de Gasparis, Maude Barlow, Jonathan Porritt, Michael Stewart, Michael Mansfield, Michael Meacher, Evin Laslow and Deepak Chopra.
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Buy this book:
Earth is our Business expands on the proposal in Polly Higgins’ first book, Eradicating Ecocide, to make Ecocide an international crime. This book proposes new Earth Law, setting out an institutional framework for sustainable development and international environmental governance. The new rules of the game offer substantial benefits to the companies that find the renewable solutions the world needs.
But it is also about something more than law. It advocates a new form of leadership which places the health and well-being of people and planet first. Polly Higgins shows how law can provide the tools and be a bridge to a new, Earth centred way of doing business.
Like her award-winning first book, Earth is our Business is written for anyone who is engaging in the new and emerging discourse about the future of our planet. Instead of examining the problem, Earth is our Business sets out a solution: new rules of the game. They are a new set of laws based on the sacredness of all life.
Included as appendices are a draft Ecocide Act, a proposal for revising World Bank investment rules, and the indictment used in the mock Ecocide Trial held in the UK Supreme Court in September 2011.
Eradicating Ecocide was voted winner of The People’s Book Prize for non-fiction in 2011.
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Three Shepheard-Walwyn authors have been voted through as finalists for the 2012 People’s Book Prize for non-fiction. This includes one of the titles from our Ethical Economics list: congratulations to Walter Rybeck, author of Re-solving the Economic Puzzle . Click here for more information on this book.
The other two titles are Hoodwinking Churchill: Titio’s Great Confidence Trick by Peter Batty and This Life of Grace by John Symons.
Voting to determine the winner opens on 21st May and closes on 30th May. Anyone who so wishes may add their vote by clicking here but you may only vote for the finalists between 21st and 30th May.
The winner will be announced at a gala award dinner at the Stationers’ Hall in the City of London on 30th May. The prizes will be awarded by Frederick Forsyth.
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Polly Higgins believes, when it is right to speak out and shine a light on a dark corner.
“Such are the consequences of our current business practices that we are now on a course that spells disaster for humanity and the Earth. To ignore the warning issued by the OECD last week – that current policy will increase the Earth’s temperature 3 or more degrees by 2100 – is in fact a breach of our human right to life.
“However, I believe we can change our course very fast. This week I have submitted to all governments a concept paper, entitled Closing the door to dangerous industrial activity.”
Polly Higgins is also giving the annual Rachel Carson Memorial lecture in London on 30th March.
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Click here to see a film from Australia which explains why property booms and busts occur with remarkable regularity and how public infrastructure, especially roads and railways can be funded without taxing wages.
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To test the practicality of Polly Higgins’ proposal to make Ecocide a crime, a mock trial was held in the UK Supreme Court in September 2011 at which the two Chief Executives of two fictional oil companies were found guilty by the jury of the crime of Ecocide.
As a further test of the practicality Polly Higgins’ proposal, on 31st March at the Institute for Democracy and Conflict Resolution at the University of Essex in Colchester, the two CEOs will be sentenced. They will be offered a process of restorative justice. Leading lawyers, including Michael Mansfield QC, journalists, businesspeople, academics and campaigners will take part in the sentencing process.
“The sentencing is unique in bringing the head of a corporation face to face with those affected by their company’s destructive practices, including representatives speaking on behalf of birds and other natural life, indigenous peoples and future generations in this case based on real-world oil extraction in the Canadian tar sands.”
Tickets may be obtained via this link.
In the news this week: “Brazilian prosecutors say they will bring criminal charges, including “environmental crimes”, against 17 executives from the US oil company Chevron and drilling contractor Transocean after a new leak of crude oil.”
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We’d like to let you know that we will be exhibiting at the Knebworth Summer Craft & Design Show, 2-4 June (the Diamond Jubilee bank holiday weekend) in Hertfordshire.
Besides exhibiting some of our economic titles, we will also be displaying our beautiful range of calligraphy books which contain inspiring words written out in delightful calligraphy.
Included is Creation: A Celebration
‘If there was an award for the most beautiful book of the year, Peasedown St John artist Sue Symons would stand a very good chance of winning it. Sue might also win an award for the most beautiful art show of the year too… [for these] beautifully and intricately worked panels’ BATH CHRONICLE
Original needlework, painting and calligraphy by Sue Symons
Visit the Romor Exhibitions website for more information and to book tickets.
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