Talking horses, Bree and Hwin and two children gallop, desperately trying to get to Narnia where humans and nonhuman species are free and seen as equal! Illustration by Mack for A Horse And His Boy, a book in the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.

“I wanted to ask a really Big Question – indeed if you are going on a Quest, you have to have a Question!

And, my Big Question to myself was: ‘How do we create a legal duty of care for the Earth?'”

Polly Higgins, the late environmental lawyer,
speaking at the Sustainable Earth Institute, 2017


Last Sunday, I got overwhelming support at the 2020 Irish Green Party National Convention for my motion:


that the Greens recommend that the Oireachtas (the Irish parliament), in organising the next Irish Citizens’ Assembly on biodiversity, explore ecocide (manmade destruction of ecosystems) as an urgent priority.

Hurrah!


A Strategy for Ireland to understand the urgency of Ecocide Law

In recent months I became aware that global momentum for an international ecocide law was surging.

When environmental journalist John Gibbons asked me recently to comment for a full-page article on ecocide in The Irish Times, I thought hard about the best next step to raise awareness in Ireland about why ecocide law is vital for us all, and the wider community of life.

I told John that I too was inspired by the recent Citizens’ Assembly for Climate in France in June 2020, that had overwhelmingly supported an international law against the crime of ecocide. The French Citizens also argued that ecocide crime to be part of the French constitution.

So, I wondered if Ireland with its next promised Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity / Land Use (date to be confirmed) could also explore international ecocide law.

I thought it could similarly galvanise a nationwide discussion about the perilous state of Ireland’s and the planet’s biodiversity and dramatically improve Ireland’s ecoliteracy too.

Importantly, in such a forum, Ireland would learn why it is vital to stand in solidarity with at-risk island nations, Vanuatu and the Maldives, who were first to suggest this crime to the International Criminal Court. Standing for this law helps us and nations everywhere tackle ecocide crime.

What can the proposal of the French Citizens’ Climate Convention change concretely?

French environmental lawyer and champion of ecocide law Valérie Cabanes

‘The fact that [French] citizens have taken hold of this text sends a very strong signal, because we have come out of a discussion between experts and elected officials. They are the voice of a popular will when it is formed on this type of subject. 

It’s incredible that these people from all walks of life and all regions – many of whom were not aware of ecological issues – voted 99% for the recognition of the crime of ecocide in France after nine months of training . They found this measure so important that they asked for it to go through a referendum.’

[…] It would be a paradigm shift, almost a cultural revolution. By recognising the crime of ecocide and that of the Earth’s ecological systems as subjects of law, we would recognise the principle of interdependence that binds us to the rest of life as a backbone of law, when today’s law does not recognise [anything other] than human.

Valérie Cabanes, Oct 4 2020

Growing global momentum for an international ecocide law in the last year.

[Images from the International Stop Ecocide campaign] A few weeks ago, French President Macron recently declared that Marseilles will host a global convention on biodiversity in 2021 – I expect with the overwhelming 99% support for domestic and international ecocide law at the recent French Citizens Assembly on Climate will give Macron a strong mandate to further broker international support for this law.

Greta Thunberg and other youth activists also wrote an open letter this summer to the EU parliament that ecocide law is now one of their key demands. Greta recently donated 100K to the Stop Ecocide International Campaign too. And a couple of days before I presented my new motion, the Belgian Greens succeeded in adding domestic and international ecocide law be explored in their new programme for government.

Pope Francis has shown much moral courage and leadership, when in late 2019 he also agreed ecocide should be a crime. A few weeks ago he welcomed a delegation from those involved in progressing ecocide crime awareness in France’s Citizens’ Assembly. He has spoken publicly that his ‘ecological conversion’ occurred after listening to Indigenous leaders who care and depend on remnants of biodiverse regions from the Amazon and Canada–this is an astonishing shift for the Catholic community (brought up as a Catholic until I was about 10, I’m still taking this in!)

And a couple of days ago, in a historic meeting of Indigenous leaders from around the world in Stockholm, the Indigenous Delegation for Mother Earth has whole-heartedly endorsed ecocide law.

Open Council: Ancestors and descendants calling for Ecocide Law with the Mother Earth Delegation

Recorded October 7, 2020  from Stockholm, Sweden

Advancing a motion on ecocide law at the 2020 Irish Green Convention

Long term readers of this blog will know that I have been a Green member for many years, and that I proposed a motion to support developing ecocide law in 2013. Back then, at the national Green convention in Galway, I was nervous as I knew many people had never heard of ecocide and I only had 5 mins to explain it –no pressure then 😉 But because Green Party’s across the world evolved on integrated ecosocial and peace values from the Earth Charter, I hoped they would readily understand it. They unanimously supported it 🙂

That was 7 years ago and sadly environmental discourse in Ireland is still relatively poor. So I was nervous all over again and this year, due to COVID-19, I knew I would be presenting my political motion at the first online Green Convention. I had all fingers crossed that my old Mac and rural broadband would behave.

As I knew that I only had three minutes to convey a relatively new legal concept to many, in my brief talk, I referred to the devastating news from the recent UN Convention on Biodiversity on the failure of international treaties to halt environmental degradation.

I also included some of powerful arguments that environmental lawyer, Polly Higgins advanced in her decade-long campaign to get an international law against ecocide crime recognised.

You can read the press statement here.

Here I am practising my talk last weekend ahead of the convention. (3min). Due to the hard work of convention organisers it was a professional and inspiring event – we were all able to participate and easily vote online – A minute after I spoke the votes indicated overwhelming support for my motion 🙂


Background to Changing the Rules of the Game: a new global law to protect the Earth

We know that the culprit is the dominant culture that has long prioritised profit before all else.

“We need to change the rules.”

Greta Thunberg, 2019

If you want to know more about ecocide law, the late lawyer and inspirational leader, co-founder of the international Stop Ecocide campaign, Polly Higgins (1968-2019), did much to communicate that extensive, life-limiting ecocides were being permitted by the norms of how we trade and conduct our commerce.

She realised that transnational corporations were acting above national law with impunity, or they budgeted monies for insignificant fines as a matter of course so they could continue their destructive ‘business-as-usual’. Polly understood their actions and lobbying were threatening millions now and in the future; their crimes could literally destabilise life as we know it.

The late environmental lawyer Polly Higgins who brought ecocide law back onto the international arena.
Polly’s arguments on how ecocide law would assist commerce and society are detailed in her book Earth is our Business -changing the rules of the game. 2012. Her earlier book Eradicating Ecocide won the Peoples’ Book Prize in 2011.

International ecocide law was proposed in the 1970s. What happened?

Polly and other legal researchers were surprised to find that a global law to recognise ecocide crime dated back to the first ever international environmental conference in Stockholm in 1972. Work on ecocide law continued into the 1990s; at that time, 50 out of 54 countries within the UN voted to have ecocide recognised as a missing serious crime against world peace. However, behind the scenes corporate lobbying from the USA, Great Britain, France and the Netherlands-all heavily involved in energy industries, convinced these countries’ politicians not to support an international ecocide law. The ecocide law slipped out of view and lay buried for another decade. All the while serious ecocides causing immense harm against life continued.

Polly worked tirelessly to bring international ecocide law back onto the international agenda. One of her important actions as a barrister was to organise a mock ecocide trial in the Supreme Court in London in 2011 to prove how such a law could work. Legal minds, many supporters and myself were convinced. In her books, her arguments of legal precedent on how an international ecocide law could help commerce and society move in a better direction, similarly to how 19th century British law made slavery illegal, are particularly powerful.

Why I’ve stood up for ecocide law in Ireland

“The recognition of the crime of ecocide would be a cultural revolution”

Valérie Cabanes, France’s leading ecocide lawyer

I presented this and the earlier 2013 motion to support international ecocide law because I had found through my ecological art practice, that there were no means to legally safeguard Hollywood forest into the future.

In my doctoral research around 2012 I found the term ‘ecocide’. To me, this word seemed to convey the life-limiting endgame of industrial monoculture, clearfell forestry- the forestry practices I critiqued in my ecoart practice. ‘Ecocide’ was coined by botanists who desperately tried to alert the world to the long-term horrors of the US military dropping thousands of tonnes of forest-killing poisons (like Agent Orange) over Vietnam’s densely forested lands in the late 60s. I was born then and my late father, serving as an non-combatant engineer with the NZ army in Vietnam, years later suffered a fatal condition associated with Agent Orange. This ecocide’s effect continues fifty years later; babies continue to be born with defects; flora and fauna are still affected too.

I’m not a politician but an ecological creative practitioner, researcher and educator.

Recently, I have begun to teach other creative professionals about ecoliteracy and ecological creative practice at Haumea Online. I share that ecological creative work is guided by an ethos to ‘serve life’!

I discuss how to advance a sustainable, just society that we will need to become fluent with expanded ecosocial values, like that of the Earth Charter (2000) (re-endorsed by UNESCO last year as the ethical framework for a sustainable, equitable, just and more beautiful era).

Right now, we urgently need to adopt holistic thinking to understand wellbeing must involve caring for ourselves, others and the wider community of life.

In my Haumea Online Ecoliteracy Courses for Creative Professionals I teach about the Earth Charter
Toward a Great Ethics Transition: The Earth Charter at Twenty
February 2020

A Great Transition must rise on core ethical values attuned to an interdependent world facing a common destiny. What are the elements of this foundation, and how do we build it? Read contributions from leading scientists, ethicists, spiritual leaders and more

To my course participants, I’ve discussed how situated ecosocial art practices, especially ones that involve learning and caring for a place, evolve both ecoliteracy and agency (soliphilia) to live well with life.

I shared how through my ecoart practice that once I found myself unexpectedly at a political convention, arguing for a global ecocide law, to remember my father and others, and to protect forests near and far. Some of my new course participants reflected back to me earlier this year how impressed they were with ecocide law campaign and the Earth Charter. Thanks to them, this rekindled my awareness that I could do more to advance awareness of the paradigm shift Earth Charter values and enforceable ecocide law. Like Greta, we must all do more to add our voice for urgent, radical change. There isn’t much time.

Postscript:

As a child growing up in Aotearoa New Zealand, the first book my mother bought me from the Penguin book club, was CS Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I loved Narnia and wondered at 10 why our world wasn’t the alive, wondrous place Narnia was. I wished I lived where animals, dogs, horses, birds, beavers and birds spoke and were free, where spirits protected trees and rivers -where human and nonhuman beings were equal.

Puddleglum’s stirring speech in CS Lewis beloved Silver Chair

Years later, I find I still agree with Puddleglum, the wise marsh wiggle who proclaimed:”I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can – even if there isn’t any Narnia.”

Living now in Ireland, the home of my Irish ancestors, I was to find Irish born Lewis’s Narnia stories’ values were inspired by Irish myth, classical philosophy and the values of Christian theology – such values inform the laws we live by. Lewis argued “No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.” How true!

So, last Sunday, which was coincidentally the feast day of St Francis, the patron saint of ecology, the poor and action, I stood for all beings futures, human, animal, forests and all. For Narnia and the free!


INTERNATIONAL PETITION:

Support making ECOCIDE an international crime here

Join the global movement of Earth Protectors and be part of the campaign for ecocide law
www.stopecocide.earth/become

Organisations can support ecocide law as well as individuals https://www.stopecocide.earth/partner-with-us


If you want to connect with Stop Ecocide & be the first to read about the progress of ecocide law – join the occasional mailing list

www.stopecocide.earth/mailing-list

You can support making ecocide law a reality – Talk about Ecocide Law in your networks and environmental groups.

Make it your mission to sign up your friends, your family, your colleagues – visit our website and take action now

www.stopecocide.earth/take-action-summary

Why is Ecocide Law important to us all?

Making ECOCIDE an international crime provides a solid foundation for ALL of this:

  • protecting biodiversity
  • slowing climate change
  • supporting indigenous rights
  • promoting green infrastructure
  • enabling sustainable development
  • safeguarding future generations

Making ECOCIDE an international crime provides a solid foundation for ALL of this:

  • protecting biodiversity
  • slowing climate change
  • supporting indigenous rights
  • promoting green infrastructure
  • enabling sustainable development
  • safeguarding future generations

Lots of people struggle to understand the process of amending international law to include ecocide as a crime

– this link explains the process simply and clearly ~ by video and text
https://www.stopecocide.earth/making-ecocide-a-crime

3 thoughts on “Further steps in Ireland to help end ecocide

  1. Cathy! I am delighted, chuffed and impressed with these news! Well done you! You are a compassionate warrior and I’m encouraged by knowing you and your work. There’s definitely plenty to celebrate for you today! Enjoy this achievement and this great step forward for species equality. Congratulations! I look forward to seeing you soon Paola

    On Fri, Oct 9, 2020 at 3:35 PM The Hollywood Forest Story : An Eco-Social Art Practice | Co. Carlow Ireland wrote:

    > Cathy Fitzgerald PhD | eco-social artist | educator | researcher posted: ” > Talking horses, Bree and Hwin and two children gallop, desperately trying > to get to Narnia where humans and nonhuman species are free and seen as > equal! Illustration by Mack for A Horse And His Boy, a book in the > Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. “” >

    Like

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