By Martin Davis
I used to think “Thou shallt not kill” the easiest of the 10 Commandments to obey. As a junior lawyer, to disobey would, I reflected, certainly have seen the end of my career, but I had few temptations to go about murdering people, and could for the most part resist driving dangerously.
When I started thinking of the 6th Commandment in wider terms, state-sponsored killing, it became a summons to join Christian CND: after all, weren’t we all complicit in our Government’s possession and threatened use of weapons of mass destruction?
Then came Silent Spring, and the original Christian Ecology Group, but still it was the threat of environmental degradation upon people that motivated me to join with others.
In 2002, there came into effect the Rome Statute, establishing the International Criminal Court (ICC): now individuals could be arraigned for genocide, war crimes etc. – but not criminal human activity that violated principles of environmental justice, known now as ecocide.
The campaign for ecocide to be added to the ICC’s remit has been spearheaded by the barrister, Polly Higgins, who tragically died on Easter Sunday. Polly not only sought to make it a criminal offence for people to cause environmental disasters, but also to introduce a duty of care upon all to mitigate or prevent naturally occurring disasters. The implications are wide reaching!
Until lately, the Church has not been seen at the forefront in stopping ecocide, but on 15th November, Pope Francis specifically called out ‘sins against ecology’. He cited “the massive contamination of air, land and water resources, the large-scale destruction of flora and fauna, and any action capable of producing an ecological disaster or destroying an ecosystem… By ‘ecocide’ we should understand the loss, damage or destruction of ecosystems of a given territory, so that its enjoyment by the inhabitants has been or may be severely affected.”
And Francis appealed for “ecocide” to be recognised as a distinct crime against peace at the international level. See also the press release about this from Stop Ecocide.