Just as genocide has become the norm in international law, it is time to make war on nature a prosecutable crime also.

At the end of last year while the world was focused on the Corona virus a panel of experts in international law met to draw up a recognised legal definition of ecocide, which in the long term will prove to be infinitely more harmful to human civilisation than the Corona virus.

Ecocide, broadly defined, means the deliberate destruction of nature and global ecosystems by human activity – climate breakdown and the damage it has already done, and will cause in the future, being the most obvious example.

The panel’s aim is to make the deliberate destruction of the natural world a legally enforceable crime, and ultimately add ecocide to the other four already existing international offences in international criminal law: genocide, war crimes, crimes of aggression, and crimes against humanity.

For years ecocide has been regarded by some as too abstract, and potentially unenforceable. But as the evidence mounts up around us – witness the record breaking Australian and California bush fires last year, and the even more incredible record breaking high of 38C in Siberia last summer – making ecocide a crime begins to make more sense, both legally and morally.

Just as importantly, in the long run it will make good economic sense, because without a liveable and healthy biosphere – the region of the earth where all life exists, from the bottom of the oceans to where the atmosphere meets space – economic and social life will struggle to exist in ways we have known in the past. For many this is already a lived reality.

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