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The Gap Year Blog

Ecocide: The Biggest Crime You Didn't Know About

28 Aug 2019 17:10 PM

Ecocide is the “loss or damage to, or destruction of ecosystem(s) of a given territory(ies), such that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants has been or will be severely diminished.” Throughout history – and particularly within the last decade – there have been many instances of the natural world being exploited and destroyed in a multitude of ways for economic and political gain.

It is no surprise to most that these things are happening: every other month a species becomes extinct; and the seasons aren’t like they were when we were young. However, the majority appears to have an apathetic resignation to climate change, treating it as irreversible and inevitable. It’s easy to become disheartened by climate change, but the attitude that we are helpless to change this is incredibly harmful.

Whilst not everyone will buy themselves a bamboo toothbrush, most people feel a connection to nature. The outcry over the proposal of the HS2 is proof of the desire people have to protect their wildlife. So why do we allow a few perpetrators destroy our planet?

Perhaps it is not actually apathy towards the issue, but the way we view climate change that is the problem. We tend to view it as a tragically inevitable by-product of our society, rather than as a crime and offence done to us by those in power. But if we stop viewing politicians like Bolsonaro or companies like BP as ‘unethical’ and selfish, and start viewing them as active criminals, our response will change from one of powerless apathy to righteous anger and activism.


Ecocide Law is a movement dedicated towards having Ecocide placed on the Rome Statute. The Rome Statute is essentially made up of four core international laws, which all countries must answer to and are considered grievous world crimes. The current four are:

The crime of Genocide

- Crimes against Humanity 

-War Crimes

- The Crime of Aggression

However, barrister Polly Higgins discovered in her research that the ICC (International Criminal Court) had originally ruled Ecocide as an atrocity crime; however, it was removed from the list. As a result, Ecocide is the ‘missing’ law from the Rome Statute; therefore, people are campaigning to put it back on the list.

If Ecocide became international criminal law, the effects would undeniably alter the way the powerful interact with the environment, as individuals would be held accountable for crimes against nature.


So what? Not everyone cares about Mother Nature. But a crime against the planet is a crime against those who inhabit it. For every car that fumes and for every tree that is cut down, our air quality becomes poorer and we become sicker. The world hangs in a delicate balance – held together by the ecosystem that feeds us and keeps us alive - and when that balance is thrown off, all the little interconnected pieces that make up our world and society get thrown off course with it.

Asides from the obvious effects of climate change being a crime against humanity, the behaviour of large corporations should be held accountable. ecocidelaw.com states that 100 companies are the source of 71% of the world’s carbon emissions and have been since 1988. Companies like Shell are criminally contributing to the future hellscape of the environment and are making decisions and actions that have a devastating impact on us all.

As consumers, we are often at the mercy of large corporations, yet the onus is placed on us to reduce our own carbon footprint. But it can be relatively expensive to adapt our own lifestyles to become eco-friendlier; and for those with busy lives, or low income, it can seem impossible to become vegan or to spend £8.99 on a sustainable toothbrush rather than 49p for a plastic one. Therefore, whilst we should all do as best we can, it is the powerful few that can affect change that will make these sustainable choices in our own lives more achievable, affordable and accessible. For example, why do supermarkets insist on excessive packaging for items like fruit which don’t need them? And why is so much of that packaging unrecyclable?

Trying to be an environmentally conscious consumer is infuriating. Businesses, politicians and corporations who have such power and control over people’s daily decisions regarding the environment should be making decisions on a wider scale on our behalf to not only benefit us but the environment – such as changing packaging policies, sourcing materials and manufacturing processes. Or, if the few are promoting and employing harmful practices that contribute towards Ecocide, they should be held accountable for this, as they have a responsibility to use their power and influence well on our behalf


It is easy to feel small against fossil-fuel giants, politicians and supermarket chains who are far more responsible for launching our planet into irreversible chaos than we are. But all is not lost!

Remember when plastic bags were free and food deliveries would arrive with half-packed bags full? In 2015, the 5p bag charge was introduced, which has now seen an 86% decrease in plastic bag sales in major retailers since it was introduced, in turn taking 13 million plastic bags out of circulation. Whilst plastic bags won’t disappear (or decompose for 1000 years!), at least the problem is massively reduced. And in this current climate where waste-conscious consumers are realising their power, supermarkets like Waitrose are adapting, rolling out compostable grocery bags and packaging-free schemes. When you feel powerless to make change, remember that businesses cannot exist without their customers. It is slow, but if enough people speak up and make a fuss, companies cannot afford to ignore them.

But boycotting your local supermarket isn’t your only option. Signing petitions, raising awareness and empathy amongst people you know and are close to is a great start. Awareness and education are key – even watching YouTube videos on ‘How It’s Made’ can be really enlightening as to many manufacturing processes. Moreover, supporting and promoting causes like Ecocide Law are so important in ensuring those responsible for harming the world won’t get away with it. After all, if everyone sits back and thinks that their signature or their donation won’t make a difference, then of course it won’t. Condemn the villains and start believing in Ecocide as a crime against yourself as well as your planet – because thousands of Bolsonara’s will get away with it, if it’s not for us meddling kids!

By Genevieve Tomes - Online Journalism Intern

Frontier runs terrestrial & marine conservationcommunityteaching and adventure projects in over 50 countries - join us and explore the world!