County Sustainability Group An Opportunity to Meet ‘Earth’s Lawyer’


An Opportunity to Meet ‘Earth’s Lawyer’

polly higginsShe is widely known as ‘Earth’s Lawyer’. It’s a title that is richly deserved, because British  lawyer Pollly Higgins has dedicated her life to one client—the Earth—and founded the campaign to make Ecocide a crime. She is an inspirational speaker, lawyer, and a tireless activist.

On the 18th of February, Polly Higgins will be in Toronto for one night only. Polly Higgins will be speaking at Friends’ House in Toronto, Saturday, February 18 at 4:00 pm followed by potluck dinner at 6:00 pm. The event is free.

She has asked to meet faith, environmental, youth and political leaders to discuss how to make Earth law at the Earth Summit, Rio+20. From there, she will travel to Vancouver as part of her North American tour.

Higgins defines Ecocide 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."

Next June, Heads of State gathering in Rio for Earth Summit 2012 will be asked to endorse Ecocide, the environmental equivalent of genocide, as the 5th International Crime Against Peace alongside Genocide itself, Crimes Against Humanity, Crimes of Aggression and War Crimes. 

The aim of making Ecocide a crime is a way to achieve climate justice—ultimately to prevent environmental destruction happening in the first place. It is a feasible amendment to international law that could catapult global society into a sustainable future.

“Law can be an enormous lever for shifting consciousness,” says Polly. “Literally overnight, slavery went from being completely acceptable to being utterly unacceptable. So what happens with legislation is that everybody follows it—you realign people’s value system.”

In a mock trial in London’s Supreme Court last year, eminent lawyers showed how the Ecocide law would be applied to man-made ecocide. The trial tackled a case involving the Earth’s greatest ecocide, the Alberta Tar Sands. Tellingly, an independent jury found  corporate executives guilty of Ecocide.

Is the Ecocide law anti-business?  “Not at all,” says Higgins.

“When we look back in history, we can see that the ethical imperative ultimately always trumps the economic imperative—t he abolition of slavery, the civil rights movement, the prohibition of apartheid. All had one common thread: it was the recognition of the wrongness in and of itself that won the day. Martin Luther King was adamant that civil rights must never be argued on economic grounds: to do so was to objectify the value of black people. By putting a price on their services they became another commodity, which reverted them back to the days of slavery—as ‘things’ to be traded and used to bolster the economy and justify the right of business to determine society’s norms.”

“William Wilberforce argued the same 200 years previously. Wilberforce maintained that three primary steps had to be taken ....stop the wrong by outlawing it; remove the subsidies; and give new ones to the companies so they would create innovation in another direction. A direction that fostered life and wellbeing, not one that restricted and caused harm to life.”

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