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notes on a small conifer plantation being transformed to a mixed species, permanent forest
Me with Polly Higgins, environmental lawyer and campaigner for making Ecocide the missing 5th international crime against peace. Polly’s talk was organised by Friends of the Earth and the Law Dept of Queen’s University, Belfast, 11 Feb 2014.
Ecocide, Earth rights and restorative justice: the three cornerstones of a growing international movement to establish new laws which protect both people and planet. The Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth10 was proposed by Polly Higgins in 2008 (as a Universal Declaration of the Planetary Rights).
‘The Ecocide Project: ‘Ecocide is the missing 5th Crime against Peace’ (2012)
A week ago I was in Belfast to hear environmental lawyer speak Polly Higgins speak about the urgent need for a law to make ecocide an internationally recognised crime. After Polly’s talk I was thrilled to meet with her – as some of you know I worked this time last year to present a motion at the Green Party of Ireland and Northern Ireland to support Polly’s growing international campaign to have Ecocide recognised as the missing 5th Crime Against Peace – it was unanimously supported. Polly had heard someone in Ireland had brought this into Ireland’s public arena via the Green Party and was thrilled to put a face to a name (she gave me an enormous hug and a friend snapped this picture straight after -thanks Jan!).
Even though I have read much of Polly’s work (and others working in this area) it was inspiring to hear her speak and particularly hear her answers to questions raised afterwards by the full house audience at the Great Hall in Queens’ University in Belfast. I expect many of you might think that looking at ecocide, even thinking about laws to prevent it, is very depressing and futile. However to be reminded again that much of the legal framework already exists – Ecocide is a recognised war-crime has been adopted by some nation states in peace-time since the 1970s. Vietnam for instance, as you might expect, has ecocide as a crime in its constitution since the Vietnam war as do some other post-Soviet countries (* see The Ecocide project paper at the end of this post). As I mentioned in my last post there are also ‘rights for nature’ groups developing across the world and a call for a new International Criminal Court for the Environment and Health.
Polly also spoke of the development of similar laws that made slavery and genocide internationally recognised crimes, the importance of firstly ‘naming’ such atrocities, as in the case with genocide, and how this shifted global norms to view these as firstly as unacceptable atrocities, then as crimes. She discussed that while the International Criminal Court has not eradicated genocide it has significantly decreased its occurrence and alerted the international community that this is a fundamental, punishable crime against peace.
It was also of great interest to hear the important difference between civic environmental policies and regulations like the Aarhus Convention that are slow and costly to effect and which in Polly’s opinion (and mine) are plainly not working to prevent ecocide. (more…)
“An INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT OF THE ENVIRONMENT AND HEALTH is the ultimate goal. To achieve this, a revision of the statutes of the International Criminal Court (Art 121, 122 and 123) is possible, by introducing environmental catastrophe as one of the Crimes against Humanity, allowing the prosecution of those responsible who acted with intent. This crime of environmental catastrophe would facilitate an effective international protection of ecosystems, in the spirit of civil law precedents established by the International Court of Justice (the Trail Case, the Corfu Channel Case);
from the new “Charter of Brussels for the creation of European and International Criminal Court of the Environment and Health“, 2014
This time last year I was thinking about putting forward a motion for the 2013 Green Party of Ireland and Northern Ireland annual convention to support a new international law to prohibit ecocide – the destruction of ecosystems by human activity (it was unanimously passed on 13 April 2013 in Galway). Such a law of ecocide would be an important step to hold corporate leaders and potentially even Heads of State legally accountable for ever accelerating rates of environmental destruction that is causing misery to peoples and non-human communities and leading to mounting ecological degradation across the Earth. With my motion I was trying to introduce these new ideas in a small way into Irish political discourse. While it may seem odd to imagine why an artist-forest dweller would be getting involved in new laws it has developed simply from my caring about the forest I live with and its future, and in turn, Ireland’s forests and the future of the natural world in general. Environmental lawyer championing this ecocide law, UK based lawyer Polly Higgins has said that a law against ecocide is fundamentally about ‘extending a legal duty care’ to nature. (more…)
Isn’t it magic! Our first Hollywood timber was used for a very special celebration on the longest day in 2013, a wedding just before Xmas at Kippure estate in the Wicklow Mountains (I bet none of you guessed this).
Conor Murphy making a few finishing touches with the Alaskan mill a couple of nights before the big day.
I was delighted to hear that our first Hollywood timber was used for the marriage service and vows, and later as a small stage for the wedding band for Conor Murphy and his bride Sinead O’Brian. If you remember I wrote in early December how Conor (in the wedding photo, he’s pictured to the right of Sinead) asked me for several of the largest logs from our 2nd thinning last January. Apparently there was great interest in the the timber stage from the guests.
When I received these pictures I was reading about artful action research and how we add meaning to our places and lives. Of course artfulness is not restricted to artists. Artist, educator and Green political thinker Joseph Beuys said it when he exclaimed that ‘we are all artists’ but Tolstoy I think really nails it:
We are accustomed to understand art to be only what we hear and see in theatres, concerts, and exhibitions, together with buildings, statues, poems and novels…(but) all human life is filled with works of art of every kind – from cradlesong, jest, mimicry, the ornamentation of houses, dress, and utensils, to church services, building monuments, and triumphal processions. It is all artistic activity.
- Leo Tolstoy, What is art? 1946
Congratulations to Conor and Sinead and thanks to groomsman and forester Sean Hoskins (pictured second on the left) for the photos and update. A simple wedding, Sean played the wedding march on the harmonica and said they ‘all made full use of the longest day’!!
PS this also brought back memories of our wedding too – our wedding party celebrations were in Hollywood of course, with our trees looking on. Nearly ten years ago already and how the trees have grown.