Activists Push to Make Ecocide an International Crime

A new global movement aims to make the mass destruction and damage of ecosystems a prosecutable, international crime against peace, known as ecocide.

The Stop Ecocide movement is global. In the U.S., its chapter spent last week at the New York Climate Week event, as well as at the United Nations General Assembly. 

In New York, they met with dignitaries and marched from Foley Square to Battery Park in Manhattan in one of 450 strike demonstrations planned worldwide on September 23 as part of the Fridays for Future movement, which demands climate reparations and justice.

Stop Ecocide is urging American voters to cast ballots in the upcoming midterm elections in favor of candidates who are against things like deforestation and want to limit greenhouse gas emissions, which are some of the factors contributing to global warming and its effects. 

Climate change is wreaking havoc on the environment, including longer-lasting wildfires, more potent hurricanes, and coastal erosion.

Sitting at the top of the group’s list of demands is for countries worldwide to recognize ecocide as an offense against peace through the United Nation’s international criminal court. The offense would carry fines and even prison time. 

It is the same court that prosecutes genocides and wartime atrocities. 

Stop Ecocide has made it clear that the movement does not want to see every day, working-class car drivers or frequent airline passengers be charged as international criminals and hauled into the same court. 

What they want is an ecocide charge to be one of many tools used to try and rein in government-level policymakers whose agendas are exacerbating the climate crisis.

One such leader that has been identified as an ideal candidate to be prosecuted for ecocide is Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, because of the accelerated rate at which the Amazon rainforest has been destroyed under his administration. 

Bolsonaro’s list of efforts against the environment is long. He eliminated environmental protection programs meant to shield the Amazon, which absorbs greenhouse gases and is an important line of defense against global warming. He has also sought to open indigenous reservations and other protected lands to mining and agricultural business ventures, exacerbating harmful emissions.

About two dozen countries are estimated at this point to have expressed a recorded interest in the concept of classifying ecocide as an international crime, including the United Kingdom, Spain, Iceland, France, Mexico, and Chile.

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