The recent fires in the Amazon rainforest, which is sometimes nicknamed the world's lungs because of its oversized role in global oxygen production, has given more attention to the idea that ecocide, like genocide, should be listed as a crime against humanity and prosecuted as such. This article from The New York Times looks at the history of the ecocide movement.
"There is no international crime today that can be used to neatly hold world leaders or corporate chief executives criminally responsible in peacetime for ecological catastrophes that result in the type of mass displacements and population wipeouts more commonly associated with war crimes. But environmentalists say the world should treat ecocide as a crime against humanity — like genocide — now that the imminent and long-term threats posed by a warming planet are coming into sharper focus. ... The first prominent call to outlaw ecocide was made in 1972 by Prime Minister Olof Palme of Sweden, who hosted the United Nations’ first major summit on the environment. In his keynote address at the conference, Mr. Palme argued that the world urgently needed a unified approach to safeguard the environment. “The air we breathe is not the property of any one nation, we share it,” he said. “The big oceans are not divided by national frontiers; they are our common property.” ... During the 1980s and 1990s, diplomats considered including ecocide as a grave crime as they debated the authorities of the International Criminal Court, which was primarily established to prosecute war crimes. But when the court’s founding document, known as the Rome Statute, went into force in 2002, language that would have criminalized large-scale environmental destruction had been stripped out at the insistence of major oil producing nations. ...
"Facing a cascade of international pressure and a boycott of some Brazilian exports, [Brazilian president Jair] Bolsonaro last month ordered a military operation to put out fires in the Amazon. But the government’s overriding message has been that the world’s angst about the Amazon is an unwelcome and unwarranted intrusion on Brazil’s sovereignty. ...
"In the best of cases, campaigners to outlaw ecocide say it would take a few years to muster the support they need to amend Rome Statute. But merely raising the profile of the debate over penalizing ecocide could go a long way toward shaping the risk assessment of corporations and world leaders who until now have regarded environmental disasters mainly as public relations nightmares."
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