Corporate Eye

Book Review: Eradicating Ecocide

Polly Higgins headshot

There was absolutely no doubt in Polly Higgins’ mind as she mounted the makeshift dais at the book launch of “Eradicating Ecocide”.  There is only one way to deal with business executives whose companies are wilfully destructive of the environment: prison.

“We need the punishment to be incarceration,” she stated, referring to business leaders who commit Ecocide.  But what exactly is Ecocide and how do you commit it?

The book, “Eradicating Ecocide” gives you all the answers you need, and it does so in a measured and well argued way.  This is because its author, Polly Higgins (pictured), is a lawyer with a deep understanding and firm grasp of international environmental law.

So, the book isn’t another wild diatribe against business … rather it is an examination of international law and how environmental protection has somehow been left by the wayside.

In the process it points out various loopholes commercial interests may have got used to, and asks business leaders to examine them and ask some deeper questions about the meaning of responsible business.

Definition of Ecocide

Interference in an area’s political, territorial and sovereign self determination are all defined within the United Nations charters as crimes against peace.  These definitions include the concept of genocide, the deliberate extermination of a people in order to further political or commercial gain.  However, to deliberately sabotage the land those people rely upon is a far less clear cut issue, although the results can be just as devastating.

This, put simply, is Ecocide.

You need only to think of the ongoing debate surrounding the slow, lingering death oil pollution is causing in the Niger Delta to get the point.  Why should it be “Not OK” to massacre a culture because it stands in the way of commercial gain (like the imperialists of old) but “OK” to poison the environment upon which that culture relies?

The Sharp End of Ecocide

There is one argument that it is not up to companies per se to clean up the environmental devastation their operations cause, providing they provide sufficient funds and support to enable the civil authorities to affect the clean up on behalf of their citizens.  This is what lies at the heart of the Chevron/Ecuador dispute.

However “Eradicating Ecocide” goes one step beyond, seeking to bust what can be painted as a mitigation-orientated culture.  Instead of cleaning up the mess, why not just make creating the mess illegal in the first place?

That, coupled with the imprisonment of culpable executives, would change attitudes towards commercial pollution more radically than sustainability standards or voluntary measures, the book argues.

This is the way “small scale” environmental law is going, with more and more companies being fined more and more heavily for breaching waste and water regulations.  Why, the argument may come soon, should specific industries be targeted but general ones not?

The clock to ensure the Earth remains healthy enough to support humankind is already ticking.  This book asks everyone to re-examine the legal framework within which we are attempting to accomplish this, and provides business leaders with a golden opportunity of making it happen.

Eradicating Ecocide is available from Amazon and leading bookstores.

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A former CTO, Chris has a broad and varied background. He’s been involved with blue chips, consultancies & SMEs across a wide variety of sectors and has worked in Europe, the Middle East and Australia. In 2007 he decided to combine his knowledge of business and IT with his passion for all things sustainable and has been busy writing ever since. However, his greatest ambition remains to brew the perfect cup of coffee.