This is such fantastic news that I can barely believe it! To be honest I feel a bit out of the loop because I was really involved in animal rights and anti-vivisection when I was younger but haven’t really looked into it for a while. I didn’t know the EU was even close to doing this but I’m absolutely thrilled that they are. Subjecting animals to basically torture merely for new cosmetics products is just plain wrong. I’m so happy I might have to go (cruelty-free) make-up shopping to celebrate!
My mum told me something recently that really made my day. Basically, she had been having a conversation with an old friend over email about Polly Higgins and her attempts to make ecocide a crime. My mother’s friend was commenting on how Polly’s books are printed on FSC certified paper… Now I wouldn’t blame you for mentally being all like ‘’well that’s good’’ – but his point was that FSC is apparently a stamp of crumbling and now dubious standards and post-consumer waste recycled paper would be more appropriate. I wasn’t aware of this but he says FSC’s standards have slipped so much that they now allow lots of unsustainable forestry practices and might even allow new plantations on ground recently cleared of rainforest to be certified. I’m really not clear on this at all and need to do some proper research before I can comment more on the topic.
However, my mum sent an email to Polly querying this and suggesting she use recycled paper for her publishing – whilst letting her know how much she admires her work and how inspiring she finds it. Her friend was cynical about Polly not wanting to do anything about it, but this is what made me happy… Her secretary emailed back promptly, thanking my mum for ‘’flagging up the issue’’ and saying that they’ve sourced where to get recycled paper printing and will be using it in the future, starting with they’re next print-run! In my mind this openness to improvement in green standards really shows their true ethical colours. My respect for Polly, which was already big, has grown. Immensely encouraging.
So my message to you today it… It’s worth a try! You never know how open people will be if you bring something up with them in a respectful way and point to a viable alternative. Of course, Polly Higgins is somebody who spends her time working on her own portion of the green agenda so it’s not at all surprising my mum got a positive reaction. You probably won’t get such a good response from Tesco if you send them a letter asking them to change one of their hundreds of unsustainable policies, but hey… This has inspired me and filled up my hope meter in terms of people’s reasonableness. Especially with smaller establishments, who’s to say some nice talking couldn’t swing things around? Nice talking, though. If you’re rude or disrespectful you just get people’s back up and cause extra division. Be polite, treat people like they’re intelligent and decent equals that aren’t so different from you (even if they aren’t and are) and you’ll get a hell of a better reaction. So get sending those emails! It’s worth a try.
I first read about Polly and her work in a Permaculture Magazine article about a year ago. Recently I watched this talk and I’m glad to see she’s still going strong. Her views make so much sense. Basically, she argues that to the list of international Crimes Against Peace like genocide and war crimes should be added one more – ecocide. This is the term she’s given to the extensive destruction of an ecosystem, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment of it by all inhabitants can no longer continue. (Inhabitants meaning human and non-human).
To me this sounds obvious at first glance – I mean yeah, massive wilful destruction of natural environments should be a crime. But it’s only when you actually really think about it and how it very much isn’t treated as a crime at the moment, that you realise the enormity of Polly’s undertaking. She’s campaigning for the Earth to have rights. That’s huge! She’s saying that not just people and not even just animals, but actual ecosystems have the right to existence. Wow, imagine if those rights were actually written into our laws. That’s what she’s working on. It’s a big task, but she’s been getting lots of media coverage and she’s hugely determined. Also she’s a trained lawyer herself and she’s already organised a mock trail which you can find out more about on her website. In the above talk she speaks of how she was thinking about the environmental destruction going on in the world and how she mused to herself ”the Earth needs a good lawyer…” and from there got to thinking about protecting the Earth in a court of law, and what legal tools she would use in it’s defence. She realised the tools were not there. The Earth does not have legal rights and damaging it is not a punishable crime. She says that ever since then she has been working to change this.
Her website is www.thisisecocide.com and has lots of information about her latest actions and what you can do to help. If the campaign really captures your interest, she’s even written two books, Eradicating Ecocide and Earth is our Business. If ecocide becomes a crime, then actual individuals will be able to be taken to court. For example, if a company causes destruction of a whole ecosystem, the CEO of that company will sit in the court room as a possible criminal. The far reaching effects of this are so big, just think about it.
You may think Polly’s aiming a bit far with all this, and it’s true that there are plenty of people in high places that will oppose it as it’ll effect a lot of corporate affairs and of course the all important ‘status quo’. But what’s the point of aiming low? Much better to aim high and make a big fuss, bursting through the cage of acceptability and allowing others to storm through the gap behind you, making it wider and wider until freedom is all around. Or something like that. My point is, I think Polly is an inspirational woman who’s got it going on and I’m right behind her.
As I’ve been reading about the Sustainable Development Conference outlined in my last post, I’ve been thinking that it seems almost too good to be true. I’ve read the Zero Draft document, and a report entitled Green Economies to Green Societies, plus information provided on the official website. They talk of creating green, equitable and inclusive societies, of how education is fundamental, of the importance of the world’s oceans, of creating a green economy, providing green jobs, holistic and long-sighted decision making…. The list goes on. When did the UN get so on the ball?
The optimist in me is jumping for joy, excited that this year is graced with such a fantastic and timely opportunity. Although their results aren’t always that impressive, international conferences and summits are tried and tested and what other options really are there for getting a bunch of nations to commit to something? That our world leaders are actually coming together to discuss how to get from here to a sustainable future, and then commit to actions to this end, is well worth celebrating. This could lead to binding legislation on all sorts of related issues, and give governments incentive to kick-start the kind of projects we desperately need. Even the fact that the official UN website for the conference is linking to organisations I respect such as Global Transition 2012 is so inspiring. All the discussion papers and issue briefs outline sound aims and reasonable ways of achieving them. I feel content knowing the powers that be are finally addressing the issues I spend so much of my time thinking about. This could be a real turning point.
But as great as it all sounds… A niggling devil-on-my-shoulder thinks it can’t really be this good. Perhaps it’s all green wash, something to keep environmentalists quiet while the guys at the top cackle and finance the slow death of civilisation. Well, that might be taking it a bit far, but there’s definitely a cynical part of me saying it’s naive to expect the outcome to be as good as I hope. Governments have a huge vested interest in business-as-usual after all. Change is hard, and the scale of change required may not do wonders for (short term) popularity and this matters a lot to politicians hoping to get elected in the next term. And what about the multinational corporations that so infamously pull the strings of these puppets, any way? Will Easy Jet and the oil companies be so happy about all this? Will they quietly go bankrupt without a fight? Surely governments won’t stop supporting them so soon… And will the banks really commit to an economy that is focused on the well-being of most people? In a more equal society, (which the Summit proposes) the distribution of wealth would of course be more equal. This is advocated in the report Green Economies to Green Societies, but does the rich really want to have less so that others can have more?
And the elusive Realist
The path of realism is tightrope-thin, between the vast lands of optimism and pessimism. It’s way harder to be realistic about Rio+20 than it is to get carried away or depressed. But of course, the reality will likely fall somewhere between the two. I truly think this Summit is an amazing opportunity, and I think it will play a major part in our eventual transition to a sustainable way of life. In fact, I think it’s a vital piece of the jigsaw. I don’t think it’ll be plain sailing, not by a long decree. It’s likely that some countries will be unwilling to give their political commitment. Of the ones that do, I don’t imagine for a minute they’ll be able to quickly turn their entire country to a sustainable one. But I think they will make some changes, and I think these will be important. Basically, I don’t think the UN Conference on Sustainable Development will be a miracle, but I think it will be a huge step in the right direction.
A small ending comment from the Optimist
Huge steps in the right direction are pretty good!
This June, there will be a United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Brazil. Also going by the names of “Rio+20″ and “Earth Summit 2012″, this will undoubtedly be a great milestone, an example of history unfolding around us as we speak. We can only hope it will have a more impressive outcome than the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Change Conference… I am remaining optimistic as times are moving fast and we have come a long way in the last couple of years after all.
The objectives of the Summit are as follows:
Securing Political Commitment to Sustainable Development
Assessing Progress Towards Internationally Agreed Commitments
- (Identifying?*) New and Emerging Challenges
And the themes are:
- Green Economy in the context of Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development
- Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development
* On the website it doesn’t include the word ‘identifying’… But ‘New and Emerging Challenges’ isn’t actually an objective and this was my best bet as to what they meant.
I absolutely recommend having a look at the Earth Summit 2012 website. It’s by Stakeholder Forum for a Sustainable Future, who are heavily involved in the organisation and facilitation of the conference . Also here’s the link to the official website of Rio+20. I’ve been reading about the Summit for the last few days and am really excited about the possibilities arising from this. I mean, of course governments don’t have to agree to things, and in many cases they won’t want to. But at least they’re being given the opportunity. The ground is being prepared, and the seeds planted.
I also think the fact that this Summit deals with the ‘Green Economy’ could inspire more action than a focus purely on reducing carbon emissions. Attention is being given to the three pillars of sustainability – environmental, social and economic. Environmentalists are often bashing governmental bodies for only caring about finance and disregarding the natural world. Social equality advocates are quick to point out that human suffering is also disgustingly widespread and that the capitalist-consumer culture that is trashing the planet does not even benefit most people. Perhaps conceding that, yes, economics does deserve a place on our agenda as well, will encourage said governments to be more reasonable. Perhaps it is really time to give economics a shake up. Business wields great power in our world, so rather than attempting to squash it we should be innovative and harness that power. Perhaps corporations working towards profit at all costs is outdated – and perhaps corporations making a profit while (or oh my god, even BY?) having a positive effect on surrounding communities and ecosystems is possible.
So as you can see, I’m very interested on what this Green Economy could be like, and I’ll write a post specifically looking at that soon. For now I’ll just add that the Global Transition 2012 website is also well worth a click. They’re an international network of leading thinkers, movers and shakers who advocate a global transition towards a sustainable future, focusing on Rio+20 and beyond. They have been publishing some very interesting discussion papers on issues such as the Green Economy as mentioned above.
So have a look and inform yourself! As an Earth Baby, this most definitely concerns you.
Last night I found out about something amazing.
It’s this international document called The Earth Charter. I feel it is most succinctly described by the official website:
The Earth Charter is a declaration of fundamental ethical principles for building a just, sustainable and peaceful global society in the 21st century.
The Earth Charter Initiative.
It actually made me cry with happiness to read something as bravely ethical as this. It’s formal and intelligent, but definitely readable – no legalese or anything. And the text is free to download in a plethora of languages, and it’s only like 3 pages long. The charter is divided up into four sections, which are labelled Respect and care for the community of life, Ecological Integrity, Economic and social justice, and Democracy, non-violence and peace. Each of these sections then contains several principles.
The Earth Charter has the support of over 4500 organisations from around the world, including many major internationals and governments. However at the moment it seems to be too radical for my own government’s endorsement…
What I like best about it is that it doesn’t focus solely on environmental issues but addresses social, cultural and economic issues as well. It is the moral framework for a sustainable and much happier future.
Here’s the link to The Earth Charter Initiative website – and you can read the whole document for free HERE.
Read it today and spread the word!
The South American country Bolivia is giving the Earth rights equal to those attributed to humans. Backed by politicians and environmental organisations, this radical milestone in law is set to trigger huge conservation efforts.
The indigenous culture of the country sees the planet Earth as a living entity, a deity called Pachamama – which is made up of all living things and ecosystems, not just the geological sphere. They are now reflecting that philosophy in national law. Parts of nature now have 11 rights, including the rights to exist, carry out cycles without human interruption, to clean air and water, and to be free from pollution and genetic modification.
Bolivia has a history of environmental damage caused by mining, as it is blessed with rich deposits of minerals such as tin, silver and gold. The new laws could pose dramatic financial problems for the country as they currently base a large part of their economy on the extraction and sale of these resources. With the new rights however, this activity could be liable for prosecution if it is deemed too destructive.
I’m not sure how Bolivia will deal with these issues, or indeed how they will put the laws into practise when it comes to actual trials. How can a forest be represented in court? They are certainly covering new ground here and as such are alone on the cutting edge. I hope they find ways to balance viable industry with environmental protection, and I most importantly hope the ideals behind these legal developments are upheld.