[P2P-F] Fwd: Against Ecocide (GTN Discussion)

Michel Bauwens michelsub2004 at gmail.com
Sun Jul 31 09:28:14 CEST 2016

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Great Transition Network <gtnetwork at greattransition.org>
Date: Fri, Jul 29, 2016 at 8:33 PM
Subject: Against Ecocide (GTN Discussion)
To: michelsub2004 at gmail.com

>From Yogi Hendlin <musicalyogi at gmail.com>

[Moderator's Note: Thank you for the stimulating discussion so far. The
discussion will be ending on Sunday. If you'd like to comment, make sure to
do so soon!]

Femke Wijdekop’s unpacking of ecocide doesn’t mince words. Wijdekop
importantly identifies decommodifying nature as property which can be
lawfully abused without censure to be a central step in divesting from the
eco-colonial mindset.

The unspoken premise of the essay revolves around an optimistic view of the
power of international law. One line of argument might ask critically: why
include ecocide as a fifth crime against peace if the previous four crimes
against peace (genocide, crimes of aggression, crimes against humanity, and
war crimes) have been spottily applied at best? In fact, some have argued
that bringing to justice crimes against peace only works against poor,
marginalized countries, granting countries that may deserve judgment—e.g.,
for torture, militarism, suppression, or censure—immunity from prosecution
from such crimes if their international clout is sufficient (cf. Frieze
2013). This cynical attitude would cast doubt the efficacy of including
ecocide, because many of the worst offenders, either directly or through
the corporations based in their countries, are the same global powers—e.g.,
China, Canada, the USA—upholding and underpinning the international order.

As Wijdekop observes, some of the most egregious polluters, have refused to
sign-on to the International Climate Convention. The climate change paradox
of powerful states playing “you first” games to shirk responsibility has
got to stop. The question is how?

One possibility Wijdekop notes is creating the real threat of legal
retribution instantiating ecocide would exert. Such a law may discourage
would-be polluters from the most ecologically egregious violations, while
helping us reconfigure our juridical as well as our social relationship
with the natural world. Just as genocide worked as a legal heuristic to
fundamentally change how violence against a group of people was
categorized, it also had the effect of rehabilitating the status of that
group as deserving of respect in the international lens. Ecocide could have
a similar heuristic effect, reminding us of the pertinent planetary
question: how much destruction of our biosphere constitutes too much?

Wijdekop’s analogy of outlawing ecocide with the abolition of slavery
bridges the instrumental definition of nonhuman life as mere property or
resource to one of acknowledged agency, self-creation, and autonomy
deserving respect and protection for its own sake rather than merely in
regard for the goods nonhumans and their habitats provide us.

The concept of ecocide—in this current legal parley, at least—requires
further development. Ecuador (2008) and Bolivia (2009) already have
enshrined “Rights of Nature” (Los Derechos de la Naturaleza) in their
constitutions. Yet, after many years of the international community failing
to make good on their promised $3.6 billion funds the Correa government
negotiated to create the UN-administered Yasuni Initiative that would have
kept the discovered oil permanently untouched, even the Derechos de la
Naturaleza did not prevent the Ecuadorian government from going ahead and
drilling oil in biodiverse indigenous rainforest. The efficacy of such a
concept as ecocide, which in a sense is the negative framing of Derechos de
la Naturaleza, remains tenuous when the exigencies of lucre call.

Support of instantiating and enforcing an ecocide statute in international
law will likely ebb and flow with the fate of economies; as well as the
beneficence and self-reflexivity of the international community. Without
simultaneously plaiting ecological considerations and practices into every
aspect of our international legal system, we engage in what political
theorist Nancy Fraser (1997) calls “affirmative” recognition rather than
“transformational” recognition. That is, we affirm that yes, there exist
obscene and unconscionable limits to environmental depredation; without
transforming business as usual and our self-conception as a species to
viscerally understand that when we significantly harm the natural world, we
harm ourselves.

Yes, we should include ecocide as a venal sin against humanity and nature.
To make this feasible, however, we must also imbue these principles in the
preexisting crimes against peace and throughout our common norms.

Fraser, Nancy. 1997. Justice Interruptus: Critical Reflections on the
“Postsocialist” Condition. New York: Routledge.

Frieze, Donna-Lee (ed.). 2013. Totally Unofficial: The Autobiography of
Raphael Lemkin. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Yogi Hale Hendlin
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Department of Medicine
University of California, San Francisco


Friday, July 1, 2016

>From Paul Raskin

Dear GTN:

Our JULY discussion will approach GTI’s overarching theme – shaping a
civilized planetary future – from a fresh angle: the legal effort now
gaining traction to criminalize the wanton destruction of nature.

Femke Wijdekop takes this on in a new Viewpoint, “Against Ecocide: Legal
Protection for Earth.” Femke introduces the idea of the “rights of nature”
and the history of the concept of “ecocide.” However, her primary focus is
on action, specifically, the movement to add ecocide as a crime against
peace under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.

Expanding the juridical architecture for protecting rights will surely be a
vital prong in the systemic movement we so urgently need. But to what
degree can it succeed in isolation? And what is the larger role of law and
legal activism in a Great Transition?

Please read Femke’s short piece at
www.greattransition.org/publication/against-ecocide and weigh in with your
thoughts. It will be published in August, along with selected comments
drawn from the forthcoming discussion

Comments are welcome through JULY 31.

Looking forward,
Paul Raskin

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