Eradicating Ecocide: A Review
Ecocide eradication, as both a concept and an institution of (enforceable) international (and local) application, is creating a popular stir of concern for its critics and enthusiasm for its supporters; respectively. It is going to get more serious as the ascendance of both its acceptance and the resistance to it unfolds. Acceptance often takes time, and resistance wears out with time, so that time will decide the fate of ecocide law as a legitimate institution.
The one main innovation of the book is the complete replacement of the concept of mitigation (market-driven sustainability) with the concept of eradication (legally protected responsibility) as an approach to saving the planet from lapsing into a moribund state. We present the mitigation approach to tackling ecocide as effete since it fosters deeply entrenched accommodation of the enslavement and exploitation of the planet by corporations, to serve the logic of economic justice and the imposed fetishes of the global market.
Higgins does not put profit to condemnation, but irresponsible profit is responsible profit preserves the natural state of the planet, while reckless profit kills the “living” planet. The author contends it is the “irresponsible” quest for profit that is “killing” the planet and sustainability approaches are suitable for “irresponsible” profit, hence creates a paradox. Only eradication approaches to preserving the planet by creatively introducing robust, binding and enforceable international laws that adequately criminalise ecocide using existing legal infrastructures to solve the problem. The other main innovation of the book is the formulation of ecocide as the 5th Crime Against Peace alongside genocide and others. The book is not short on innovation or rethinking.
As an economist, my main interests in the book are the economic possibilities and implications. Eradicating ecocide would require major industries (mainly oil and mining) to seize to function or even exist or find radically innovative ways of operating. The author takes the leap, considering the problem of ecocide upstream rather than downstream. Such a requirement is a notable affront to the very foundations of (mainstream and other) economics, e.g. the creation of wealth from natural resources; increasing utility (consumer satisfaction and producer profit); efficient allocation of scarce resources; the quest for ever-positive economic growth; the paramountcy of the resource-transforming firm in an economy; and the freedom of choice of agents to consume and produce as they will.
Inevitably, economists and corporate executives would defiantly resist or dismiss the provisions ecocide law as impractical or even absurd. Politicians and government officials would choose to do the same not only because of their alliance with corporations but also the resulting massive contraction in their tax base. However, there are a significant number of economists and growing who contend that the present approaches to economics and the economy are “pre-moribund“.
An economics that has become autoimmune to the existence of the systems it supports needs serious rethinking; a widely acknowledge necessity within the profession. Ecocide can play a significant role in such a rethink; Higgins reminds us of the Jevons Paradox as she articulates the overly dependence of the global economy on a finite fuel. Higgins also advocates and economics of abundance rather than an economics of scarcity. The book takes the radical step of suggesting the upstream-oriented formulation of (economic) governance of natural resources since they mainly derived the economic policy from the things of the downstream manifestations of activities, i.e. consumption and redistribution with production rendered almost implicit. The economics of ecocide might well focus and dominate research project in the future.
The author deftly abhors naivete about the strategies and tactics which corporate executives, politicians and government officials used to undermine or subvert existing laws, regulations and institutions established to protect the environment. Such is necessary to facilitate “irresponsible” profit and endeavours to provide a robust framework to eliminate such violations effectively. The author also furnishes us with significant evidence of the cost and evils of ecocide perpetrated against both the planet and people.
Essentially, the author advocates and provides a practical framework for the reconfiguration of international and local law so that it works as prescribed. Someone would prosecute adequately the perpetrators of ecocide according to their crimes; It will exact the punishment on culprits, not “fictitious persons” called corporations. From an institutional perspective, ecocide eradication law and regulation has the overwhelming potential to acquire the status of strong legitimacy and widespread expectation amongst everyday people. And perhaps citizens will unrelentingly demand it or even fight for it. Who would want to oppose the establishment of such an institution other than interest groups that have a lot of gain from perpetrating ecocide?
Eradicating ecocide is an interesting and informative read. It is unique because it is quite far “outside the box” i.e. distant enough to (1) provide the much-needed change to the appropriation and expropriation of the planet that is only possible by exploring and re-configuring well-protected [forbidden territories]. And (2) close enough to be practical and answer a genuine and essential need within a new, perhaps transforming paradigm.
In conclusion, the contents of Eradicating Ecocide perplexes because of its sheer simplicity, insight, and audacity. Whether the book provides a self-contained solution to the problem or not is debatable. Yet, it seeks to redress and will necessitate further works that culminate in a great solution to the same. This is something I and others would keenly like to see.