Is it Time to Charge People with Ecocide?

Our public officials, elected representatives, and business leaders could all be guilty of crimes against humanity. And it’s up to us what we want to do about it. Ecocide is the crime of mass destruction of the environment and everything that lives in it. Because it’s considered on par with things like genocide and torture, there’s been a push since the 1970s to put ecocide under the purview of the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

And while the ICC has yet to classify ecocide as a crime, there’s a growing body of evidence that suggests that it should do so, and do so soon. That’s because the world’s leading climate change organization, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has concluded that our fossil-fuel addiction is leading to an environmental destruction that could very possibly mean the end of industrial civilization - and possibly even much of the human race.

The IPCC’s newest report, a summary of which was released today after months of deliberation, paints a devastating picture of the future of our planet. Global warming, it says, will soon lead to a parade of horribles including the breakdown of global food systems, shrinking water resources, and an increase in violent conflict.

In many ways, the nightmare has already begun. A large factor in the “Arab Spring” – from Tunisia to Syria to Egypt - has been climate-change-induced drought radically driving up the price - and driving down the availability - of wheat and other foodstuffs. Hungry people rise up, and they’re doing it all around the world.

This is just the beginning. We could be seeing the same thing in the USA in the next year or three, as both the Midwest breadbasket and the California fruit and vegetable growing areas suffer under severe drought. Meanwhile, over 20 people just died in Washington State because of excessive rain. And let’s not forget the hundreds of thousands of people who have died over just the past few years from wildly-more-severe-than-normal storms, typhoons, hurricanes, and monsoons in places like the Philippines and Bangladesh.

The United States is the lead polluter - the biggest villain - in this morality play, in part because of our outsized per-capita carbon footprint, and in part because our political process has been so badly corrupted by the fossil fuel industry. You can thank Republican appointees on the US Supreme Court for much of this. Ever since Lewis Powell wrote his infamous memo calling for a business takeover of the judiciary, the Supreme Court - in cases from Buckley v. Valeo to Citizens United - has made it easier and easier for oil and coal barons to own American politicians.

Those politicians then introduce idiotic laws like the one that Oklahoma Congressman Jim Bridenstine is promoting that would force the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to pare down its climate change research. But the corruption of our political system by the fossil fuel industry has real world consequences outside of just a few bizarro bills sponsored by shills like Bridenstine.

As the days go by and Congress continues to delay or obstruct doing anything about global warming, we pass climate tipping points that are so severe that once we pass them, people and large parts of the environment die.

One of the most dangerous of these tipping points is the one associated with melting arctic sea ice and the possibility of tundra and seabed methane releases. If we don’t do something soon to stop this, it could lead to the Earth’s sixth mass extinction. At this point, charging people with ecocide needs to be in the discussion.

If the very real threat of an environmental apocalypse as brought up in the IPCC’s report doesn’t scare politicians into taking action, maybe the threat of prosecution in an international court will. Some people could call this extreme. But when the alternative is the destruction of much the world’s ecosystem, everything needs to be on the table. After all, the future of the planet - and of our species - is at stake.


chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 45 weeks ago

We could impose a cabon tax. The carbon corps would think it was worse than being convicted of a crime.

dianhow 8 years 45 weeks ago

GOP Credo " Money trumps enviormental issues ! Supreme Court believes Money speaks very loudly Corps are NOT Persons . Persons bleed, feel pain, have a heart ... Corps do neither

historywriter's picture
historywriter 8 years 45 weeks ago

There are hundreds of things we could do right now if we had the will and if Congress wasn't so shit-faced scared of Big Oil, Big Money, and all the other Big Corporations that own them. We could pass legislation to reduce emissions right now. Curious, most people do believe in global climate change but two-thirds don't think it's critical. What in hell will wake them up, if storms, droughts, hurricanes, tornadoes, forest fires, and hundreds and hundreds of other disasters--caused by humans--aren't doing it. Starvation? No water?

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 45 weeks ago

historywriter -- If they do not hear it on corporate media 5 times a day, it can't possibly be a problem of any significance. Have you noticed how many ads there are on TV by carbon corps. Exxon-Mobil ads are not even trying to sell a product.

ckrob's picture
ckrob 8 years 45 weeks ago

Why would a corps advertise profusely for something that the public has no choice but to buy for whatever they wish to charge? Answer: control of the media. Unfortunate events will be covered de minimus, forgotten quickly and puff pieces displayed without question. Political machinations such as ALEC will not be covered at all. Welcome to our brave new world. Democracy was pretty good 'til we gave it away.

Bob Hearns's picture
Bob Hearns 8 years 45 weeks ago

It is long past time . The reason why nothing has been done, is being done or will be done is that the Oil & Gas companies have the politicians in their back pocket. We know that. Until the public decides to vote for someone who will represent them and not Big Oil, it's business as usual. That just isn't going to happen anytime soon. No surprises here.

Anthony2's picture
Anthony2 8 years 45 weeks ago

Thom - With you 100% ... but! A recent Forbes article, that came up when googling climate change, said that climate change wasn't a real concern; wasn't a concern of most people; and wasn't considered a concern by the majority of scientists.

I realize (as I know you do) that this is the age of spin, POV, rendering data meaningless by making it say whatever you want it to - but maybe this issue of how you convince people that a certain situation (such as climate change) IS important, and refute those who completely negate the entire argument, using data that proves their point.

Because here's what happens - 7 billion people (including me) just turn it all off. We don't know WHO to believe - so we just tune out!

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 45 weeks ago

Anthony, Forbes is a classic example of who to ignore on the issue of climate change. What else can you expect from a rich boys' magazine?! They are concerned only with the interests of those very people who benefit from things like fracking, mining, pipelines, ad nauseam. They are not qualified to speak for the "majority of scientists" and cannot be trusted to deliver the facts. Figuring out who to believe is not as difficult as you seem to think it is. Much of it involves a process of elimination; tuning out all sources with any kind of vested interest in a toxic status quo. - Aliceinwonderland

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 8 years 45 weeks ago
Quote Thom Hartmann:Is It Time to Charge People with Ecocide?

Of course it is. It has always been so. And it should carry the maximum penalty. However, like Gun Control and Immigration Reform, now is not the time to focus on it. I was a little shocked and surprised that Thom not once mentioned the TPP in his article. I had to read it twice I was so shocked. Surely he is aware that any environmental legislation--domestic or foreign--would be instantly made null and void by TPP legislation. In fact, it is just such sound environmental backlash that the TPP is trying to overturn in the first place. For this reason, I say yes we need tougher environmental laws; however, first and foremost we must defeat the TPP.

If the TPP becomes the law of the land every other effort is a waste of time and we are doomed.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 45 weeks ago

DAnneMarc -- Just to be controversial. Every other signee to the TPP believes climate change is a signifcant threat. Do you think those other countries could overwhelm our oligarchs?

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 8 years 45 weeks ago
Quote chuckle8:DAnneMarc -- Just to be controversial. Every other signee to the TPP believes climate change is a signifcant threat. Do you think those other countries could overwhelm our oligarchs?

chuckle8 ~ That depends on the exact wording of the legislation, the ability of sovereign nations to control their own laws, and the ability of Corporations to control sovereign nations. As I understand the TPP is being negotiated largely in secrecy here in the US. Yet details have been released that this legislation would make our environmental legislation null and void. It would stand to reason that such facts may have been left out of debate in countries which took climate change far more seriously than we do. After all, it is such legislation in our country that threatens the bottom line of most Corporations the most. It is also such legislation that would do the most good for the planet. The real battleground for the TPP is here in the US.

It is not the other nations in the TPP that I fear "overwhelming our oligarchs." It is the new fascist order of Corporate authority that will emerge from the TPP that will.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 45 weeks ago

Marc, I agree. Totally. The TPP is the next level of fascism and it must be stopped. - AIW

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 8 years 45 weeks ago

Dan and AIW -- I was just wanting a sliver of hope.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 8 years 45 weeks ago

I hear ya, Chuck. If it was up to me instead of that corporatist asshole in the White House, you'd have plenty reason for hope, and more than just a sliver. - AIW

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