Explaining Ecocide

Types of Everyday Ecocide (1)

Ecocide is defined as the extensive damage to, destruction of or loss of ecosystem(s) of a given territory, whether by human agency or by other causes, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been or will be severely diminished.

The most obvious ecocides are deforestation, major pollution incidents, and devastation by weapons in war. More contestable ecocides are when destruction happens slowly, or with multiple causes, or by the unknowing will of its human inhabitants, or as a result of climate change. Underpinning this is what we might call ‘Everyday Ecocide‘, a culture rooted in paradigms that use and do not replenish nature.

The Stop Ecocide campaign for an international Ecocide law, to make it a crime to destroy Earth, has been driven by the late Polly Higgins. The word Ecocide is not commonly used or known, although it is recently gaining more currency. There is very little discussion in public discourse about the relative gravity of different acts of Ecocide.

It’s a common conception that to focus on defending nature is to neglect humanity. However, the UN’s 2019 report on the state of nature makes clear that humans are at risk from the depletion of biodiversity and healthy ecosystems.

An exercise

Step one: Establish understanding of Ecocide. Take turns to say what is your experience or understanding of the concept, and what you feel are the worst aspects of Ecocide. Use the diagram above to ensure that you consider Everyday Ecocide as well as more overt or deliberate acts.  

Step two: How can arts and culture, or your organisation, contribute to better public understanding of Ecocide?

Drawing on your shared understanding, work together in small groups to create an art object, story or project that would help people understand and think about Ecocide.

What next? What more could you do with this creative idea you’ve generated?