Eradicating Ecocide as the next evolutionary leap
I have just met Polly Higgins, during the Findhorn Conference on Climate Change and Consciousness, alias CCC19. Polly Higgins, the ground-breaking lawyer who has called the world to Eradicate Ecocide by recognizing it as the 5th international crime against peace.
I “met” Polly in a strange way: she was speaking to us from the other side of Life. She passed away on Easter Sunday, on the first day of the conference. A sudden diagnosis of rampant cancer, 3 weeks earlier, had prevented Polly from being with us in person – she was meant to give a keynote speech on Thursday – and we were hoping to hear her via video-link despite her illness. She had been given 6 weeks to live. She went in 3. Instead of a live speech, we viewed a video interview of Polly with Kosha Joubert during The Power of Community Online summit, organized by the Global Ecovillage Network, last February. This beautiful woman in her prime, with large bright eyes and a deeply loving smile, radiated with humility her powerfully feminine commitment to “bring the Higher Law into human law.” “See you soon, in April, in Findhorn!” were her concluding words.
The mystery of presence… Polly was not with us in Findhorn and will never be with us as she had been before. And yet… she was more present – with each of us, in every minute of the conference – than she could ever have been had she still been “alive”. Charles Eisenstein, in his key note speech on Tuesday, shared with us some of Polly’s “magic”. “With her, you could never doubt that she was in service…” he testified. “And I think that still must be true – that on some level, her transition is into a greater service…because I know she wouldn’t give up half-way.”
Clare Dubois, founder of Tree Sisters, in a heart-full tribute to Polly, urged us, as we listened to her interview, to let “her into your hearts, let her passing touch you, because that’s the passing of the baton”. She invited us to open up our hands, to symbolically receive this baton that Polly is handing us in departing earlier than anyone expected. How could I not, with a full heart, open the palm of my hand?
I did not yet know the baton I was being handed, though, barely knowing Polly’s work. I just knew that I was being called to raise my game, to a level I had not dared to before.
And so, at the coffee break that followed the showing of her interview, I bought Polly’s book Earth is our Business – Changing the rules of the Game. I only needed to read the first page to recognize why I had been so touched by Polly: “In the eyes of the law, creating the crime of ecocide is not about closing the door to evil. It is in fact about protecting a higher value: the sacredness of life, all life.”
Similar words had come to me when writing the vision for Narayan, i.e. “change will only come from (…) reconnecting with the sacredness of life in all its forms”. But in passing the baton, Polly was challenging me to not just reconnect with, but actively protect this sacredness.
In her interview, Polly urged us to honour the “Sacred Trust” that binds us to the earth. A Sacred Trust that indigenous peoples know so well but that we have flouted, by forsaking our role of custodians of Nature for that of avid consumers.
I was even more profoundly inspired when reading how Polly places the recognition of ecocide as an international crime as the natural next step following the abolition of slavery and the declaration of genocide as an international crime against peace. “Before laws were made prohibiting both genocide and slavery, neither were illegal: in fact both generated profit for many parties. The prohibitions that followed did not mean that economies collapsed. New ones evolved and new ways were found. What was once the norm became overnight the exception. It was law that shifted societal norms. The law has a powerful force with can shape our world in ways that we can hardly comprehend.” (Earth is our Business, intro p. XII)
Polly’s words radiate light in the darkness of the scenario we are caught in. The scientific evidence is in our face: extinction rates are anything between 1000 to 10,000 times what they’re meant to be; wildlife populations have seen a 60% decrease since 1970[i]; over 1.3 billion square kilometers of forests have been decimated since 1990[ii]; 75 billion tons of fertile soil are being lost to land degradation and 12 million hectares of land are lost every year to desertification and drought[iii]; our oceans are becoming too acid as a result of excessive carbon, compromising life in the sea; the rise in global temperatures can only continue, drawing in their wake droughts, storms and floods, unless we take drastic actions by 2030[iv]. Not surprisingly, this is already leading to loss of human lives. After decades of decrease, the numbers of hungry people in the world are rising three years in a row, largely due to the effect of climate-related shocks and conflicts over rarified natural resources[v].
“Tell the truth!” rightly demand the protestors of Extinction Rebellion in London that were still gathering as we convened in Findhorn. “I want you to panic! Our house is on fire!” exclaims Greta Thunberg to the European Parliament. The emotions that prevailed in Findhorn’s Universal Hall, which hosted much of the CCC19 conference, were grief, guilt, anger and fear. Fear that humanity may not make it this time. Sadness to witness the destruction that is already taking place. “What future do we have? What legacy have you left us?” cried out the youth who were present.
Polly Higgins lays the way forward with brilliant simplicity: “A Law of Ecocide will close the door in one direction: only when we do that can we open another door in a completely different direction.” (Earth is our Business, p.24) “Utopia!” I hear some cry out. Really? Bolivia is already showing the way already with “The Law of Mother Earth”. Others can only follow.
Upon reading Polly’s words, I realized that what’s at stake today is not so much whether humanity will “make it” – after all, humans have lived on earth in times that were both significantly warmer and much colder (all be it less comfortably and certainly in much smaller numbers). It is above all an opportunity for us to make a leap in consciousness. We took an evolutionary step in the last century by recognizing the sacredness of all human life, regardless of race and gender. “It took the holocaust to drive in the new way of thinking that gassing humans was a crime.” Before “genocide was justified on self-interest and collective rationality, obscene as it may seem today,” Polly reminds us.
Today, we face a new form of mass destruction: “catastrophic corporate rationalism places self-interest and growth as justification for destruction of the environment.” And so now, we are given the opportunity to rise further, by affirming our oneness with all Life, expanding our reverence for the sacredness of life to all its expressions.
The question is how fast we do it, and how much destruction must take place before we take the actions that behove us. How rapidly can we make the shift not only from consumers to custodians, but to restorers[vi] of nature? Will we be passive onlookers – knowing but not listening – or active change-drivers?
I’ve often asked myself, “had I lived during the Second World War, would I have joined the resistance, or carried on my daily life, knowing but not listening to the whispers of the holocaust?” I am blessed not to live in a war-torn country, but maybe this is the war we are all called to fight. And Polly has woken me up. I will not just stand-by. I am joining the resistance – a resistance called “celebration of Life”.
Some ways of continuing in Polly’s footsteps…
· Sign up as an Earth Protector, on the new website recently launched by Polly: https://www.stopecocide.earth
· Engage politically: are our members of Parliament (nationally and, for Europeans, in Europe) making nature’s rights part of our legal systems? See eradicatingecocide.com how you can engage.
· Support one of the many NGOs protecting and restoring the environment.
· Reviewing my lifestyle: how can I protect the rights of Nature in my daily life?
Photograph by Ruth Davey (look-again.org)
* “Polly-nating” is a verb / play on words invented by Mama Visolela, an elder from Namibia, whose wisdom inspired us throughout the CCC19.
[i]WWF Living Planet Report, 2018.
[ii]FAO Forest statistics
[iii]UNCCD Global Land Outlook
[iv]IPCC Report 2018
[v]FAO State of Food Insecurity Report 2018.
[vi]In the words of Clare Dubois