Polly Higgins, lawyer who fought for recognition of 'ecocide', dies aged 50
22nd April 2019
A true friend to Rights of Mother Earth, we are deeply saddened by the death of Polly Higgins, a campaigner and barrister who attempted to create a law to criminalise ecological damage. This article, by Jonathan Watts, appeared on The Guardian web site
Image: David Levene/The Guardian
Polly Higgins, one of the most inspiring figures in the green movement, has died aged 50.
Higgins, a British barrister, led a decade-long campaign for “ecocide” to be recognised as a crime against humanity. She sold her house and gave up a high-paying job so she could dedicate herself to attempting to create a law that would make corporate executives and government ministers criminally liable for the damage they do to ecosystems.
Such a legal instrument could be a powerful tool for conservationists, climate campaigners and activists trying to stop air and water pollution, but earlier proposals for this to be included in the Rome statute on international crimes against humanity were dropped in 1996.
Ten years ago Higgins set out to revive the idea. She wrote a book, Eradicating Ecocide, lobbied the United Nations law commission, organised mock trials and established a trust fund for “Earth protectors”. Although the law has yet to be recognised, momentum is growing as a result of the ongoing climate crisis and growing evidence that major companies lobbied against policies that could protect people from pollution and other environmental harm.
On her organisation’s website, Higgins lamented the continued absence of a law that she believed would change the world. “There is a missing responsibility to protect … What is required is an expansion of our collective duty of care to protect the natural living world and all life. International ecocide crime is a law to protect the Earth.”