Florence Mumba, a former judge of the International Criminal Court, is working hard to make ecological destruction a criminal act. Mumba and a whole team of international lawyers are focusing on getting legal definitions for ecocide and want to eventually charge people, governments, and corporations that commit massive ecological destruction. Small islands nations facing extinction due to climate change have called for this before, and so it’s really good to see that there is a concerted effort to put into international law the protection of our planet.
Sands said: “The time is right to harness the power of international criminal law to protect our global environment … My hope is that this group will be able to … forge a definition that is practical, effective and sustainable, and that might attract support to allow an amendment to the ICC statute to be made.”
Mumba, a judge at the Khmer Rouge tribunal and former supreme court judge in Zambia, said: “An international crime of ecocide may be important in that individual/state responsibility may be regulated to achieve balance for the survival of both humanity and nature.”
Jojo Mehta, the chair of the Stop Ecocide Foundation, told the Guardian: “In most cases ecocide is likely to be a corporate crime. Criminalising something at the ICC means that nations that have ratified it have to incorporate it into their own national legislation.
“That means there would be lots of options for prosecuting [offending corporations] around the world.”
Nations around the world have been putting more and more environmental protection laws on the books. This has been good to see. However, with many new things it takes awhile for people to get used to them, accordingly the enforcement of these laws has been lax. This means that if want to stop corporations from causing massive environmental we need to actually enforce the law, thankfully this is easier than it might sound.
“It really is something that all countries share,” Carl Bruch, the director of International Programs at the Environmental Law Institute and one of the authors of the report, said in a phone interview. “We do have a lot of environmental laws that are on that books that could be so much more effective if they were actually fully implemented.”
On the justice front, sometimes a lack of proper training and education for judges can disrupt the systems in place to enforce environmental law. In Ecuador, for example, a non-government organization sued to prevent a pine tree plantation from being erected in a native grassland ecosystem. But the judge, unaware of Ecuador’s constitutional provisions that allow anybody to bring forward a suit in protection of the environment, dismissed the case and allowed the plantation to be built, the UN report noted.
When someone breaks the law or acts out in a transgressive manner we often turn to punishment to correct their behaviour. We do this in families and as a society, but is it right? If take a moment to look at the roots of modern punishment we might conclude that it’s best to try something else.
One answer is that punishment evolved to promote the greater good and prevent tragedies of the commons. This is the altruistic approach. Yes, punishment might be costly for the punisher, but (so the theory goes) it generates downstream benefits for others – stabilising cooperation, enforcing just rules, deterring freeriders. Punishment is probably essential for maintaining and enforcing norms, laws and customs. Yet its origins appear to trace back to a time before robust human societies, perhaps even before we had language to articulate the rules. Recent research has identified contexts where dominant chimps seem to punish freeloaders. So perhaps punishment preceded the benefits it generates.
So far in 2018 a car driver has killed a person every week; if this continues Toronto will see yet another year in which more people die from vehicles than guns. Automobile advocates argue that it’s the victim’s fault for dying and demand stricter punishment for trivial things like jaywalking. Clearly, the debate in Canada needs to change. In America the situation is worse, the pro-car (and historically pro-wealth) policies around pedestrians for walking are being used for reasons beyond protecting drivers from hitting flesh. Sadly, in the USA jaywalking is used by police to target minority populations – and people are already working to change this.
The solutions is clear: don’t let trivial issues like jaywalking be policed the way they are today.
Jaywalking is a trivial crime, one that virtually every person has committed multiple times in their life. This makes it susceptible to arbitrary enforcement. Sacramento’s black residents are five times more likely to receive a jaywalking citation than their non-black neighbors. Seattle police handed out 28 percent of jaywalking citations from 2010 to 2016 to black pedestrians, who only make up 7 percent of the city’s population.
Eliminating jaywalking and similar offenses won’t lead to anarchy on American roads. It’s not illegal in countries like the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, for example, and both countries enjoy markedly fewer traffic fatalities than the United States. It’s not clear how much money flows into state coffers from pedestrian tickets, but it’s likely far less than traffic tickets for drivers. Any lost income may also be offset by the savings for police departments. Fewer unnecessary contacts between officers and citizens means fewer costly lawsuits and officer dismissals.