OPINION: Make Ecocide an international crime alongside genocide

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OPINION: Make Ecocide an international crime alongside genocide

Ashley Phillips, an activist for Art for Ecocide Law, reflects on his participation at COP27 where he focused on compelling companies to sign up to ocean sustainability.

Ashley Phillips at Sharm-el-Sheikh
Ashley Phillips at Sharm-el-Sheikh

“The world is watching and has a simple message: stand and deliver,” were the parting words from UN Secretary-General António Guterres in his closing speech at COP27 in Egypt last week.

I was reminded of Adam Ant’s first number 1 hit in 1981. ‘Stand and deliver, your money or your life!’ I was nine years old then. Now, 41 years later, what does it mean to be Jewish, to be told to “stand and deliver” by the head of the United Nations?

I heard it as a #CallToAction, to me personally and to all humans.

I often make a joke about being the “ish” bit of Jewish. There are no other religions that you can be “ish”, sort of, kind of, but if you are Jewish, it feels like you can take any bits of culture, religion, tradition, community, faith, food, festivals you want and make your own version.

In 2017 a good friend persuaded me to attend a regular study group looking at Zohar and I was touched, moved and inspired to learn that the cornerstones of the Zohar (precursor to the Kabbalah and Judaism) was Tik’un O’lum: Heal the Earth and Tik’un Ha’nefesh: heal our souls.

I finally had found my connection to the “ish” – and I wanted to know why this wasn’t being adopted and acted on more widely in the community. This is our thing, and it is so needed right now! That ancient Jewish cornerstone is #trending! I have spent my life trying to mend the earth and educate, inspire and empower others to do the same. Mother Earth became my ‘god’. I have worked in the field of sustainability, education, and creativity for 30 years.

I’ve just returned from COP27 as a participant at @OceanicGlobal, the Ocean X climate conference as the newest Oceanic Global, Blue Standard consultant, working on certifying companies with regard to ocean sustainability. I spent time with some of the most inspiring people at the heart of the ocean and climate Emergency movement.

Ashley Phillips

It remains to be seen how governments actually carry through on promises made at COP27 (for example with respect to the newly announced loss & damage fund). But one emerging strand that felt powerful and timely and that I’m proud to be a part of was the growing number of voices calling for the recognition of “ecocide” or mass damage to nature as an international crime.

With the right legal boundaries in place to prevent the devastating damage we know must be avoided, it will surely galvanise politicians and CEOs to start making sustainable decisions.

In one of the events, we were asked “what does sustainable leadership look like?” I said we need radical action now and that the #UNFCCC should only allow countries that sign up to making #ECOCIDE the #5thInternationalCrime before June 2023 be allowed to attend COP28 Dubai.

While this condition – regrettably – may not be set, what we saw at COP27 was a major snowballing of interest, with strong calls from youth, faith and even investment networks – all of them asking governments to put ecocide law in place.

Making ECOCIDE an international crime alongside genocide and crimes against humanity will be the most effective international trim-tab – that’s the small part that turns the rudder of a huge ship! This international criminal law could turn our planetary ship around and protect the #Earth (Gaia, Mother Earth). It’s a #nobrainer and will rapidly start to create a paradigm shift in our thinking about our responsibility to the living world. And more and more countries are talking about it now.

Rabbi Allen, the head of Jewish Climate Action Network which believes dealing with climate change is the ultimate tikkun olam says, “dealing with the human existential crisis of global climate change is our ultimate task of tikkun olam, repairing of the world, for which we are all responsible.”

The organisation’s ‘About Us’ page says: “if we cannot slow climate change, limit its eventual scope, and preserve the liveablity of this Earth for generations to come, then nothing else matters.”

The late Polly Higgins (1968-2019), co-founder of Stop Ecocide, once interviewed the head of a major bank, asking him why the bank continued to fund harmful practices. He replied simply “it’s not a crime”. Clearly, it’s time to make it one. Then maybe we will be able to stand and deliver.

1. Please sign the international petition here to make ecocide the 5th international crime
2. Sign up to the business open letter https://www.stopecocide.earth/business
3. Join Ashley and get involved by creating public art all around the world to educate, inspire and empower everyone about ecocide #StopEcocide #AfEL #ArtForEcocideLaw https://linktr.ee/ashleyphillips.art

• Ashley Phillips is an art activist for Art for Ecocide Law, which connects artists, creatives and anyone wishing to use their creativity to amplify and support the growing movement to make ecocide an international crime.

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