The business plan to stop ecocide | Juliette Jowit

From Global development | The Guardian Tue Dec 27 2011, 21:00:03

Nature is under constant attack from corporate forces. But Polly Higgins wants to find a capitalist to fight for the environment

William Wilberforce is popularly credited with the abolition of slavery. But the campaigners - far ahead of their time in their methods - had recognised the need for a major business figure to stand beside them and declare his (it was two centuries ago) support. That man was Charles Grant, chairman of the East India Company, which then controlled over half of world trade.

The British lawyer Polly Higgins often draws parallels between the campaign to outlaw slavery and her initiative - to abolish ecocide - the destruction of the natural world. Think poisoning a river, tropical deforestation, or the havoc wreaked by climate change. The comparison is not original but it is valid, concerning the protection of powerful business interests, the damage that they cause but often do not see, and the prevailing ideology that some people can have dominion over others or their environment without consequences.

Higgins's solution is also as simple as the outright outlawing of slavery: the campaign wants environmental destruction to be declared illegal by making it a fifth crime against peace in the international criminal court.

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