About Faith for Ecocide Law

Faith for Ecocide Law is an interreligious coalition gathering religious and spiritual leaders
and voices to express support for Ecocide Law.

Humanity is at the crossroads, and faith communities have a unique voice for the reverence for Mother Earth/the Creation, and the existential understanding of the relationship between humans and Nature. We are raising this voice in support of new rules for the protection of Nature at a global scale.

Faith for Ecocide Law aims at gathering religious and spiritual leaders and voices to express support for a powerful, concrete step to protect Nature: Ecocide law at the International Criminal Court. Also to spread awareness about the issue towards upcoming UN meetings on biodiversity (COP 15, Kunming, October), climate (COP 26, Glasgow, November) and especially Stockholm+50, June 2022, with the thematic focus on how we can redefine our relationship to nature. 

About the crime of Ecocide

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague is where the most serious crimes, of concern to the whole international community, are being addressed. The crimes prosecutable by the ICC are often referred to as the crimes against peace. ICC currently lists four crimes: Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity, War Crimes, and Crimes of Aggression. The Statute can be amended to add a fifth crime: Ecocide.

Ecocide means mass damage and destruction of ecosystems – harm to nature which is widespread, severe or systematic. ‘Eco’ derives from the Greek oikos meaning house or home and ‘cide’ – from the Latin caedere meaning strike down, demolish, kill. In other words ”killing our home”.  Making the worst cases of environmental destruction criminal on an international level imposes a duty of care on those with the power to make decisions that affect humanity as a whole. 

As humanity, we are in a position we have never been before. We are in the Anthropocene. We have an impact on the whole planetary system, and Nature is sending us warning after warning. Our collective actions are damaging to life on a global scale. Ecocide is happening every day. The climate is changing. Polar ice is melting and seas are rising. Every day, entire species are disappearing from the face of the Earth, never to return. Many of us have forgotten that we are not separate from Nature but a part of life on this planet, and that when we damage Nature, we damage ourselves. 

As humans, we have the ability to contemplate who we are and what we experience. The ecological crisis is an existential crisis, a crisis of understanding our place in the world. For thousands of years, faith traditions have provided humanity with narratives, to understand who we are. As people of faith, we embrace a worldview that includes those who came before us and those who will come after. Mother Earth, or the Creation, has always provided us with everything we need: air to breathe, water to drink and food to eat. We need to respect and protect the Earth for our home to remain hospitable, abundant and beautiful into the future. We have the choice now, to become healers, caretakers, and participants in the living whole. To shift the relationship between humanity and nature from harm to harmony.

As people of faith from all around the world, we demand a global response to prevent Ecocide. To live in peace with each other we must live in peace with the Earth. The rules of our societies are laws, and we can change them to protect the most vulnerable and that which is precious. In the Anthropocene a duty of care is required at the very highest level to protect the Earth. Ecocide must become a crime against peace at the International Criminal Court, among the other crimes of concern to the whole international community. 

Together we strive to end Ecocide and to heal the Earth. We are the temples, churches, pagodas, mosques, synagogues, cathedrals and sacred sites all around the world. With faith, hope, love and care for our common future!

Background

We are in the Anthropocene

As humanity, we are in a position we have never been before. We are in the Anthropocene. We have an impact on the whole planetary system, and Nature is sending us warning after warning. Our collective actions are damaging to life on a global scale. Ecocide is happening every day. The climate is changing. Polar ice is melting and seas are rising.  Every day, entire species are disappearing from the face of the Earth, never to return. Many of us have forgotten that we are not separate from Nature but a part of life on this planet, and that when we damage Nature, we damage ourselves. 

Humanity is at the crossroads. The human species has an impact on the whole planetary system. The development pattern we follow today, built on an extractive economy, is not applicable any more when we know that there are planetary boundaries and that we are transgressing those boundaries. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life on a global scale. 

The health of the ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. The most ambitious assessment of the global state of nature yet undertaken, by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) states that an average of around 25 percent of species in assessed animal and plant groups are threatened, implying that around 1 million species already face extinction, many within decades, unless action is taken. 

During the last decades, hundreds of conventions and treaties regarding the environment have been adopted, but the degradation of ecosystems continues at an increasing rate. The Convention on Biodiversity, where most of the states of the world cooperate for Nature, has missed all of its set targets. It is calling for a transformation in society’s relationship with Nature. Humans are totally dependent on healthy ecosystems for our fundamental needs. Thus, human rights, including the basic rights to life, health, food and water, are inextricably linked to Nature. Nature’s contributions to people affect almost every aspect of life and are essential to fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals; Nature is at the heart of sustainable development.

We can be healers

As humans, we have the ability to contemplate who we are and what we experience. The ecological crisis is an existential crisis, a crisis of understanding our place in the world. For thousands of years, faith traditions have provided humanity with narratives, to understand who we are. As people of faith, we embrace a worldview that includes those who came before us and those who will come after. Mother Earth, or the Creation, has always provided us with everything we need: air to breathe, water to drink and food to eat. We need to respect and protect the Earth for our home to remain hospitable, abundant and beautiful into the future. We have the choice now, to become healers, caretakers, and participants in the living whole. To shift the relationship between humanity and nature from harm to harmony.

Laws and regulations are built on ethical presumptions about what is good and bad. Faith traditions often provide the wells from which these values are coming. Values for the protection of the vulnerable are found in many traditions. And now our home, Mother Earth, is in need of protection too. 

Today’s laws do not protect Nature and they do not protect those who defend Nature. Ordinary people trying to protect their homes and livelihoods, standing up for the health of our planet, have their land violently grabbed to produce goods consumed across the world. More than four environmental defenders are murdered every week, with attacks driven by industries like mining, logging and agribusiness. Many more are threatened, arrested, forced from their lands or thrown in jail for opposing governments or companies seeking profit. Indigenous communities are facing disproportionate risks of violence, and simultaneously hold a key role in protecting biodiversity. Indigenous territories encompass up to 22 percent of the world’s land surface and they coincide with areas that hold 80 per cent of the planet’s biodiversity. 

An ever growing production and consumption doesn’t match with a finite world. Even if the gifts of the planet are sufficient for all, we face great injustices and a large gap between those who have and those who do not have. When we allow destruction of the biosphere we all share, it is the world’s poor people and future generations who will suffer most. As people of faith, we embrace a worldview that includes those who came before us and those who will come after. We need law to reflect and support this understanding, to protect the living whole on which we depend and to enable a transformation of society towards careful partnership with Nature instead of careless exploitation.

We need new rules to abide by

As people of faith from all around the world, we demand a global response to prevent Ecocide. To live in peace with each other we must live in peace with the Earth. The rules of our societies are laws, and we can change them to protect what is precious. In the Anthropocene we need a duty of care: law at the very highest level to protect the Earth. We need Ecocide to become a crime against peace at the International Criminal Court, among the other crimes of concern to the whole international community. 

The world is a living, sacred whole, not just a resource open to exploitation. In a global economy, we need global rules to protect the sacred. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague is where the most serious crimes, of concern to the whole international community, are being addressed. It has been in operation since 2002 and currently lists four crimes: Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity, War Crimes, and Crimes of Aggression. The Statute can be amended to add a fifth crime: Ecocide. 

Ecocide means mass damage and destruction of ecosystems – harm to nature which is widespread, severe or systematic. ‘Eco’ derives from the Greek oikos meaning house or home and ‘cide’ – from the Latin caedere meaning strike down, demolish, kill. In other words ”killing our home”. The crimes prosecutable by the ICC are often referred to as crimes against peace. Damage, destruction or loss of ecosystems leads to resource depletion, which in turn leads to conflict and ultimately war. Humanity has seen the importance of international laws to ensure that offenders are held accountable. The principle of ‘superior responsibility’ in international law holds those who are in a position of power responsible for their actions. It imposes a duty of care on people who make decisions that affect humanity as a whole. 

Over billions of years, life has evolved on the beautiful planet we inhabit. As humanity, we share this planet with each other and all other living beings. It is our only home. Today, when humanity is behind the steering wheel of the future, we need a shift towards a global understanding of respect and reverence for Mother Earth, or the Creation. We need law to support such a shift. As people of faith from all around the world, we call on our leaders to create a duty of care, by amending the Rome Statute with Ecocide as an international crime. 

Together we strive to end Ecocide and heal the Earth. We are the temples, churches, pagodas, mosques, synagogues, cathedrals and sacred sites all around the world. With faith, hope, love and care for our common future!

  1. Planetary boundaries: Guiding human development on a changing planet. 2015. Steffen et al. Science 347 (6223).
  2. IPBES (2019): Global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. E. S. Brondizio, J. Settele, S. Díaz, and H. T. Ngo (editors). IPBES secretariat, Bonn, Germany.
  3.  Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (2020) Global Biodiversity Outlook 5. Montreal. https://www.cbd.int/gbo/gbo5/publication/gbo-5-en.pdf
  4. UN Report A/75/161 Report of the Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, David R. Boyd. 2020. http://srenvironment.org/sites/default/files/Reports/2020/UNGA%20Healthy%20Biosphere%202020%20Final.pdf
  5. Global Witness. 2020. Defending tomorrow.
    UN report A/71/281. Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. 2016.
  6. Sobrevila, C 2008. The Role of Indigenous Peoples in Biodiversity Conservation. The World Bank. https://www.academia.edu/32205073/The_Role_of_Indigenous_Peoples_in_Biodiversity_Conservation_The_Natural_but_Often_Forgotten_Partners_THE_WORLD_BANK