"A group of people were travelling in a boat. One of them takes a drill and
begins to bore a hole. The others ask, 'why are you doing this?' The person
replied, 'why are you concerned? Am I not drilling under my own place?' The rest
reply, 'but you will flood the boat for all of us!' Imagine being a passenger on
this boat." We are all passengers in a boat "Earth", where one wrong action
by one can result into serious repercussions for all.
This catastrophic damage can be prevented only by putting in a collective
effort. Ecocide Law is the collective effort of the global legal community for
protecting the environment. It aims to make environmental wrong a crime within
the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
If successfully added, it will become the fifth international crime along with
genocide, crime against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression. Ecocide
is defined as "unlawful or wanton acts committed with knowledge that there is a
substantial likelihood of severe and either widespread or long-term damage to
the environment being caused by those acts." The endeavour is propped up by
religious leaders. The article is a study of the position of religious leaders
on the issue of Ecocide Law.
Defining Ecocide as "green crime", Swami Chidanand Saraswati, president and
spiritual head of Parmarth Niketan Ashram, is of the view that declaring ecocide
an international crime would be a progressive step towards protecting
environment. He considers it the need of the hour. Describing Earth as mother
and people as its children he compares ecocide with suicide and genocide. He
points out that the children are automatically harmed when the mother is harmed.
According to him, Hinduism is based on the principle of "world as one family"
and includes all living beings. Hence, the human beings are merely custodians
and not master of nature. On the basis of dharma, as mentioned in the Hindu
scripts, he believes that supporting international law in the face of ecological
crisis is a dharmic duty of every Hindu.
Although Buddhists are involved in a wide range of activisms through
organizations like EcoDharma and XR Buddhists, the Buddhist perspective on
ecocide is still in its infancy., Drawing from the Zen Buddhist tradition, David
Loy argues that "we must realize that the environment is not simply the place
where we live, but rather it is the basis of our lives and our being." He
tries to make us conscious of the fact we are nature, not a component of it.
He says, "The environment is not just an "environment," which means that it is
not just the place where we happen to be." Instead, the biosphere serves as
our starting point and our home. According to the Buddhist point of view
supporting the re-ignition of this exchange through the ecocide crusade is
urgent if the aggregate insight of humankind and its longing to live in harmony
and security is to be understood. He is of the view that the law of ecocide will
not only hold those who committed the crime of ecocide criminally accountable,
but it will also provide a forum for discussion.
K. G. Hammar, a researcher at the University of Lund, believes in drawing
guidance from theology in facing the ecological crisis. He stresses that nature
and the living being around us are not our property; they are not meant to meet
human greed. He advises us to follow Kenosis (Greek for "empty") that is to
empty one's own will and instead submit to the divine will.
According to him all theology must be metamorphosis, kenosis, and eco-theology.
He recommends complete transformation from lonely planet to living planet where
gift of life can be shared, a new economic system that does not exploit or
dominate but ensures the wellbeing of all. Along with human rights, property
rights, and many other rights we should also have eco-justice, law on ecocide to
address crimes against nature, ecosystem, and common good, he added.
The Pacific Christian faith believes in living ecological households consisting
of ecology (Oikos-logos), economics (Oikos-nomos), and ecumenicity (Oikumene).
Their concept of co-existence relies on common belonging and now owing or
ownership. Compared to the western economics that spin around profit and
economic growth, James Bhagwan says, the Pacific are more concerned with
communities and quality of life.
He holds a lack of vision responsible for the ecological crisis. Citing New
Zealand as an example, where both the local and the national government applied
"tea o Maori" a Maori perspective to ESE (environmental, social, economic) and
climate change for community wellbeing, Bhagwan says that the environment should
take precedence over man for achieving a harmonious relationship with nature.
In the Pacific region, Reweaving the Ecological Mat (REM), an ecological
framework for development, recommends change based on a mix of indigenous
knowledge, biblical and theological wisdom, local knowledge, and Christian
spirituality. This viewpoint is also reflected in Laudato Si, in which His
Holiness Pope Francis calls for ecological transformation to foster human and
nonhuman solidarity. Bhagwan firmly believes that ecocide as an international
law will play a critical role in ecological conversion.
Drawing attention to unsustainable materialism, Sheikh Abdal Hakim Murad,
Lecturer at the Faculty of Divinity at Cambridge University, says that a joint
effort to heal the world is essential to deal with climate crisis. According to
him, classical Islamic ethics and law recognise animal ethics and rights. Murad
points out that the ethical code that Muslims inherited from the prophet
Muhammad has firm rules of conduct towards trees, water, and animals and he
compares mistreatment of them with blasphemy.
Connecting ecocide with Islamic law he said violation of the orders of the
creator and disturbing the balance of the world is a crime. Comparing ecocide
with epistemicide, he added ecocide should be included in the international
statues. He stresses that the natural world should not be seen as "resources to
be conserved" rather should be left with its own rights and integrity,
"independent of human needs".
In his book Eco Bible: Commentaries on the Torah, Rabbi Yonatan Neril
elaborates upon the spiritual vision of the Torah regarding long-term
sustainability and environmental consciousness. He asserts that spiritual
awareness, foresight, and hope have the power to ignite spirituality and affect
transformational change. Our actions ought to demonstrate our dedication to our
objective of halting climate change.
He points out that according to the Jewish oral tradition, "God gave humans 120
years before unleashing the flood." As a warning to the people that the flood
was coming unless they changed their ways, God chose Noah to build the ark.
"Return from the evil ways and deeds," Noah told the people. Their failure to do
so brought about God's wrath in the form of the greatest environmental
catastrophe in human history�the flood, which perhaps wiped out virtually all
Discussing chamas (bad behavior) Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch shows it is a
frivolous wrong however its continuation can destroy our individual being. He
drew analogies between small wrongs culminating in big sin and raindrops that
result in a flood. Rabbi drew comparisons to the Titanic and stated, "Our
current reality bears striking resemblance to the Titanic, whose captain chose
to ignore numerous warnings of icebergs from other ships.
He is of the opinion that the largest ship ever built was more powerful than
nature � unsinkable!" When the team recognized the lethal chunk of ice, it
was past the point where it is possible to dismiss the boat from its disastrous
crash course. However, he added that we still have some time and can prevent
similar events by living in harmony with nature and working together to prevent
any further environmental damages.
Pre-colonial African religious and cultural practices are referred to as
"endogenous," or Vodun. They are inextricably linked to the natural world as
well as sacred sites that are not adequately protected and are currently in
danger. Connecting with nature through culture, philosophy, language, art,
dance, music, and medicine is an integral part of their way of life. They
believe that being near to nature indicates being near to God. It is based on
three fundamental principles: divine principles, community philosophy, and love.
The indigenous communities give high priority to safeguarding these sacred
As said by Appolinaire Oussou Lio, President of GRABE-BENIN, entire earth is a
sacred place. It teaches us to respect and revere the living world and live in
harmony and peace. A long-term solution might be to pass a law to protect sacred
and fragile ecosystems. However, he added, we also require the law to reflect
this ancient wisdom and support community in its broadest sense�the community of
The Sami people's traditional healers and protectors, the Noaidi, believe that
when their lands are exploited, they become ill. Helene Lindmark, a Swedish
wisdom keeper, claims that the destruction and exploitation of their forest
caused her to develop heart and lung issues. She went on to say that working
with the wisdom tradition in Europe is important for protecting the environment.
According to her, declaring ecocide a wrongdoing would be a welcome step. People
are destroyed when nature is destroyed. There is no insurance by any means
today. She adds that the companies exploiting the natural resources argue up
north, there are so many resources; we are only taking a small portion, Mother
Earth can continue.
The fact that the same businesses are responsible for the exploitation in
Brazil, in the Amazon, is extremely alarming. What factors are driving this?
According to her, control, money, and power. However, at what cost? Both disease
and pollution are on the rise.
A little bug bite in any part of our body causes the entire body to suffer;
correspondingly, on the off chance that one region of the planet earth is harmed
the world as a whole has to endure its impact. As science has progressed, man
has begun to recognize a variety of means by which he can profit from nature
without considering the potential repercussions. Science is once again
attempting to address the problem of climate change, which is in fact the result
of the exploitation that have been carried out with its assistance.
According to Dr. Gus Speth, "I used to think that biodiversity loss, ecosystem
collapse, and climate change were the top global environmental problems. We
couldn't solve these issues with 30 years of good science, but I was wrong.
Selfishness, greed, and apathy are the environmental issues that need to be
addressed, and a spiritual and cultural shift is required to address these
issues. And scientists are unable to accomplish that."
Greed, a lack of ethical principles, and culture are the underlying causes of
all of our issues. Our thoughts and ideas mould during our formative years when
we are still young. We often turn into exhibitionists. Festivals are celebrated
Food waste comes to seen as a sign of affluence. There is irresponsible
consumption of water and electricity and unnecessary use of electronic
appliances. We continue to consume because it simplifies our lives without
realizing its adverse effects on the natural world. We also fail to realize that
by being voracious consumers, we simplify our lives while simultaneously
increasing the complexity of lives for our future generations.
The majority of the issues can be resolved through the cultivation of ethical
values, responsible consumption, by prevention of food loss and waste, and by
application of conventional wisdom and knowledge. We should learn to live with
nature and limit our needs rather than exploit it for our survival. We can
achieve a balance with nature only by following the philosophy of "simple
living." A minimalistic way of life with only need based possessions, is the way
ahead. Astuteness and basic living will bring about existence liberated from
dread vulnerability, abrupt calamity, and misfortune. Austere laws at the
highest level, along with all of the behavioural changes, can bring massive
changes and, ultimately, climate justice.
The global religious community demands a global response to stop ecocide, which
is currently legal, citing their religious beliefs and their close connection to
nature, the environment, and ecology. They approve the ideal of making it a
crime against peace at the International Criminal Court. The most heinous crimes
of international concern are handled by the International Criminal Court in The
As destruction of environment, causing climate change are of concern for
international community, making ecocide an international crime alongside
Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity, War Crimes, and Crimes of Aggression is of
utmost necessity not only for current existence but also for the existence of
our future generations.
- Midrash Leviticus Rabbah 4:6
- Article 8 ter Ecocide, Legal Definition of Ecocide, Stop Ecocide
- Loy, D. 2018. Ecodharma, Wisdom Publications, p 114
- Loy, D, 2010. Healing Ecology, Journal of Buddhist Ethics. Vol. 17
- Eitz Yosef commentary to Midrash Tanchuma, Parshat Noach, sec.5.
- Rabbi Yonatan Neril, "Caring for Creation is Key to Receiving the
Blessing of the Creator", Faith Voice for Ecocide Law, p 74.
- Speth, G. Shared Planet: Religion and Nature program, BBC Radio 4,
London: BBC, 1 October 2013 as cited in Rod Oram. 2017. Reviewing the Global
Economy: the UN and Bretton Woods Systems. Policy Quarterly 13, no. 1: 20-25
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