Crime, Law and Social Change

, Volume 59, Issue 3, pp 251–266 | Cite as

Protecting the planet: a proposal for a law of ecocide

  • Polly Higgins
  • Damien Short
  • Nigel SouthEmail author


A wide range of actions imperil the planet and threaten the future of humanity and other species. This essay notes some examples of crimes and harms damaging to the environment and human and non-human species as well as various forms of response that have called for more effective and appropriate models of justice and law than currently prevail. This leads to a discussion of several suggestions regarding the development and expression of an earth jurisprudence and to the history of a proposal that “ecocide” be recognised internationally as a crime. Analysis of documentary sources traces this idea from debates about the concept of genocide to consideration by United Nations officials as to how crimes against the environment might be defined, and shows how near such a proposal has previously come to acceptance and enactment. The article concludes with an argument for supporting a law of ecocide as the 5th Crime against Peace.


Restorative Justice Rome Statute Strict Liability Environmental Crime Special Rapporteur 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Environmental LawyerLondonUK
  2. 2.Institute of Commonwealth Studies and Human Rights ConsortiumUniversity of LondonLondonUK
  3. 3.Department of SociologyUniversity of EssexColchesterUK

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