Ecocide Is Now In The News

There is now a growing campaign to criminalize environmental destruction. “Ecocide” is the term being used to describe the infraction. (spoiler alert: in my new book out this year, which was written during the past 21/2 years, I have an entire chapter devoted to the issue and coined the term 2 years ago, before ever reading or hearing about it in the news. That is the universe bringing synchronistic events into focus! )

“A panel of 12 legal experts from around the world on Tuesday released a proposed definition for a new international crime called “ecocide” covering “severe” and “widespread or long-term environmental damage” that would be prosecuted before the International Criminal Court in the Hague, alongside genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression. ”

Why should we adopt this definition and strictly enforce it? Because at the rate at which world leaders are addressing our climate emergency head on, the world will be a very different place to live in the next 25 years. At at 1 degree Centigrade rise (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) over the past 100 years since the Industrial Revolution, we are already seeing a significant increase in heat waves in the Southwest, drought conditions, destructive wildfires, increases in level 5 hurricanes, increases in tick-borne diseases (this year has been the worst in a long time), as well as increases in flooding, destructive hail storms and reduced agricultural yields. According to the weekly magazine, ‘The Week’, the West is in the midst of a widespread megadrought of historic intensity. 72% of the West is under ‘severe’ drought conditions, and the current drought is on track to be the worst we have seen in 1200 years” says Kathleen Johnson, a paleoclimatologist at the Univ of California, Irvine. The hotter temperatures are also stressing the power grids and as many as 2 million California residents who rely on well water may find no groundwater to tap. Farmers are abandoning farms, lowering America’s food production, because of lack of water. This is at a one degree Centigrade rise.

However, in the Arctic, the temperature has risen almost twice as much “Over October 2019–September 2020, according to the Arctic Report Card, the annual average surface air temperature for land areas between 60°N and 90°N was 3.4°F (1.9°C) above the 1981–2010 average. Since 2000*, Arctic temperatures have risen about twice as fast as global temperatures.” The Paris Climate Accord was trying to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Centigrade, but higher temperatures are already being seen in the Arctic, and for more bad news, “Warming of the surface of the Arctic is matched by a colder polar vortex high in the atmosphere, which is speeding the breakdown of the Earth’s shield against ultraviolet rays…Ozone is a natural gas in the atmosphere, reaching its greatest concentrations in a layer about 12 to 25 miles high. That layer of the gas blocks more than 90 percent of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, and is most noticeable through its absence, as with the annual ozone hole centered over Antarctica.”

If the heat build up continues, and we get more Arctic melting, from global warming, the albedo effect (increased warming from lack of Arctic ice) and loss of the ozone layer, this will set off feedback loops with ‘permafrost’ (ice that used to be permanently frozen) releasing more CO2 and methane (which has a warming effect 36-80x that of CO2 in shorter periods of time) than is presently in our atmosphere, worsening the situation. Quickly.

We are on the precipice of an environmental emergency, like nothing humanity has faced. This is the beginning stage of a 6th extinction. Although we have only lost 100 species to date in the past 100 years, “The International Union for the Conservation of Nature predicts that 99.9% of critically endangered species and 67% of endangered species will be lost within the next 100 years. The five other times a mass extinction has occurred over the past 450 million years, natural disasters were to blame.” This time, it is manmade. The ‘Anthropocene’ (denoting the current geological age, viewed as the period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment) will be a time future generations will review and ask, why we didn’t act with more urgency? We are gamblers by nature, but to gamble with all of humanity’s future, is beyond morally reprehensible. That is why the term Ecocide needs to be adopted as a legal definition, to prevent world leaders from engaging in further environmental destruction.

And to be clear, blocking climate change legislation in Congress and infrastructure bills (The Army and NASA have written a report that it is likely our infrastructure will fail in the next 20 years, putting America’s security at risk) is a form of Ecocide. It is nothing less than that. Dysfunctional politics in this country and around the world are putting us all at risk. And if you think you are powerless, think again. NOW is the time to contact your legislators and tell them that Congress must act in a definitive manner to pass aggressive climate legislation and fix our infrastructure. If we do not all take responsibility and figure out how we can be part of the solution, we will be setting the stage for an environmental destruction that humanity will be facing for many, many generations to come. I have carefully reviewed the science during the past several years. I promise you, this is no hoax. We are in big trouble. According to Carbon Brief, we have “just four years left of the 1.5C carbon budget…Four years of current emissions would be enough to blow what’s left of the carbon budget for a good chance of keeping global temperature rise to 1.5C”.

In conclusion, you have now seen what a one degree rise in Centigrade has done to the Earth. We have 4 more years at current emissions, and unless we pull carbon out of the atmosphere, or find other ways of cooling the planet, feedback loops will kick in and 1.5 degrees, our next goal, will be where the Earth is heading. And this promises worsening heat waves, wildfires, droughts, tick-borne diseases, agricultural losses, and coastal degradation with sea level rise. If you think we are facing difficult conditions now, as per Brad Udall, a climate scientist at Colorado State University, “It’s just going to get hotter. You ain’t seen nothing yet”.

What can be done? My new book will describe the problems and potential solutions in a ‘novel’ way (some of which are NOT being discussed in the mainstream media). In the meantime, stay informed. Stay politically active, and join local or national climate groups to have your voice heard.