Ecocide Law Would Criminalize Free Enterprise

July 1, 2020 Updated: July 8, 2020


First, it was Pope Francis. Now, it is French President Emmanuel Macron.

Both leaders have added their considerable moral heft in support of a radical environmentalist proposal to add the new crime of “ecocide” to the Rome Statute that outlaws genocide, ethnic cleansing, and other crimes against humanity.

Ecocide, which literally translates into “killing our home,” doesn’t attempt to define proper environmental practices. Rather, it would criminally punish the management of corporations that engage in large-scale exploitation of natural resources—polluting and non-polluting—with imprisonment in the Hague.

Such a “5th international crime against peace” would deter prosperity-producing enterprises such as fracking, timber cutting, mining, petroleum extraction, and commercial fishing.

Here’s the nub: If company heads know they could be personally prosecuted in the International Criminal Court (ICC) for such efforts, they will leave natural gas in the ground, refuse to generate electricity, abandon planned housing developments, close copper mines, dry dock fishing fleets, and even keep potentially fecund farmland from being cleared and plowed. Of course, that would be precisely the point.

Ecocide would be shockingly easy to commit—and would not even require the intent to cause destruction because it would punish outcomes. Even an accidental polluting event, or large-scale non-fouling projects could land company CEOs in the ICC dock.

Here is the definition of the would-be crime offered by the This is Ecocide website: “Ecocide is the extensive damage to, destruction of or loss of ecosystem(s) of a given territory, whether by human agency or by other causes, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been or will be severely diminished.”

Note that “peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants” is a decidedly elastic term. It isn’t limited to human beings but could also include everything from insects, fish, mice, snakes, birds, and other beasts of the field. Moreover, the diminishment of “peaceful enjoyment” wouldn’t require actual pollution. And what in the world is “a given territory?” It could mean almost anything.

The very concept is profoundly subversive. First, equating resource extraction and/or pollution with genocide belittles true evils such as the slaughter in Rwanda, the gulags, and the death camps. Second, criminalizing the alteration of nature would corrode human exceptionalism by falsely elevating environmental systems and “territory inhabitants” to the moral status of people.

Perhaps even more perniciously, threatening CEOs with prison for pursing industrial activities would bring industrialization to a screeching halt as it also trapped the world’s destitute populations in their misery by chilling efforts to upgrade economies by extracting natural resources.

But Wesley, shouldn’t we maintain a clean environment? Of course. But that can be done with proper regulations, the legal requirement of remediation after polluting events, and vigorous application of civil law.

Consider how difficult it already is to launch new industrial or infrastructure projects. First, the environmental impact reports. Then, the endless permit process. Finally, once permission is finally obtained years later, the lawsuits fly. It is amazing anything gets done at all.

The ecocide movement also disregards the tremendous progress made since the bad old days of easier despoliation thanks to stronger environmental protection laws and greater popular support for cleaner technologies. When I was a boy in Los Angles, for example, we could not see the San Gabriel Mountains in the summer for the smog, even though they were a mere 20 miles from my home. Good grief, a U.S. river even caught fire!

Today, particulate air pollution is greatly reduced, our waterways are cleaner, toxic dumping has come under greater scrutiny, and conservation regulations are helping to restore stocks depleted by overfishing. Such earth-friendlier industrial policies maintain proper environmental standards as they concomitantly permit economic growth and the employment of millions.

But, you might say, wouldn’t an ecocide law also have salubrious effects, such as stimulating the development of renewable sources of electricity? Not necessarily. Windmills kill millions of birds and bats, which some environmentalists have already condemned as ecocide.

Mass solar farms also destroy the natural environment and diminish the enjoyment by the “inhabitants” of the “territories” upon which they are constructed.

Dams? They obliterate natural river ecologies.

What about nuclear power? Forget about it. What utility company CEO would undertake such a massive project knowing that he or she could be imprisoned as the moral equal of the butcher Radovan Karadzic if there were an accidental Fukushima-like catastrophic event?

Readers may be tempted to roll their eyes and snort, “It will never happen here.” Anyone who says such a thing has been unconscious for the last 50 years. Beyond that, such unfounded complacency is precisely the attitude that could allow it to happen here—a potential made the more possible by Pope Francis and Macron’s misguided support.

The ecocide movement can still be stopped. But that will require us all to take the threat seriously. Unfortunately, most are either blissfully unaware of the threat or blithely assuming it is all empty talk. That leaves the field open to serious subversives actively planning to throttle our future prosperity in an environmentalist stranglehold.

Award-winning author Wesley J. Smith is the chairman of the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism and author of “The War on Humans.”

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.