Ecocide is the fifth ‘crime against peace’, alongside crimes against humanity, genocide, war crimes and crimes of aggression. It is, essentially, the destruction of an ecosystem to the point that it seriously diminishes the quality of life of its inhabitants. Most countries only recognise four of those, and ecocide has no official designation in international law at the moment. If a company or government destroys a landscape in the course of business or development, there is no international court that can hold them to account.
It might sound like a somewhat nebulous idea, so let me give you an example. There have been problems in the Niger Delta for decades, but in 2008 a Shell pipeline broke twice in a matter of months. The resulting spills polluted and water, and an estimated 11,000 local fishermen lost their livelihoods. Those fishermen were victims of ecocide.
There has been a long running campaign to get ecocide recognised in law, as a tool in holding businesses to account for environmental destruction. The latest round in that campaign is to get it discussed in the EU. There is a petition that has to get a million signatures to move forward, and here’s the summary video about ecocide and why it matters.