A while ago Polly Higgins argued in Guardian that companies are currently committing ecocide and getting away with it. In the comment section after the article there are a lot of angry voices upset with what Polly writes. The general tone amongst the commenters was that these eco-fascists should just keep their mouth shut.
To be honest, I’m not very surprised. In the first four paragraphs she is making the analogy that corporations are as bad as the Nazi regime and that activists who are trying stop these corporations are martyrs doing the right thing. Not only does this paint a very black and white picture of the situation but she also manages to invoke Goodwin’s law from the very beginning of her argument. I would say that this isn’t a very good start on a discussion.
It is equally true however that corporations are at this very moment destroying our common environment. Is it ok for them to do so? I’m sure that most people don’t think this is ok, if they start thinking about it. People might even be willing to have a legislation against this kind of destruction. However, I think that would depend how you frame the discussion.
The concept of ecocide looks at this problem from a very ecocentric point of view. The plants, animals and ecosystems are as priceless as human beings and can’t be expended. To some extent I agree, our ecosystem should be revered and treasured after all without them we would not be alive. However most people have a more anthropocentric view which puts human beings at the center of IMPORTANCE. These two world views aren’t compatible with each other unless you try to find a bridge between them. The argument that Polly makes fails miserably in making this bridge.
This is how I think you could start building this bridge between these two worldviews.
The notion that polluter’s should pay for the environmental damage that they cause has been around for the better part of 20th century. Since it has become an accepted part of our society that polluter’s pay this could be a successful route in further pushing the edges towards more stricter principles.
The property rights we have today was introduced as a concept in the 17th century by Locke. This is one of the rights that are quite deeply founded within our culture. By conceptually stretching these property rights to our commons one could argue that our environmental wealth is being robbed by corporations that are destroying the environment.
The argument could then go along the lines for how robbery is normally being treated and why this should not be an exception to the case because it is something that we all depend on as each person depend on his private property.
But at the same time it is important to acknowledge that companies are contributing with wealth to society and that there are companies on the path towards creating a shared value for all.
Legislation needs to be taken in steps. If there isn’t a general consensus around the issue the laws can’t be enforced since they aren’t backed by society. A perfect example of this is filesharing which is widely accepted by society but not in law which essentially makes the law worthless. Therefore the argument should be used to build understanding and support.
Polly Higgins certainly had a very clear point of view in the discussion. But her way of arguing forces the reader to make the same conclusion. This makes you almost compulsively take the opposite stance.
People are generally intelligent and if you let people make the their conclusions the discussion will be much more productive. Of course not everyone will agree with you, but that’s ok. In fact, if everyone agrees with you haven’t pushed the edges far enough.
Is there anything else that you could help in bridging the divide between eco-centric and anthropocentric people in this issue? We are all in this together after all.
The reverbation of today's society through the eyes of a person deeply in love with planet earth. The transformation of today's society is going on in front of our very eyes, I'm striving to be one of the persons to tell the tale of how it was done.
I think at the core of a happier planet and happier persons is community, sharing and telling stories.