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Euroviews. Will ecocide be television’s next prophetic prediction come true?

An illustration of a natural disaster caused by climate
An illustration of a natural disaster caused by climate Copyright Midjourney/Euronews
Copyright Midjourney/Euronews
By Jojo Mehta, CEO, Stop Ecocide International
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The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent in any way the editorial position of Euronews.

Pressure is slowly mounting on governments to support the recognition of ecocide at the International Criminal Court, and nations worldwide are beginning to take unilateral action against it, Jojo Mehta writes.

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As far back as history records, humans have been trying to predict the future.

Tarot cards, tea leaves and the wrinkles in our palms have all been purported at some stage in history to hold the keys to our destiny. 

In Greek religious life, it was commonplace to consult the birds before making a life decision or business transaction, and in ancient China, experts would inscribe questions on the remnants of animal bones as a source of divination.

More recently, television has proved an unlikely oracle for the shape of things to come.

From Trump's presidency to Facebook, TV has been right in the past

An episode of The Simpsons, which aired in 2000, showed images of a Trump presidency — a decade and a half before he even announced his campaign. 

In 2003, Friends seemed to predict what we now know as social media with a new website for college students that allowed them to post messages to friends.

Oscar Wilde famously suggested that "life imitates art far more than art imitates life", but the final episode of Apple TV’s star-studded hit Extrapolations showed as clear an example of mimesis as you’ll see in popular culture.

Ecocide is categorised as "causing serious widespread or long-term damage and destruction of ecosystems."
Noah Berger/AP
A firefighter extinguishes flames as the Oak Fire crosses Darrah Rd. in Mariposa County, CA, July 2022Noah Berger/AP

The episode, set in the year 2070, was the culmination of an eight-part series which highlighted the ruinous consequences if the human race continues on its current path of environmental destruction.

Game of Thrones’ Kit Harrington portrays Nicholas Bilton, the former CEO of the fictional company Alpha, as he stands trial for the crime of ecocide.

Ecocide is categorised as "causing serious widespread or long-term damage and destruction of ecosystems."

In the episode, Harrington’s character is hauled in front of the International Criminal Court (ICC), following the introduction of Ecocide into international law in 2050, due to his hand in the company’s severe environmental damage.

Ecocide might become a crime even sooner than predicted

The show outlines a scenario that is ever increasingly likely to happen, with one flaw — according to the show, it will take until 2050 to see ecocide in the statute books. 

Stop Ecocide International believes in reality. We can expect to see it as soon as 2030.

The European Parliament has proposed the introduction of ecocide onto the EU statute books now, in 2023. 

Just two months ago, its Legal Affairs Committee voted unanimously to include "ecocide" in the EU’s Environmental Crime Directive, meaning it could be ratified before the year is out.

AP Photo/Peter Dejong
People gather outside the war crimes tribunal at the Hague prior to the genocide appeals judgment of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, 20 March 2019AP Photo/Peter Dejong

Last week, the Stop Ecocide International team were in Brazil, where lawyers are developing a domestic law against ecocide. 

Brazil’s own recent history exacerbates just how important this law will be in protecting planet Earth and delivering climate justice. 

The recently ousted president, Jair Bolsonaro, oversaw the systematic destruction of the Amazon rainforest and increasing violence against the indigenous communities that live in harmony with it.

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There is also the example of Brazil

In 2019, the Association of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) filed a case with the International Criminal Court that accused the former Brazilian president of both genocide and ecocide, using the word in anticipation of its arrival in the Rome Statute. 

Currently, there is limited protection for the environment within the Statute, which includes “widespread, long-term and severe damage” to the environment only as part of its definition of war crimes.

The failure to prosecute the case highlights how important it is that ecocide is recognised alongside genocide ... as charges that will see the accused stand trial at The Hague.
AP Photo/Eraldo Peres
A woman holds up signs with messages written in Portuguese, "Bolsonaro Ecocide", in front of the Planalto Presidential Palace, in Brasilia, September 2020AP Photo/Eraldo Peres

However, the ICC did not deem the case worthy of pursuing, and no further action was taken against Bolsonaro by the court. 

Bolsonaro’s actions had a ruinous impact on "the lungs of the world", and the failure to prosecute the case highlights how important it is that ecocide is recognised alongside genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression as charges that will see the accused stand trial at The Hague.

Only a truly global action can protect us

Pressure is slowly mounting on governments to support recognition of ecocide at the International Criminal Court. Nations worldwide are beginning to take unilateral action against it. 

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Belgium is already in the process of legislating domestically, but only global collaborative action can truly protect our planet.

Ecocide may seem a long way from becoming recognised in international law, but we’re here to tell you it's already on the cards
AP Photo/Nardus Engelbrecht
Members of Extinction Rebellion stage a protest at the Glencairn Tidal pool outside Cape Town, 14 November 2022AP Photo/Nardus Engelbrecht

In the minds of the producers of Extrapolations, ecocide may seem a long way from becoming recognised in international law, but we’re here to tell you it's already on the cards. 

Ecocide will be recognised at the ICC by 2030, and trials to prosecute the crime will likely begin within the next decade. Mark our words.

Jojo Mehta co-founded Stop Ecocide in 2017 to support the establishment of ecocide as a crime at the International Criminal Court. He also serves as the organisation's executive director and main spokesperson.

At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at view@euronews.com to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.

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