Guest post by Kelly Roberts
“The earth is in need of a good lawyer.”- Polly Higgins
My name is Kelly Roberts and through my close association with the Amazon Rainforest, Polly Higgins, and the people of the Sarayaku Nation of Ecuador, I have had the privilege to co-create a beautiful ten-minute documentary “From Harm to Harmony”.
My story is hard for people to believe when I say “The Amazon Rainforest asked me to stand up for it” during a cacao ceremony. I had always been curious as to why the Mayas and the Aztecs used cacao (chocolate) as a holy drink to obtain vision and clear direction. I participated in a cacao ceremony and received clear direction to stand up for the Amazonian Rainforest. I literally felt as if the Rainforest said: “Kelly, it’s time to stand up for what you know is right.”
I have been connected to the Sarayaku Nation of Ecuador for many years. In 2012 they were the first Ecuadorian National tribe to win a court case at the International Humans Rights Court in Costa Rica against the Ecuadorian Government and a big oil company. From that moment, I knew that these people have something to teach us and that we need to work together to get their message out into the world.
In 2018 when I participated in “The Tree Conference”, I was asked by the organisers to weave in the wisdom of the Sarayaku people, who created “Kawsak Sacha”, a declaration of the Living Forest. After the conference, I went to see Polly Higgins, co-founder of Earth Protectors, who was going to speak at the 2019 Tree Conference.
When I asked Polly how she recommended me to support the people of Sarayaku, she said: “Kelly there is missing law to help them. First, we need the International Criminal law of Ecocide to be re-introduced into the highest court, The International Criminal Court (ICC). Can you make a documentary to help raise their voices?”
Polly told me that she could use the documentary as a tool to show at the annual ICC meeting in The Hague. My whole body said yes. I had a precious seed of change in my hands.
With the help of many friends, we created the film, which we called “From Harm to Harmony”. It was shown at the 2019 ICC conference. At the end, a resolution was raised to re-introduce Ecocide into the Statue of Rome, the founding document of the International Criminal Court.
We have three themes here: From Harm to Harmony, how I made this film and the inspiration from Polly Higgins and the Sarayaku Nation of the Ecuadorian Amazon.
Sarayaku Nation of Ecuador
Stopping ecocide in the International Criminal Court
It’s time for us all to step in and step up, empowering ourselves by taking actions for the things we truly care about. We are living in a time of great change, and turning our heads away from the destruction of our planet is no longer an option. The science is there and we are facing the 6th mass extinction.
What is Ecocide?
Ecocide is the mass damage or destruction of natural living systems. We believe Ecocide should be recognised as an atrocity crime at the International Criminal Court – alongside Genocide, War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity.
Differentiating Civil and Criminal Law
Currently civil litigation is the means by which we hold companies and states to account for environmental harm. This is important, but it is ultimately mopping the floor while the tap is still running – it has limited scope for changing corporate practice. It’s a simple legal process.
Any member state, however small, can propose an amendment to the International Criminal Court’s governing document, the Rome Statute. With a 2/3 majority, amendments can be adopted. Any member state can then ratify and enforce, making this the only global forum where ecocide can be directly outlawed by those suffering it, creating an ever more powerful marginalisation of those who continue to pollute.
This is a powerful way to change the direction of industry. Ecocide as a criminal law prevents investors from backing ecocidal practices, and insurers from underwriting them. Persons of superior responsibility – CEOs and government ministers – become individually criminally responsible for ecocide which they cause (eg by engaging in ecocidal practices or issuing permits for them when they know or should have known the consequences).
Proposal is the key moment
Before a single state even ratifies this amendment to international law, it will begin to change the entire global conversation. This is because – in our current state of climate and ecological emergency – a law of this kind will be required sooner or later if we wish to survive and thrive on Earth. The proposal of an ecocide amendment makes it visible on the horizon, and enables change to begin. Although an ecocide amendment has not yet been proposed, two sovereign states (Vanuatu and the Maldives) have now publicly called for consideration of such an amendment (December 2019 at the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute in The Hague). The wheels have been set in motion…
So how is it possible? Those with the greatest incentive – small nations at the frontline of climate and ecological breakdown – already have the power to propose this amendment. By becoming an Earth Protector, you’re supporting both these things.
The “Be the Change Foundation”
I feel I have been dreaming this film alive, together with my amazing team of women taking charge. We’re currently working on creating Bethechangefoundation.uk (not live yet). It is due to launch in May 2020 and we’re so excited about how it is shaping up and the potential.
From science, we know that when our minds/brains and our bodies are in a constant state of stress, we make decisions based on fear. We lose our temper much more easily and we see competitors and enemies instead of partners and friends. We become addicted to an external world to make us feel better. We crave more. The fancy title, the big house, the power, the praise, so this never-ending addiction continues.
Our main focus is to create a regenerative leadership learning programme for students that are just starting their academic studies. The programme aims to inspire the young leaders of the future to pave the way towards practices in harmony with our inner nature and the ecosystems we depend on. They will learn skills to help develop their inner knowing more clearly, so they can become the leaders we need them to be.
If the pathway to regenerative leadership is something that resonates with you and you would like to get involved with the development of the programme, we would love to hear from you!
Please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org