Environmental disaster. Post apocalyptic survivor in gas mask

Yep, we now have a new word to describe the damage companies and governments have on the environment. The European Union just passed a law that criminalizes some of the most serious forms of environmental damage. Although the text of the law does not use the word “ecocide,” its preamble says that it intends to criminalize “cases comparable to ecocide.” The law is part of a growing global movement to formally ban polluting companies from harming our planet.

Now, before you go into a tizzy celebrating what could have been a major shift in environmental thinking, let’s consider the reality of any “cide” label. Let’s start with genocide. Has the world stopped any form of this abuse just because it declares it illegal? Do I need to rattle off all the recent cases of countries who are killing people en masse just because they deem them undesirable?

And let’s think about how the Chinese are destroying the fish populations all around the globe in their attempt to feed a nation. Tell me that you believe this new law will matter?

I do expect this term will gain traction because it is a good description of our situations, but unfortunately, I also believe it is simply one more label we can use to shorten our conversations. It is a great soundbite.

We need dialogue and sobering considerations about where we all are going on this journey. Perhaps that is the true key to it all: realizing we are all in this together whether we like it or not. We really do have only one planet earth, and we are extracting the elements of sustainable life here at a rate that is already unsustainable and will be even more difficult as the population of the planet increases.

Labels do little to promote this kind of thinking. They just seem to polarize us further.

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