Category: Rights of Nature

Virtual Event | Ecocide: A Discussion of Law and Ethics, January 20, 2022

Ecocide: A Discussion of Law and Ethics
Thursday, January 20, 2022
9 a.m. Los Angeles | 12 p.m. New York & Quito | 6 p.m. The Hague


Mass environmental devastation affects us all, even if the damage is inflicted within national borders. Yet as it stands today international law is inadequate to address extreme, willful damage to the environment.

Now, a global effort is underway to make international law a more powerful mechanism to protect our planet. In June 2021, the Independent Expert Panel for the Legal Definition of Ecocide defined ecocide as the “unlawful or wanton acts committed with knowledge that there is a substantial likelihood of severe and either widespread or long-term damage to the environment being caused by those acts.”

This definition is an initial step to making ecocide an international crime. At present, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court lists four international crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. Recognizing ecocide as the fifth would create, in the Panel’s words, “a new and practical legal tool” to preserve and protect the Earth, our common home.

Left to right: Hugo Echeverria, Kate Mackintosh, Olivia Swaak-Goldman, Karenna Gore

On Thursday, January 20, 2022, at noon (New York time), “Ecocide: A Discussion of Law and Ethics” will assemble international lawyers and scholars to discuss the Panel’s efforts to define ecocide as well as to examine the significance of shifting to an eco-centric framework.

Scheduled speakers include attorney and consultant Hugo Echeverria, an expert in the environmental rule of law, wildlife crime, and the rights of Nature; Kate Mackintosh, inaugural executive director of the Promise Institute for Human Rights at UCLA School of Law and a deputy chair of the Independent Expert Panel for the Legal Definition of Ecocide; and Olivia Swaak-Goldman, executive director of the Wildlife Justice Commission, who  has published extensively on international criminal law and humanitarian law. Karenna Gore, CEE’s founder and executive director, organized the session and will serve as moderator.

This event is sponsored by the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary, the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School, the Promise Institute for Human Rights at UCLA School of Law, and the Wildlife Justice Commission.


Panelist Biographies

Hugo Echeverria has worked in environmental law since 2001, with an emphasis on constitutional approaches to biodiversity conservation, the environmental rule of law, wildlife crime, and the rights of Nature, areas in which he practices as an attorney and a consultant. He also lectures on environmental law in Ecuador, at undergraduate and graduate levels. Between 2014 and 2017, he coordinated the minor on environmental law at the Faculty of Law of Universidad San Francisco de Quito, where he currently lectures in Environmental Law.

Karenna Gore is the founder and executive director of the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary. Karenna formed CEE in 2015 to address the moral and spiritual dimensions of the climate crisis. Working at the intersection of faith, ethics, and ecology, she guides the Center’s public programs, educational initiatives, and movement-building. She also is an ex officio faculty member of Columbia University’s Earth Institute. Her previous experience includes serving as director of Union Forum, a platform for theological scholarship to engage with civic discourse and social change.

Kate Mackintosh is the inaugural executive director of the Promise Institute for Human Rights at UCLA School of Law. She has held multiple roles at the UN international criminal tribunals, worked in post-conflict human rights field operations in Bosnia and in Rwanda, and was for eight years legal adviser and then head of humanitarian affairs for the international NGO, Médecins sans Frontières/Doctors without Borders. Most recently she was a deputy co-chair of the Independent Expert Panel for the Legal Definition of Ecocide.

Olivia Swaak-Goldman, the executive director of the Wildlife Justice Commission, has 25 years’ experience in international justice and diplomacy, has published extensively on issues of international criminal law and international humanitarian law, and served as a lecturer for both Harvard and Leiden Universities. Prior to joining the WJC, Olivia was head of the International Relations Task Force of the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court and Senior Legal Advisor at the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, among other roles.










Indigenous leaders mobilize in Paris to recognize the rights of “Mother Earth”


Invited by the Amazon Planet Association, Amazonian, Mexican, and Maasai spiritual leaders, people who have been protecting biodiversity for thousands of years, come together to convince world leaders and civil society to treat “Mother Earth” as a rights-bearing entity.


Our Earth has a fever, we are worried, we need to unify our energies to save life “.  In a wool vest, with beautiful deep thought and a dense voice, the leader Mindahi Bastida, Otomi Officer of the people of Mexico, powerfully explained, Wednesday, October 23 for mayor of the VI th district of Paris, the immense task which in the eyes indigenous peoples – 370 million people spread over more than 70 countries on five continents – must bring together the inhabitants of this planet ” with whom we travel in the cosmos “.


Which ones? Take all necessary measures to respect the sanctity of water, earth, fire and the life cycle. And break with anthropocentrism. ” If the territories of our peoples conceal 80% of the world’s biodiversity, added this doctor in rural development, it is because we have been working for thousands of years to preserve our sacred places.” At his side, the Amazon Ninawa Chief of the Huni Kui people (Brazil), wide headdress of long multicolored feathers, added: ” Can you live without breathing, without drinking? Without food? We are 100% dependent on Mother Nature to survive “. The energetic Maasai Magdalene Kaitei, in a green dress, completed: “In my country, Kenya, home to many wildlife and forests, the spirit of destruction deprives our pastoral farmers of the river water they need to survive . ”


These representatives of the “peoples-roots” were united in 2015 in Paris during the COP 21, in constitutive assembly – the alliance of the “Guardians of Mother Nature” – to weigh on the leaders of the world, the United Nations and the civil society, so that they treat “Mother Earth” as an entity with fundamental rights. And with this awareness, abandon the legal systems, inherited in their territories of the time of the colonies, who treat it only as a resource.


This Thursday afternoon, they will discuss their initiatives of reforestation, their battles to make their territories sanctuary. With the hope of provoking a sacred union around forests around the world. If their word moves so much their audiences, which many environmental activists of the ANV-COP 21, of Extinction Rebellion which recently occupied the place of the Châtelet and will proceed Friday to a new blocking to support them, it is because they emphasize how much the ecological crisis is also a spiritual crisis that forces us to reflect on the why of our presence on earth. ” Humans have come to take care of life, why have we forgotten the law of origin, how have we come to endanger life?“, calls Mindahi Bastida, for whom, if our institutions do not fulfill this mission, they must disappear.” Everything is transformed “.


>> The events take place at the 6th arrondissement of Paris, this Thursday, October 24 from 13:30 to 19 hours. And Sunday, October 27, at Espace Niemeyer, 2 place Colonel Fabien.