The Sentencing - Justice for the Earth Community!
Gaia's Earth Law Support Officer, Carine Nadal, shares her experience of the Ecocide sentencing which took place on 31st March 2012.
Have you heard the news that 2 directors of mining companies were sentenced for their crime of Ecocide in the Tar Sands, Canada?! This will become reality if the United Nations endorse Polly Higgins' proposal for recognition of a crime of Ecocide - the extensive destruction of ecosystems -as the 5th international crime against peace.
On 30th September 2011 during the first ever mock Ecocide trial in the UK Supreme Court two mining company directors were found guilty of Ecocide for undermining the peaceful enjoyment of the Earth Community in the Athabasca Tar Sands, Canada.
The company directors were sentenced on 31st March 2012 in an event organized by the Hamilton Group and the Institute for Democracy & Conflict Resolution (IDCR) at the University of Essex.
In his opening speech, prosecuting barrister Michael Mansfield QC showed photos of the devastating destruction in the Tar Sands. These were a powerful reminder of why we are seeking justice for the Earth Community.
Restorative justice process
One of the mining company directors - Mr Bannerman - accepted responsibility and agreed to participate in a restorative justice process prior to his sentencing.
The restorative justice process was an intense and moving experience for all. It was an opportunity for Mr Bannerman to hear the voices of those often not heard, such as Earth, indigenous peoples and future generations. This process is highly relevant in an environmental and social context where issues are interconnected and where the focus is collaboration and healing rather than conflict and retribution. It is certainly needed if companies are to fully understand the impacts of their actions and to change their behaviour to live in harmony with Earth.
Gaia was invited and warmly accepted to participate in the restorative justice and amplify the voices of Earth (Carine Nadal) and wider humanity (Jess Philimore). Gerald Amos, Chief Councillor from the Haisla Nation in Canada, voiced concerns of indigenous peoples. Philippa De Boissiere was the voice of future generations and Peter Smith for the birds killed in the Tar Sands. We were joined by Roger Cowe (the fictious mining company's Chief Sustainability Officer) and Paddy Briggs (Chairman of the company's pension fund). Lawrence Kershen, chair of the Restorative Justice Council, facilitated the process.
Here I share some reflections and experiences.
Reflections and Learning
A huge thank you to all those in the network who shared your experiences and wisdom with me in preparation for the event.
In my role as Earth I reflected on and came to a deeper understanding that:
Earth is Mother of all life
We, whether humans, birds, forests, mountains or soil, are all children of Earth. Earth gives us life, nurtures and protects us like our human mothers. When I asked Mr Bannerman (CEO of fictitious oil company) whether he had children, he erupted with parental instinct fearing that he would never see his family again if he were sentenced to prison. If only we widened our circle of compassion to our wider Earth family, as Albert Einstein urged, then we would feel Mother Earth's deep pain for the loss of her children killed because of the Tar Sands extraction and those yet or never to be born. How can we put profit over life? As Chief Seattle reminded us: ''When all the trees have been cut down, when all the waters are polluted, when all the air is unsafe to breathe, only then will we discover we cannot eat money.''
Earth is a Living Being
This is understood by many indigenous peoples, and scientists such as James Lovelock and Stephan Harding. As Dzomo la Mupo (Voice of Earth), sacred site custodians with whom Gaia works in Venda, South Africa explain: 'Minerals and metals are the heart of Earth. If we remove them, it is like removing a person's heart. It will kill the person. It is the same with our Earth, who will die if minerals or metals are removed. Her life force will be drained.' The powerful imagery of Earth as a living body helped me understand what Earth must feel when activities such as the Tar Sands extraction grabs and gauges her skin/land leaving huge scars, sucks and pollutes her blood/water supply, and chokes her with filthy air. As we are all interconnected and interdependent, if we damage one part of Earth's body we damage the whole of Earth, and ultimately damage ourselves.
Earth speaks to us
If only we, particularly in industrialised countries, took the time to listen and feel what Earth is saying, and stop stifling her voice with our human-centred desires. Earth is warning us that she is reaching her threshold of tolerance to human destructive behaviour. This mining land grab must stop. As many indigenous communities and Gaia's recent mining report 'Opening Pandora's Box: The New Wave of Land Grabbing by the Extractive Industries and the Devastating Impact on Earth' remind us, we are the last generation with a choice that will determine the fate of future generations. Will we continue to disobey Earth's laws and destroy our Earth family like a cancer OR will we abide by Earth's laws for the benefit of the whole Earth Community? As a mother, Earth is forgiving and compassionate but even she has limits.
We need to re-learn our eco-literacy of Earth's cycles, rhythms and boundaries. Our indigenous elders who have been reading Earth's laws for centuries can guide us. While Mr Bannerman declined Earth's proposal for him to participate in leadership training in the wilderness and re-learn his humble place on Earth, he did accept Earth's proposal for there to be a Guardian of Earth on the board of his company who would determine whether activities were in the best interest of the wider Earth Community.
We are all Guardians of Earth
We all have the responsibility to amplify Earth's voice. For the sake of past, present and future generations, we must respect the rights of the Earth Community to exist, habitat and fulfil our function in the evolutionary process, and live within Earth's laws. Elder Thomas Berry, who developed the philosophy of Earth Jurisprudence, explained that the 'Great Work' ahead of us is to live in a mutually enhancing relationship and tread softly on Earth. During Thomas' childhood he was deeply inspired by a meadow who taught him a simple and universal mantra: 'Whatever preserves and enhances this meadow in the natural cycles of its transformation is good; whatever opposes this meadow or negates her is not good. My life orientation is that simple.'... This can serve as a moral compass for us all.
- Stop Tar Sands NOW. 'Leave oil in the soil, coal in the hole and tar sands in the land' as Nnimmo Bassey (Environment Rights Action, Nigeria) says.
- Let Earth heal.
- For us to support in solidarity communities and groups around the world who are calling for a moratorium on new mining, for No-Go Zones, and for the right of Earth Communities to say NO to mining.
Reminding us that 'Earth is a precious heritage', Judge Ian Lawrie ruled that:
Given his genuine participation in restorative justice process, Mr Bannerman's sentence was deferred for six months. During this time he has to uphold his commitments, which were agreed during the restorative justice process, to maintain suspension of mining in the Tar sands, meaningfully involve indigenous peoples in the decision-making process, appoint a guardian of Earth and future generations, and transition to renewable energy.
By contrast, the remorseless Mr Tench who refused to take part in the restorative justice process was jailed for 4 years and required to undertake a Restoration Order including suspending operations in the tar sands, covering the financial costs of restoration and publicising his actions.
You can watch a short film of the Ecocide sentencing and restorative justice process here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6EpdyKqou8&feature=youtu.be
We wait to see if Mr Bannerman will honour his commitments to stop mining and join us in restoring justice for the Earth Community.