It is worth creating a legal basis for a sustainable society, drawing on the expertise of all sectors

The UNEP Stockholm +50 Environmental Conference was held in Stockholm in early June. This was 50 years after Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme convened world leaders in 1972 to respond to the environmental issues of that time. In this context, Palme also used the word “Ecocide” to describe large-scale man-made environmental damage. This summer, the UNEP environmental conference was attended by a large number of representatives of states, as well as representatives of young people and various active civic actors. All parties are aware that the time pressures for change in societies are severe.

More than twenty countries are currently discussing the criminalisation of ecocide in the ICC at parliamentary or governmental level. This is a political and economic opportunity to work towards the creation of an international legal basis that, if implemented, would provide both a coherent basis for international business and the legal support needed for all other effective aims to protect ecosystems. There is currently no such legal international basis. In the light of current scientific knowledge, the loss of biodiversity caused by human action as well as climate crisis are pointing at the acute need major changes in all societies. Practical means must allow for a transition to adapted societies and to laws that severely restrict mass damage and destruction of nature and support the future of a viable planet. Industrial innovation also needs this legal framework to be effective.

Ralph Chami, Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, spoke in Stockholm on 31 May 22 about the services provided by ecosystems from a financial perspective. Chami said the financial industry is already acknowledging the need to start valuing animals and populations, ecosystems and natural factors that have not been accounted for in the past – except in commodities and trading instruments – as risks quickly increase. For example, a whale or elephant that lives and is thriving is far more valuable to ecosystems and thus to humans than the same individual as a corpse. There is a tremendous difference in these calculated figures in favor of ecosystem services, and on this basis Chami spoke strongly in favor of the need for an international criminal law of Ecocide.

I have been following the topic both during my Doctoral research in the “Arctic in a Changing World” -program at the University of Lapland and when we with colleagues co-founded the Finnish country campaign for the Stop Ecocide International during the past two years. Also coordinating and excecuting the Artists for Ecocide Law -initiative has added up to my view. It is clear that the legal basis for the protection of ecosystems will be established internationally during this decade, and the position of governments on this will become clearer on a country-by-country basis when there is enough support from many directions. The Swedish Minister for Climate and Environment, Annika Strandhäll, agreed in Stockholm. In Finland, Mai Kivelä, MP from the Left Alliance, has submitted an initiative on the subject, which has been signed by six MPs from the SDP, the Greens and the Left. The initiative is also supported by President Tarja Halonen, who spoke in Stockholm.

All sectors of societies are needed in the implementation of safeguarding legal framework in these very years; this was repeated in many speeches at the Stockholm +50 conference. Today, much-studied creativity – the depth of which is required by both innovation and wise total solutions – is the key area of ​​expertise of art and creative professionals. It is the benefit of society as a whole that the skills of different sectors work together: in a competitive and results-oriented environment where rapid progress is needed, the importance of the creative sectors should be increasingly emphasized as enriching, balancing and creating the outward-looking elements. Art constructs knowledge that is both quiet and, in some places, most visible and audible to society and its development.

Where do artists and lawyers meet in the Arctic?

My research located in the wider context of the Arctic research

My doctoral research “Law of Ecocide and Art as an Agent of Social Change” deals with the themes of international criminal law, Law of Ecocide and artist’s worldwide participation to widen and deepen the public debate around it during the years 2021 – 2025. In my plan, the arctic viewpoint is planned to come into the third article of the total of four academic articles and I intend to conduct interviews with artists from arctic areas for that purpose. Right now my research happens in the context of the international campaign aiming at criminalizing mass damage and destruction of nature and ecosystems and I am aware that the arctic areas aren’t yet part of the public discussion or represented in the campaign. This particularly in the context of arctic research is the gap I have identified and my choice of theory is to analyze the interviews through the cultural theory of articulation according to Stuart Hall. I have chosen that theory because of the interesting situation of an international criminal law in the making and the articulations that are happening in that process literally – in relation to different member states and the indigenous peoples that take part in the process as well. The significance of the research is multi-faceted, because it is a way of communicating knowledge in the society as well as bringing findings to the academic community through the articles. I am following the process of the law making and artists’ participation in it and have a great position to be discussing it with the experts from both the law context as well as the artists who go to the deeper layers of the whole topic with a different language. In this blog I look at the questions that have arisen during last autumn and Dr. Hanna Lempinen’s course on Arctic Research in Lapland University, and reflect them in relation to my research.

It is highly interesting how the themes of sustainability of food production and population growth were a concern addressed by UN and international agents after the second World War and how that marks also the focus on the “efficient use of science to ensure effective use of the resources to raise the standard of living.”(Aull et al. 1950; McGormick 1991) We can certainly see now that natural resources were thought to be limitless or renewing, and that the aims to raise the standards of living were successful indeed, but worked through with the variety of colonialistic manners of exploitation and inequality of the ownership of those resources, which in turn has become extremely problematic in last decades. The history of sustainable development in the arctic has repeating dilemmas of geopolitical power struggles as well as the questionable concepts which contradict the worldviews of the native peoples (see for example Wenzel on Inuit Quaujimajatuquangit presenting the different approaches, 2004). This actually is where my positioning as a researcher is located partly as the indigenous people’s voice is a particularly important matter in Stop Ecocide International’s discussions around criminalizing Ecocide internationally. 

I am particularly interested in the problems and possibilities of the Law of Ecocide in addressing the arctic indigenous peoples position and state politics and that in comparison to other indigenous peoples’ positions in different parts of the world. What are the particular questions that the arctic peoples without a state are facing in the current development of climate change and biodiversity loss? The legal definition of Law of Ecocide was drafted by the Independent Expert Panel in the year 2021 and published in June 2021. A French lawyer Valerie Cabanes, who has worked extensively with the indigenous groups in Brazil, has said recently that she is especially content with the legal definition mentioning cultures. She continues that many of the times the core of the problem are the states themselves and in mentioning the cultures, the state leaders would be held personally responsible for the permissions granted for companies and decisions made. My view is that in the Arctic, this is also a part of the discussion of security, and there is a big question, which comes back to the colonial or decolonizing discourses. The question should be asked: whose security is being talked about in the first place? In EU -conference Beyond Growth in autumn 2019 Paul Okumu, the head of the secretariat of African Platform posed a similar question to the European politicians: when they are talking about well-being, whose well-being and with what standards are they concerned of. He mentioned that when he goes to his home village in Kenya, and sees the people there, the conversation of well-being in EU conferences seem selfish and out of proportion in the bigger picture. I wonder if this is also the case in many of the Arctic rural areas, where conditions are harsh and the lack of infrastructure is a real problem for the so-called sustainable development. (i. e. the case of Oscarville in Alaska.) 

The rapid increasing warming and changes in the natural environments as well as new corporations seeking new land for mining make big themes that artists are addressing. I’ve been listening to the song “Reindeer of Diamond” by Mari Boine, which tells about the companies looking for the natural resources from the Sami lands, without acknowledgement of the native peoples life that becomes threatened as it is one with nature. For me this song brings about very important knowledge about the emotional side of the arctic matters, that rarely come through in the official and rational discussions. This is at the core of my research questions: what are the ways that artists can reach different audiences in the campaign of Stop Ecocide International, and why is this important in the arctic? In the SEI campaign the aim is to criminalize Ecocide by amending Rome Statute, which in other words means that the persons who are the high level decision makers would be personally responsible in front of international law for their actions (in a similar way than the war criminals are now through the ICC). Right now there exists no such law that would create a legal duty of care for the companies and states to protect the ecosystems and cultures. This is highly emotional to many many people in today’s world, because the future window for next generations is looking desperate at the moment all over the world, according to for example IPCC reports. As a researcher I am  interested in the ability of art and for example songs like joik to bring together the emotional sides of the interconnectedness of all life, locally and globally and the acute or long term threats for planetary life as we know it. How can and could art act as an agent of social change in the arctic? The non-verbal parts of Mari Boine’s song are obviously very beautiful and deeply meaningful, they make the message resonate on an emotional and feeling level. It is untranslatable to spoken or written language and that is exactly where the value of it is. 

One appealing area of arctic research for me is the theme of indigenous rights and as mentioned in the book “Arctic Sustainability Research: Past, Present and Future” there has been a concept called “legal pluralism” and how traditional indigenous legal knowledge can be “translated” into official jurisprudence (Dahl et al. 2005, 14). In Marjo Lindroth’s lecture about critical approach to arctic studies (25th Nov in Lapland University) there was also a significant topic about indigenous rights, and in what different ways the rights can become even an obstacle for a real sovereign agency in the political world and decision making. When the rights of indigenous peoples are to some extent glorified, in reality it can be that these peoples’ voices remain in instances like the UN and Arctic Council but don’t have any political power – that can even strengthen or reproduce the colonial “governmentality”. I will also try to find examples of artworks that comment on these topics.  I think that this is a topic that I should read and study more, because it will provide important viewpoints to my research and it’s framework. I study the intended reach of the proposed Law of Ecocide to the indigenous peoples. It is discussed already in a small scale at least in the Faith for Ecocide Law -seminars, where for example Sami spiritual leader Eirik Myrhaug Partapuoli’s statement says the following: “Since we don’t have national states it is important that an international law is implemented, so that states will have to take it in account.”  

Bibliography: 

Clarke, John 2015. Stuart Hall and the theory and practice of articulation. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education. Special Issue: Stuart Hall 1932 – 2014: Educational projects, legacies, futures. (36)2 pp. 275-286 

Grossberg, L. 1986. On Postmodernism and Articulation: An interview with Stuart Hall. Journal of Communication Inquiry. (10) 2, pp. 45-60.

Hacking, Ian 1999. Social Construction of What? Harvard University Press, London. 

Haaparanta, Leila 2019. Rajan Taju. Filosofisia esseitä. Gaudeamus, Helsinki. 

Hall, S., Morley, D., & Chen, K.-H. (1996). Stuart Hall : Critical dialogues in cultural studies. London ; Routledge. 

Higgins, Polly 2010. Eradicating Ecocide: Laws and Governance to Prevent the Destruction of Our Planet

Higgins, P, D. Short, N. South (2013) Protecting the planet: a proposal for a law of ecocide. Crime, Law and Social Change

Hinkley, Robert C. 2011. Time to Change Corporations. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, Seattle. 

Hämeenaho, Pilvi – Suopajärvi, Tiina – Ylipulli, Johanna (eds.) 2018. Soveltava Kulttuurintutkimus. SKS. Tietolipas 259. Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, Helsinki. 

IPCC Report 2018: https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/ 

Koskinen Inkeri 2018. Voiko se olla objektiivista? Tieteenulkoinen tieto ja yhteistyö soveltavassa kulttuurintutkimuksessa. In Hämeenaho, Pilvi – Suopajärvi, Tiina – Ylipulli, Johanna (eds.): Soveltava Kulttuurintutkimus. SKS. Tietolipas 259. Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, Helsinki. (pp. 129-154) 

McNamee, Sheila (edit.), 2020. The Sage Handbook of Social Constructionism, Sage Publications Ltd., London. 

Meretoja, Hanna 2017. The Ethics of Storytelling: Narrative Hermeneutics, History, and the Possible. Oxford University Press, Oxford. 

Mäkiranta, Mari – Piela, Ulla – Timonen, Eija (eds.) 2017. Näkyväksi sepitetty maa. Näkökulmia Suomen visualisointiin. Kalevalaseuran vuosikirja 96. Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, Helsinki. 

Petrov, Andrey N. and others 2017. Arctic sustainability sesearch: Past, present and future. Routledge, London.

Slack, Jennifer Daryl 2016. Articulation Theory. Wiley Online Library. 

O’Sullivan, T. 1994. Key concepts in communication and cultural studies .(2nd ed.) Routledge, London; New York. Trimbur, John 1993. “Articulation Theory and the Problem of Determination: A Reading of Lives on the Boundary”. Journal of Advanced Composition (13)1, pp. 33-50.

Lyrics to the songs Turtle Song and Wonder (Law of Ecocide)

Turtle Song


I had a cup of coffee, on a graveyard, with a turtle today x 2

slowly coming my way, my way, my way, my way, my way

slowly coming my way, my way, my way, my way

I had a cup of coffee

on a graveyard with a turtle today


The turtle on a graveyard, she told me to honor my way x 2

to have a look and to know where I’ve been, where I’ve been, where I’ve been

to have a look and truly know where I’ve been, where I’ve been, where I’ve been, where I’ve been

the turtle on a graveyard she told me to honor my way


The turtle, she showed me a leaf, where I saw my own life

It is fragile, it is strong, it is broken, it is healed ,It is heavy, it is light

It has colours, it has patterns, it has structures, it has flows,It has beginnings, it has ends

The turtle, she showed me a leaf, where I saw my whole life


The turtle on a graveyard, she showed me, how to swim in the oceans

How to praise the rains, how to absorb the sun, how to embrace the winds

how to praise the raindrops, how to absorb the sun, how to embrace the winds

The turtle on a graveyard, she told me, how to swim in the oceans


I had a cup of coffee, on a graveyard, with a turtle today

the turtle on the graveyard, she told me, to honor my way

*

Wonder (Law of Ecocide)


Wonder how we, even found ourselves facing this time

wonder how we see the growing archetype

Wonder how we, even found ourselves facing this time

wonder how we feel the turning of the tide


How will it appear in future generations lifes

how will it appear in coming children’s eyes

Come to our dream, we wanna see your face

walk into our dream and show us our face

Chorus:
We lay down the question here, from the heart of hearts

An honest proposal, for future to come

It’s kind of a question both clear and sobering,

when observing the ancient ways of human kind


We know it’s an element, we’ve been missing in our lives

Glad it became alive and seen through your eyes

This is how life shows us a bow deep inside

it’s precious and beautiful

from nature we can’t hide

Chorus:
We lay down…


Ecocide means unlawful or wanton acts, committed with the knowledge, that there is a substantial likelihood of severe and widespread or long term damage to the environment, being caused by those acts.


Wonder how we, even found ourselves facing this time

wonder how we, feel the turning of the tide

Law of Ecocide and Art as an Agent of Social Change

Hello and welcome, this page is my researcher’s blog and I will follow here the International Law of Ecocide and especially how the art world is joining the movement in the years 2021-2025. I will also write about the process of artistic contributions during that time. I started working on my doctoral thesis and studying in Lapland University’s doctoral program Arctic in a Changing World, in August 2021.