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.