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Jun 02, 2010, 01.22 PM | Source: Forbes India

Bianca Jagger: Since we can’t buy our planet back...

Companies that put people and the environment at risk, must be punished for their crimes.

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Bianca Jagger: Since we can’t buy our planet back...

Companies that put people and the environment at risk, must be punished for their crimes.

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Bianca Jagger: Since we can’t buy our planet back...
By: Bianca Jagger/ Forbes India

Environmental damage is emerging as the biggest threat to the survival of our planet. Companies that put people and the environment at risk, must be punished for their crimes

Bianca Jagger was born Bianca Perez-Mora Macías in Managua, Nicaragua in 1950. She is a prominent international human rights and climate change advocate. She is the founder and chair of the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation , Council of Europe Goodwill Ambassador, and Trustee of the Amazon Charitable Trust.

The first wife of Rolling Stones’ lead singer, Mick Jagger, Bianca has campaigned for human rights, social and economic justice and environmental protection throughout the world.

She is a recipient of the Right Livelihood Award, also known as the “alternative Nobel prize”. She also received the World Achievement Award from Mikhail Gorbachev in January 2009.

The Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation and the Centre for International Sustainable Development Law (CISDL) are advocating that The International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction should be extended to cover crimes against future generations that are not already proscribed by the ICC’s Rome Statute as crimes against humanity, war crimes, or crimes of genocide. The definition of a crime against future generations asks that “Conduct which places the very survival of life at risk should be prohibited and prosecuted as an international crime.”

In the words of the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987: “Future generations are disadvantaged…because they can inherit an impoverished quality of life. …their interests are often neglected in present socio-economic and political planning. They cannot plead or bargain for reciprocal treatment since they have no voice...”

Although the threats to our survival and that of our planet and environment have become increasingly dire, they continue to fall outside the scope of the international criminal justice system. In order to address them, we must recognise a new type of crime: That which is committed against future generations.

According to the CISDL, acts which constitute crimes against future generations are those which will have “severe consequences on the health, safety, or means of survival of future generations of humans, or of their threat to the survival of entire species or ecosystems.” As such, I would argue that climate change and acts which exacerbate it or accelerate its progress are the most urgent threat to our continued existence. If we do not address these issues boldly, decisively and immediately, our legacy to future generations will be a catastrophic one. This is, without question, a global issue; it calls for global action and solutions entrenched in an international legally binding framework.

During my three decades as a human rights and environmental advocate, I have taken part in countless campaigns against the reckless behaviour of oil, gas and mining companies. I have often referred to their actions as “crimes against future generations” and called for their accountability. I have chosen three of these examples as case studies.

Between 1971 and 1992, Texaco (now known as Chevron) embarked upon reckless oil exploration; it pumped 1.5 billion barrels of oil from Ecuador.

Texaco is responsible for the worst oil-related disaster in the history of Latin America, surpassing in scale the Exxon Valdez spill. When Texaco left Ecuador in 1992, it left behind some 1,000 unlined open toxic waste pits, some just a few feet from the homes of residents. Texaco dumped approximately 18.5 billion gallons of oil contaminated water into these pits, one-and-a-half times the amount spilled by the oil tanker Exxon Valdez. Texaco saved an estimated $3 per barrel of oil produced by handling its toxic waste in Ecuador in ways that were illegal in its home country. But the cost is immeasurable.

Leeching from these pits contaminated the entire groundwater and ecosystem in one of the world’s most valuable rainforests. Thirty thousand people have no alternative but to drink, bathe, and cook with poisoned water.

I visited the province of Orellana and Sucumbíos in 2003. I met many residents afflicted with cancer, women experiencing spontaneous abortions, and children suffering from skin diseases as a consequence of bathing in toxic waters.

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