Femke Wijdekop

Defending the Environmental Defenders

Date:November 2015

Femke Wijdekop, a lawyer at the Institute for Environmental Security in The Hague, in the Netherlands. She’s also an author and broadcaster, and a dedicated defender of the environmental activists around the world who are routinely tortured, raped, beaten – and, twice a week, murdered.

Femke Wijdekop is the legal researcher at the Institute for Environmental Security, an organization whose aim is to “advance global environmental security by promoting the maintenance of the regenerative capacity of life-supporting ecosystems.” In this exclusive Green Interview, Wijdekop discusses Earth law and the concept of “ecocide,” her role in the Dutch Climate case and her passion to help protect Environmental Defenders, those who are protecting the environment.

Earth Law and “Ecocide”

Femke Wijdekop says the “core flaw” in our legal system is that the earth is considered property. She says the enlightenment liberated people but enslaved the natural world and that it’s the legal system that now underpins that thinking. Wijdekop is part of a worldwide movement of lawyers in the growing field of Earth Law who believe the Earth should have rights and that if we enslave the natural world we threaten our own freedom as well. To this end she has been working with others to have “ecocide”—the massive destruction of ecosystems—made a crime against humanity and brought within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. She cites the Fukishima nuclear disaster, overfishing of the North Sea, the destruction of the Amazon and the Deep Horizon oil spill as examples of ecocides. She believes we should “widen the circle of subjects under law to include not only future generations, but other species and ecosystems as well.”

Dutch Climate Case

Femke Wijdekop was a co-litigant in the ground-breaking Dutch Climate Case, where she joined Urgenda along with 900 Dutch citizens and argued that the state, in not reducing CO2 emissions quickly enough to avoid climate catastrophe was not honouring its duty of care to the citizens. They won and the government is appealing the decision. “For the first time a judge established a duty of care towards future citizens in regard to climate justice,” she says. “The Earth needs a guardian and future generations need guardians. So in my view this is all very connected.”

Environmental Defenders

Wijdekop is passionate about helping to defend those who are on the front lines, risking their lives to protect the environment. She presents the startling statistic that two people every week are killed defending the earth. “They are the first to feel the effects of extractive industries and climate change because they often belong to communities of small-scale farmers and fishers that live in a more harmonious way with the Earth and they feel the effects of our system that treats the Earth as property, as a commodity first,” she says. “The system is crushing the people that are a voice on behalf of their community and on behalf of their ecosystems.” Wijdekop discusses the ways to keep these “whistleblowers” safe, through solidarity and support of NGOs but also through legal protection under international law.

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