Friday, November 13, 2015

Crimes against the Planet?

Over time there have been trials for war criminals, bringing to justice those who have committed violence against other human beings. The most notable may be the Nuremburg trials, an international court of justice for those who perpetrated the Nazi atrocities of World War II. There have been prosecutions of individuals such as Slobodan Milosevic in the International Court of Justice, as well as those who were key figures in the mass killings of Rwanda. I pray that one day in the not too distant future the Syrian despot, Bashar al-Assad, will be held accountable for the crimes against his own people.

Is it enough though to address the wrongs committed against human beings? Will there ever be an international court of justice for those who willingly do harm to the planet? Recently we heard that scientists in the employ of the fossil fuel giant ExxonMobil knew of the impact of climate change for decades and that the company suppressed sharing the information with investors. Of  course ExxonMobil denies this.

I will be careful about comparing the conniving ways of a corporation to mass murder, but we do know that climate change poses at least as great a threat as war to the wellbeing of Planet Earth. At some point we have to ask how corporations are held accountable for their actions.

The attorney general of the state of New York is considering whether to lay charges against ExxonMobil. While I'm dubious about this because of the power of these corporations, we did see Big Tobacco brought to justice, after a fashion, for fudging the truth about their cancer-causing products.

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman of New York,
shown in May, issued a subpoena Wednesday demanding extensive financial records,
emails and other documents from the company. Credit Hans Pennink/Associated Press        

Justice is a central theme in scripture and God knows we need a new and more honest script for our planet. The greedy actions of corporations and governments are sinful in my view, but then I am a lowly pastor!

In my very first blog entry in 2006 I expressed outrage that Exxon had realized a ten billion quarterly profit despite the fact that the coastal waters of Alaska were still recovering from the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and we are told that 25 years later the majority of monitored areas still haven't healed. We are now realizing that the effects of climate change far exceed that of any spill.  

Workers dry off a sea otter after it was cleaned up. About 2,800 sea otters died the first year after the spill -- right afterward 1,000 carcasses were found -- and hundreds  more have died since from digging clams in beaches that were still contaminated with oil.

Do we need to consider corporate greed and suppression of the truth as actual crimes, rather than simply calling it immoral? Are you encouraged to hear that a jurisdiction is investigating a corporation for contributing to climate change?

Since I wrote this earlier I've discovered that this topic was featured on CBC's The Current today

1 comment:

Frank said...

Wait until these corporations hear that they have to leave more than half their proven reserves in the ground to keep from cooking the planet.