The term ‘ecocide’ was first established in 1964 by a group of scientists looking to condemn the use of herbicides, particularly Agent Orange, as a tactical tool during the Vietnam war. Agent Orange was created by mixing 2,4-D (2, 4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid) and 2,4,5-T ( 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid) in a 50:50 proportion, and it was utilized to clear heavy vegetated areas in order to reveal the location of their counterparts (Zierler, 2011). This practice led to the loss of approximately five million acres of Vietnamese forests – the foundation to whole ecosystems supporting human and non-human life – along with possible health consequences for people and animals resulting from the chemicals (Zierler, 2011). The argument these academics made was that this relentless deforestation would not only harm plants, but other consequences would soon follow as the loss of vegetation would affect all the interactions that make up an ecosystem. The battle scientists fought crossed national borders and went beyond any one species in particular. It introduced environmental ethics into the field of international law, bridging ecological matters and international relations.
The environmental crisis thus did not only concern scientists, but it reached the legal field as well. In 1990, these conversations were framed under the emerging field of “Green Criminology”, described as the aggregation of environmentalism, radicalism, and humanism (Lynch, 1990). The premise of this discipline mainly consists of safeguarding the Earth from the destruction derived from human activity, specifically: production and consumption behaviours, widespread corporatization and industrialization, in combination with weak regulations. Green Criminology creates a common space for the discussion of environmental crime while still maintaining the theoretical framework of traditional criminology (Brisman & South, 2014). Academics in the field have argued in favour of the incorporation of a 5th Crime against Peace: the law of ecocide. Thus, Green Criminology represents the bastion against ecocide (Higgins et al., 2013).
As stated by Riezu (2022), “the health of humans and the health of the Earth do not walk parallel roads: they are the same thing. The cost of uncontrolled greed is our own existence”. Ecocide can then be understood as all careless and reckless activities that continue being perpetrated, in full awareness of the long-term, extensive, and grave harm they pose to the environment (Riezu, 2022). Ecocide can often be traced back to corporate crime, as this sector fosters an economic model of continuous growth at the expense of workers and natural resources.