Words: Femke Wijdekop
Image Credits: Open Source
Reading Time: 1.5 minutes

On Friday 26 April 2019, the first European seminar on Restorative Responses to Environmental Harm and Ecocide took place in the Leuven Institute for Ireland, Belgium, hosted by the KU Leuven Institute for Criminology. The seminar brought together criminologists, judges, RJ practicioners, students, government and industry workers – and an artist – in the exploration of enticing questions, such as:

  • “Who are the victims of environmental harm, how are their rights ensured and how can they have a voice in restorative processes?
  • Who speaks on behalf of future or past generations and nature (animals, plants, rivers, land, climate)?
  • What kind of expertise is required to adequately speak for the non-human?
  • How can we repair the irreparable?
  • How can we assess who the perpetrators are and how can we ensure they participate in restorative processes?”

It was an inspiring and stimulating day, and participants committed to take this research subject further in their respective fields – and to follow up with future meetings and joint efforts.

I gave a presentation titled ‘Reconnecting to Nature through Restorative Justice’. During my presentation I honoured Polly Higgins for introducing me to Ecocide law and Earth law back in 2013 (in my TED talk I tell about her influence on my life) and for encouraging me to take the idea of restorative approaches to Ecocide further. Polly Higgins was a dedicated and courageous woman, a true ‘lawyer for the Earth’ who spent the last ten years of her life fighting for the recognition of Ecocide as a crime against mankind. She also played a key part in the events that resulted in the creation of the seminar. She passed away on Easter Day 2019, only 50 years old. If you want to learn more about Polly’s work and support her legacy, please visit her website.

The fact that our seminar took place in the Leuven Irish college, which in its courtyard has a centuries-old mosaic with the names of trees in Gaelic, seemed meaningful with Polly in mind. She cherished her Celtic roots and drew inspiration from her strong connection to the Scottish land.

FEMKE WIJDEKOP is a Legal Researcher at the Institute for Environmental Security and a Senior Expert in environmental justice at IUCN Netherlands. Previously, she worked as a researcher in the fields of international and constitutional law at the University of Amsterdam. She is a co-litigant in the Urgenda climate case and writes about topics such as the emerging ecocentrism in law, Ecocide, and the protection of Environmental Defenders. Read more about Femke’s work on EARTH RESTORATIVE JUSTICE HERE.


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