Polly Higgins: ‘Love, not fear, will change the world’


According to leading environmental lawyer Polly Higgins, “love, not fear” will change the world.

The author of ‘I Dare You to Be Great’ and ‘Eradicating Ecocide’ told Salt: “It’s better to advance peace than start a war. We can save the planet through being compassionate revolutionaries.”

Higgins explained that people tend to respond better to an openhearted narrative rather than a closed narrative.

“Rather than pushing people away [from the environmental agenda] by being antagonistic or too much of a doomsayer, it’s better to open up hearts.

“If the message comes from a place of fear, it will cause problems. It’s about framing a constructive narrative and claiming that space.”

Higgins insisted that positive speeches could have a galvanising effect on positive movements, and cited the famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech from Martin Luther King.

“Speeches have to come from a place of inspiration to drive change. The Pope, for example, has brought a new energy to the debate.  He says we have moral duty of care. He is leveraging his position of influence as a moral leader. It gives permission for political figures to address morality,” she said.

Higgins also spoke of the “legal duty of care” that we have towards our planet. She is a leading advisor on the international law of ecocide, a law she hopes to see instated by 2020.

The ecocide law would mean that company figures would be liable in a criminal court for crimes against the earth, such as soil pollution and river damage. The sentences meted out would include funding the earth’s regeneration as payment for damaging the ecosystem.

“It is the legal duty of care to give assistance. International ecocide covers the whole body of earth law, including the governance of earth’s right to life, and humans’ right to life.

“Where politics has failed to manage environmental damage, we will bring in the law. It will force sustainable innovation in the other direction – fast.”

“It’s about the support of law to individuals. We are now saying ‘it is illegal for you to carry on with this business that is damaging the earth’.”