Nature

RIP Polly Higgins - the green movement grieves its lost hero

Eco-warrior and legal pioneer Polly Higgins dies at 50

Internationally renowned visionary and legal pioneer Polly Higgins died peacefully on Easter Sunday at Leckhampton Court Hospice after being diagnosed only last month with a rapid and pervasive cancer. She was 50 years old. Polly had spent the last few - and happiest - years of her life living in Stroud, where for the first time she felt part of a truly supportive local community.

Polly's mission, to which she dedicated her last 10 years, was taking forward an international crime of Ecocide to stand alongside War Crimes, Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity at the International Criminal Court. Making CEOs and government ministers liable to criminal prosecution for causing or contributing to the large-scale destruction of ecosystems was a "trim tab with the power to turn the whole ship around", she explained. "Ecocide law is in alignment with a higher moral law we can all recognise, based on a principle of 'first do no harm' ."

She advised many governments, and inspired audiences across the world with her passion and refusal to compromise. In the week before her death she saw her call being taken up by the fast-growing climate activist movement Extinction Rebellion, itself born in Stroud.

Dr Gail Bradbrook, co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, said: "Polly Higgins was a great soul, an inspiration and a friend. Her encouragement and practical support helped us to get Extinction Rebellion going. We will all miss her so much but know she is with us as we take her work forwards to protect life on Earth."

In 2017 she co-founded a global open Trust Fund to enable the public to support her legal campaign as Earth Protectors (see www.StopEcocide.earth), an unusual approach to crowdfunding which also provides activists who sign up with evidence that they are acting as Conscientious Protectors to prevent and protect from serious harm (rather than as criminals causing it).

Polly's close colleague and co-founder of the Earth Protectors campaign, local eco-activist Jojo Mehta, said: "Polly was the most generous, most exciting and most inspiring person to work with and my deepest, dearest friend. She was both razor-sharp and deeply compassionate, and had an extraordinary talent for making people feel safe even while rearranging their world-view with her ground-breaking work. She will be keenly missed by thousands, but her spirit will live on in many thousands more, because what she worked for - what her team continues to work for - really does have the power to change history. It rekindles hope - not that we can preserve society as we know it, but that if we act now, we can move through this crisis into a world that operates very differently indeed... a world based on a principle of 'first do no harm' "

Polly had no children but is survived by her loving husband HH Judge Ian Lawrie QC, resident judge at Gloucester Crown Court.

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