Marx, Lemkin and the genocide–ecocide nexus

Martin Crook, Damien Short

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A number of studies have shown that ecocide can be a method of genocide if, for example, environmental destruction results in conditions of life that fundamentally threaten a social group's cultural and/or physical existence.1 With the ever-increasing rise of such cases of ecological destruction brought on by the extractive industries, or indirectly induced by anthropogenic climate change, we argue that the field of genocide studies should draw from the rich scholarly tradition of political ecology and environmental sociology. Indeed, it is the contention of the authors that, given the looming threat of runaway climate change in the twenty-first century, the advent of the geological phase classified by geologists and earth scientists as anthropocene2 and the attendant rapid extinction of species, destruction of habitats, ecological collapse and the self-evident dependency of the human race on our biosphere, ecocide (both ‘natural’ and ‘manmade’) will become a primary driver of genocide. It is therefore incumbent upon genocide scholars to attempt a paradigm shift in the greatest traditions of science3 and to cohere a synthesis of the sociology of genocide and environmental sociology into a theoretical apparatus that can illuminate the links between, and uncover the drivers of, ecocide and genocidal social death.4 Following a discussion of both the conceptual and legal nexus between ecocide and genocide, we further contend that capitalist ‘land grabs’ carried out by extractive industries, industrial farms and the like are, through the annexation of indigenous land and the associated ‘externalities’, the principal vectors of ecologically induced genocide when the genos in question is an indigenous people.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3
Pages (from-to)298-319
JournalInternational Journal of Human Rights
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jun 2014


  • Marx
  • capitalism
  • extreme energy
  • ecocide
  • Genocide
  • Indigenous peoples

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