The mood was bittersweet in Stroud yesterday as the town turned out to support the Polly Higgins-founded group, Stop Ecocide, as it launched its Earth Protector Town scheme with Stroud, fittingly, its first signatory.
Just five months after the internationally renown, Stroud-based environmental campaigner and barrister died from cancer, the Earth Protector Town scheme launched to encourage communities to proactively protect their ecological and environmental well-being.
A sense of Stroud being part of a “historic occasion” was undeniably prevalent, with Jojo Mehta, co-founder of Stop Ecocide, leading proceedings alongside Stroud Mayor Cllr Kevin Cranston. Also in attendance was Stroud MP David Drew and Polly’s widower, Ian Lawrie QC.
“Polly would be enormously proud – and for the scheme to start here in Stroud is in such fine tradition,” Mr Lawrie, himself a leading barrister said. “The Chartists started here, Extinction Rebellion started here, this is starting here. I’m very proud and Stroud should be very proud.”
“It is a huge step because we are introducing a change of culture, a way of looking at something from a different bottom line,” said Jojo Mehta, Stop Ecocide Change the Law Campaign Co-ordinator who led the rallying call yesterday.
“Being an Earth Protector Town will involve a willingness to impartially examine the ecological impact of both old and new business models, practises and technologies from the perspective of the fundamental principal of ‘First Do No Harm’,” Ms Mehta added.
Clare Crumpton had travelled from Glastonbury. The Somerset town will decide this week whether to pledge support to the scheme. “I’m all for an Ecocide Law so we will no longer have insurance underwriters to underwrite Hinkley Point or fracking or shale extraction,” Ms Crumpton said.
“Glastonbury is taking a vote at its Council meeting on Tuesday which will hopefully see it become an Earth Protector pilot town next year. The town’s councillors will also take a vote to fully endorse and support the change of Ecocide Law at the UN level.”
All ages turned out to support the group and pay respect to Ms Higgins’ legacy. Younger attendees included Lorian, 10, who said: “I go to school in Randwick. I would like the grown ups to stop flying, go on your bike more, stop cutting down trees and plant more trees.”
Oscar Everett, 18, also from Stroud said: “Stroud is really on it and setting a really good example for other towns. With Extinction Rebellion taking to the streets to spread awareness of the ecological crisis, Stop Ecocide is taking things into the courtroom.”