We mourn the loss of former Arne Næss chair Polly Higgins

Change-maker and big-thinker Polly Higgins was a lawyer who created a completely new body of law to protect the Earth.

Polly Higgins

Polly Higgins has left a lasting mark on the minds of Norwegian and international students, scholars and activists. Photo: Fran Monks / CC 4.0 license

We are saddened to hear of the loss of international ecocide law advocate Polly Higgins, who passed away last week at the age of 50. Higgins was the Arne Næss Professor at the University of Oslo in 2013.

Prof. Nina Witoszek is Programme Director of the Arne Næss Programme at SUM, UiO.

It is with profound regret that we have learned about the passing away of Polly Higgins. Polly’s motto: “The Earth is in need of a good lawyer,” her brave campaign for ecocide to be recognised as a crime against humanity, her personal charisma and pedagogical flair, has left an indelible mark on the minds of Norwegian and international students, scholars and activists, says professor Nina Witoszek.

During her stay as the Arne Næss Professor at the Centre for Development and the Environment (SUM), Polly initiated the Arne Næss Project, a student project which had as its objective to assess the level of ecocide at the local and global level.

Polly was loved and cherished by SUM students; she had the rare ability to appeal both to their minds and their souls and, in this way, train them in planetary patriotism, says Nina Witoszek.

Polly spent most of her time at SUM engaging in discussions with master students, and was fantastic at motivating student engagement.

Polly Higgins was the kind of person that touches your heart with kindness and excitement. ‘What makes your heart sing?’ she asked us. I’ve gone back to that moment every time I felt lost in my mission, and it has always put me back on track. The kind of passion and beliefs she had is what is we need more of to make this world a better place, says Marcela Oliveira, former master student at SUM.

An advocate for Earth rights

Polly's work focused on an international law of Ecocide to sit alongside the existing Crimes Against Peace such as Crime of Genocide. Polly's background as a corporate lawyer and barrister in the UK shaped her belief that a law of Ecocide can create a global framework to put people and planet first, and enable business to do what is best for the Earth. She dedicated her life to hold those committing ecocide to account.

Polly was the author of the award-winning Eradicating Ecocide: Laws and Governance to Prevent the Destruction of our Planet (2010). Her second book, Earth is our Business was published in May 2012. She was named one of the World’s Top 10 Visionary Thinkers by the Ecologist.

May her legacy live on forever.

Published Apr. 24, 2019 12:54 PM - Last modified Apr. 25, 2019 2:22 PM