Two developments over the past week or so demonstrate how serious is the existential crisis we now face, by virtue of the damage we are doing to our planet, and how far away we are from facing up to our responsibilities.
First, was the UN report on the millions of plant and animal species that have been, or are about to be, lost for good as a consequence of human activity over the greater part of the Earth's surface.
And secondly, and disappointingly, was the Government's publication of its environmental targets, which fell far short of anything, especially with reference to methane emissions, that could legitimately be described as effectively grappling with the human-led degradation of our planet.
None of this should come as any surprise. Wherever one looks, there is unmistakable evidence of a "business as usual" response to the alarm bells that are now ringing insistently.
Yet, wherever one looks, the evidence of growing crisis cannot be ignored.
In terms of climate change, there seems little understanding of how close we are to a "tipping point" – and that's assuming that it hasn't already been reached – a "tipping point" that arises as the great polar ice caps melt away.
The danger is not just the consequent rise in sea level that threatens the survival of coastal and island communities around the world; it is, rather, that the loss of the ice caps will generate a huge change in the various balancing factors – in terms of ocean currents and temperatures – that have maintained the climatic stability we have enjoyed until recently.
And then there are the continuing projects to replace vast areas of natural habitat with commercial crops.
Again, the threat, from such as the palm oil industry, is not just to the survival of creatures (like orang-utans) whose homes are being destroyed, but also to the natural balance that is needed to maintain the conditions for human survival.
Then, there is the cavalier attitude towards the survival of species that are already threatened.
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The trawler industry's continuing use of fishing methods that predictably mean the constant depredation of marine mammals, such as various species of dolphins, shows how little we care about such "trivial" issues and how much priority we give to our own (supposedly more important?) short-term search for profit.
Ordinarily, we might look to government to restrain the over-riding pursuit of profit by private commercial interests.
But if governments are unwilling to act decisively and to face down the business lobby, in the interests of the planet's survival, where else are we to go? What other remedy or discipline is available to ordinary citizens?
A clear answer to that question has been offered by a British lawyer. Polly Higgins launched a campaign to create a new international crime; following the precedent of genocide as a crime that could be prosecuted in the International Criminal Court, she proposed a new crime of "ecocide" – that is, the crime of acting in such a way as to destroy the world's ecology and natural balance.
Her proposal would make the "rapers and pillagers" criminally liable for the harm they do to the rest of us and would create a legal duty of care to protect the environment.
Her argument was that, if governments have demonstrated their impotence in the face of the rape and pillage of our natural environment, why not pray in aid the provisions of international law?
Why shouldn't ordinary citizens, alarmed for example by the destruction of rain forest by commercial interests, be able to launch a prosecution against the perpetrators that would mean that they could be found guilty of a crime against humanity – just as they would if they were responsible for a murderous attack on a particular group of people?
Her campaign is gathering momentum, although she herself, having been diagnosed with cancer, sadly died a few weeks ago.
She was confident, however, that her campaign would survive her, and would eventually succeed. She set up a group called the Earth Protectors to carry on her work.
As a former teacher of international law, I can only applaud. Future generations need some assurance that they do indeed have a future.
* Bryan Gould is an ex-British MP and Waikato University vice-chancellor