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Photo by Jonas Gerlach via Unsplash


World History: 1750-Present


8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th


Social Studies, History


110 minutes

Regional Focus



Google Docs, Google Slides


This lesson plan is licensed under Creative Commons.

Creative Commons License

Ecocide: A Tool for Ecological Justice

Created By Teacher:
Last Updated:
Dec 4, 2023
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In this lesson, students explore whether ecocide should be considered a crime, as proposed in international law. 

Step 1 - Inquire: Students respond to photos and facts about the environmental impact of the destruction of a dam in wartime Ukraine, and are introduced to the concept of ecocide.

Step 2 - Investigate: Students learn the proposed definition of ecocide in international law and analyze it using a Frayer Model, exploring possible examples during both wartime and peacetime.

Step 3 - Inspire: Students demonstrate their knowledge of ecocide and present their perspective on the topic by creating and sharing a one-pager.

Accompanying Teaching Materials
Teaching Tips


  • Students draw on prior knowledge and their own experience to make local and global real-world connections to a compelling contemporary topic.

  • This lesson can be included in a unit on any of the following topics:

    • Genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity during the world wars

    • International laws and organizations that were created in response to wars

    • The general effects of war

    • The Vietnam War (the term ecocide was first used during this war)

    • The impact of human geography on the environment

    • Globalization, economic development, and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Additional Prerequisites

  • Teachers should be familiar with the existence of international systems of justice and crimes, including crimes against humanity and genocide.

  • Teachers should have a general understanding of human-environment interaction and human-caused climate change.

  • It’s recommended that teachers prepare for this lesson by reading the pieces on the proposed international definition of ecocide and the International Criminal Court (ICC). Some key ideas are highlighted here:

    • The definition of ecocide used in this lesson is based on a recent international report that seeks to add ecocide to a short list of international crimes.

    • There are currently four core international crimes: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crime of aggression. These crimes are dealt with by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). (NPR). Ecocide would be the fifth crime.

    • Ecocide is an evolving concept first introduced in the context of the U.S. dropping Napalm on Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia during the Vietnam War, which harmed land, wildlife, and humans. There is a growing movement within Ukraine to make ecocide a crime.

    • The authors of the newly proposed definition seek to “prevent future environmental disasters like the deforestation of the Amazon or actions that contribute to climate change" (NPR).

    • The United States is not a member of the ICC (NPR).


  • The Inquire and Investigate sections can fit into a 90-minute block period and the Inspire section one-pager can be assigned as homework or continued in the next class.

  • In order to make the content more accessible, consider front-loading the concepts of climate change, biodiversity, genocide, crimes against humanity, and international law before teaching the lesson.

  • This lesson could be modified in many ways including reducing the number of documents, steps, or readings or using a KWL chart in the Inquire section.

  • Instead of using the video on Greta Thunberg in the Inquire section, teachers can substitute an example of a local human-caused environmental disaster.

  • In the Investigate section, teachers can implement the following extension activities:

  • Students look at images and statistics from this Vox article about the destruction of the Brazilian Amazon under President Jair Bolsonaro.

  • Students read this article to learn more about forests' role in mitigating climate change and the current threats they face.

Scientist Notes

In this lesson, students can learn about the notion of ecocide, how people and nature are intertwined, and the need of protecting the environment. They will learn in-depth information about the proposed global legal action against ecocide, the effects it has on the victims, and how ecocide is fast becoming a vehicle for advancing environmental and climatic justice. The lesson passed our review for science credibility after a careful examination of all the contents.


Note On Standards:

This lesson is aligned to Oregon standards. Review the aligned standards directly in the lesson plan document and teacher slideshow.

Discover more on the Oregon Climate Education Hub.
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