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June 5, 2013 / C H Thompson

Green crime

Deforestation2Green crime is linked to globalisation and the idea crimes which transcend national boundaries. The sociologist Ulrich Beck (1992) argues we’re entering a global risk society (global risks transcend national boundaries) which is far more difficult for single-nation states to manage for its citizens.

In The Green Criminology Monthly Dr. Gary R. Potter discusses Nigel South’s, et al (2008) classification of green crimes into two distinct types, primary and secondary. This classification illustrates Foucault’s concept of discourse and its ability to change the way we talk about something, the something in this case being crime. When you read these ‘new’ perceptions of criminality you can see how the discourse of crime has changed because about 30 to 40 years’ ago it would have been inconceivable to perceive animal rights as a crime.

Primary green crimes are those crimes which constitute harm inflicted on the environment (and, by extension, those that inflict harm on people because of damage to the environment – our classic ‘environmental victims’ who suffer health or other problems when the land, water or air they interact with is polluted, damaged or destroyed).

South and colleagues recognised four main categories of primary green crimes: crimes of air pollution, crimes of deforestation, crimes of species decline and animal rights and crimes of water pollution.

Secondary, or “symbiotic green crime is crime that grows out of the flouting of rules that seek to regulate environmental disasters” (Carrabine et al. 2004: 318). South provides two examples of secondary crime.

State violence against oppositional groups’, such as when the French government bombed the Greenpeace ship ‘Rainbow Warrior’ to prevent its anti-nuclear campaigning activities.

Their second example is ‘hazardous waste and organised crime’, such as when Mafia-esque organised crime outfits help corporations side-step strict laws about pollution and disposal of hazardous waste by accepting money to take such waste away – no questions asked.

A narrowly defined green criminology would recognise that nations (and the international community) increasingly legislate to prevent these types of harm: (green) crimes result when such legislation is breached. A broader green criminology, following the traditions of critical and radical criminologies (discussed further here) might recognise that such harms are worthy of study by green criminologists whether or not there is legislation in place and whether or not criminal or other laws are actually broken (criminologists can look at actions that some people think should be defined as crime as well as those that are defined as such).

From this perspective because the planet is one unified eco-system which is global system rather than a local system (local is in your own country, therefore there aren’t lots of national eco-systems, just one global eco-system) and single-nation states haven’t the power to deal with major environmental disasters. Therefore all green crime transcends political/national borders which need to be addressed by global solutions such as a global police force like UN police force.

Green crimes include air pollution, water pollution, deforestation, species decline and the dumping of hazardous waste. More example of green crimes are explained in the clip blow.

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