Green Crime: The Crime against Environment

Green Crime * This is crime(s) against the environment. * Traditionally criminology focuses on whether a law has been broken – a crime is something that breaks the law. * Green criminology starts from the notion of harm rather than the breaking of law. * Rob White (2008) – subject of criminology is one that harms the physical environment and/or the human and non human animals within it. * The world is a single eco-system. E. g. Atmospheric pollution from industry in one country can turn into acid rain that falls in another. Accident in the nuclear industry can spread radioactive material over thousands of miles – Chernobyl in Ukraine – 1986 * Beck (1992) argues – today we can provide adequate resources for all – at least in the developed countries. Massive increase in productivity and the technology that sustains it have created new, manufactured risks – dangers which we have not face before. * Many of these risks involve harm to the environment and the consequences to humanity – greenhouse gases from industry leading to global warming. Like climate change these risks are mainly global rather than local in nature, leading Beck to describe late modern society as ‘global risk society’. * Green crimes can be committed by individuals, businesses and governments, i. e. fly tipping, picking rare flowers and trafficking in endangered animals by individuals, pollution and fly-tipping caused by businesses and pollution, transportation and dump of waste material committed by governments. * Whaling should also be considered as a crime – environmentalists say. Two views of harm: * 1) General Nation’s states and transnational corporations – adopt what White (2008) calls an anthropocentric or human centred view of the environmental harm – humans have a right to dominate nature and economic growth comes first. * 2) An ecocentric view sees humans and their environment as interdependent – if something hurts the environment then it hurts humans as well. * Both humans and the environment and liable to exploitation, particularly by global capitalism. Types of green crime: Primary crimes; crimes that a due directly to the destruction and degradation of the earth’s resources e. g. crimes of air pollution – burning fossil fuels from industry and transport. Potential criminals are governments, businesses and consumers. Secondary crimes; crimes that grow out of the flouting of rules aimed at preventing or regulation environmental harms. State violence against oppositional groups is a form of secondary crime.

States condemn terrorism but they have been prepared to resort to similar illegal methods themselves * 1985 French secret service blew up the Greenpeace ship ‘Rainbow Warrior’, killing one crew member, the ship was there to try and prevent a green crime – French nuclear weapon testing in the South pacific. * Another example is the disposal of hazardous toxic waste and organized crime. * Evaluation of green criminology. * It recognises the growing importance of environmental issues and the need to address the harms and risks of environmental damage, both to humans and non-human animals.

However, because it focuses on harms instead of just legally defined crimes it is hard to define the boundaries of its study. * State Crime * State crime – crime committed by the government such as a war crime, genocide, imprisonment without trial and torture. * Area of interest to Marxist sociologists. They see government as controlled or heavily influence by the bourgeoisie. It would be a mistake to think that only Marxists are interested in state crimes and much of the investigative work is done by journalists. * State’s role to define what is criminal and to manage the criminal justice system and prosecute offenders.

State crime undermines the system of justice. * Its power to make law also means that is can avoid defining its own action as criminal E. g. Nazi Germany, the state created laws permitting it to sterilise disabled people against their will. State control of the criminal justice system also means that it can persecute its enemies. * Media attention is often on state crimes by Third World dictatorships – democratic states such as Britain and the USA have also been guilty of crimes such as the military use of torture in Iraq, Northern Ireland and elsewhere. Herman and Julia Schwendinger (1970) – we should define crime in terms of the violation of basic human rights, rather than the breaking of legal rules. This means that states that deny individuals’ human rights must be regarded as criminal. * States that practice racism or sexism and inflict economic exploitation on their citizens are committing crimes – denying people of their basic rights. * Schwendingers argue that the sociologist’s role should be to defend human rights, if necessary against the state and its laws. * However Stanley Cohen (1996; 2001) criticises the Schwendingers’ view. E. g. genocide and torture are clearly crimes by the economic exploitation of citizens are not self evidently criminal even if they are morally wrong. * Other critics’ state that there is only limited agreement on what is a human right – liberty is seen as a human right but not all agree that freedom from poverty is a human right. * Explaining state crime. * Spiral of denial a series of denials about the occurrence and or seriousness of immoral acts, ending with a justification for such acts. * All too often people are reluctant to admit that horrific acts are being committed.

Cohen states that the state denies that torture is taking place, however when shown photographic evidence the government changes tack and refers to a series of euphemisms to re describe events ‘self defence’ issues etc. Finally the last step in the spiral is to justify what happened in terms of protecting national security or as part of the war against terror. * Strain Theory can also help to explain state crime; State agencies often experience conflicting goals. Chambliss (1995) points out that the activities of the CIA often broke international laws and conventions because of the priority given to ridding the world of communism.

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