Just Sociology

The Advantages and Disagreements of Green Criminology: Understanding Environmental Harm

Green crime has been a growing concern of scholars, activists, and policymakers in recent years. The term refers to criminal activities that cause harm to the environment, including both natural and human-made environments.

Green crimes can be categorized into primary and secondary types, such as air and water pollution or deforestation and species decline. Criminology as a field has also evolved to include green crime as a topic of study.

However, there are disputes over the concept of green crime and its implications. This article aims to highlight these disagreements and discuss the advantages and problems of green criminology.

Types of Green Crime:

Green crime is a broad concept that encompasses various forms of criminal activities that affect the environment. The two main types of green crime are primary and secondary crimes.

Primary green crimes refer to environmentally destructive activities that are inherently harmful, such as air pollution, deforestation, water pollution, and species decline. These crimes have direct and immediate harmful effects on the environmental and human health.

Secondary green crimes, on the other hand, are criminal activities that emerge as a result of trying to conceal or manage primary green crimes. For instance, corporate embezzlement or fraud, money laundering, and corruption are considered secondary green crimes as they involve illegal activities designed to hide or facilitate primary green crimes.

Disagreements over the concept of Green Crime:

The concept of green crime has met some resistance from traditional criminology scholars who argue that it is too broad to be considered a legitimate category of crime. They contend that green crime lacks the necessary elements of harm, criminal intent, and victimization that are required to be considered a criminal act.

Traditional criminology also tends to be anthropocentric, meaning it only takes human interests into consideration, rather than the entire ecosystem’s well-being. In contrast, green criminologists adopt an ecocentric view that prioritizes the environment’s needs and demands.

White’s Principles of Green Criminology:

Green criminologists, such as Rob White, have proposed a distinct approach to criminology that extends beyond the traditional anthropocentric view. White defines green criminology as a standpoint that recognizes that environmental damage and environmental harm constitute crucial areas for debate in all forms of criminology.

The principles of green criminology include recognizing environmental rights and environmental justice, both of which prioritize nature’s intrinsic value and non-human species’ rights. Ecocentric and animal rights, as well as species justice, are essential components of the green criminology approach.

Advantages of a Green Criminological Perspective:

Green criminology aims to fill a void in traditional criminology by examining how environmentally destructive activities cause harm to the environment and human society. One of the primary advantages of a green criminological perspective is that it allows for a re-examination of traditional definitions of harm in criminology.

The green criminological perspective challenges the traditional view of crime as solely being caused by human-to-human interactions by highlighting the harm inflicted on the environment and other species. Furthermore, green criminology holds corporations and governments accountable for their role in environmental crimes, addressing the disparity between the enforcement approach of environmental crime in comparison to other criminal activities.

Problems with Green Criminology:

Despite its advantages, the concept of green criminology faces some problems. One problem is the issue of subject matter.

Some scholars raise the argument that the concept of green crime is broad, including a massive list of activities ranging from the use of plastic bags to the destruction of the Amazonian rainforest. Another critical problem with green criminology is the field of Zemiology, which predicts that environmental regulation and enforcement can excessively limit individual and corporate activities.

Although this study highlights some of the disadvantages of green criminology, it is important to note that such concerns need to be addressed within a broader framework to allow democratic policymaking. Conclusion:

The concept of green crime is an essential aspect of criminology, focusing on the harm that human activities inflict on nature, society, and their interdependent relationship.

Green crimes can be categorized into primary and secondary crimes, and a green criminological perspective involves recognizing environmental rights, environmental justice, and other eco-centric principles. While facing some resistance from traditional criminologists, green criminology offers significant advantages by challenging traditional definitions of harm and holding governments and corporations accountable for their role in environmental degradation.

The limitations of green criminology need to be addressed through democratic policymaking, reflecting the values of the affected parties. Expansion:

A Late Modern Perspective on Green Crime

The Risk Society

Ulrich Beck’s concept of the “risk society” offers a late modern perspective on green crime. Beck argues that modern societies are characterized by new risks that arise from modern technologies, including nuclear power, genetically modified organisms, and climate change.

He contends that these risks are different from traditional risks such as natural disasters, which are beyond human control. Instead, modern risks are created by human activities and are the result of the advances in science and technology.

Beck posits that these risks are not distributed evenly and that they create social divisions between those who have the means to minimize their exposure to risks and those who do not. These divisions lead to unequal outcomes, with vulnerable populations, such as poor people or marginalized communities, experiencing disproportionate effects of environmental hazards.

Beck’s risk society concept also illuminates the relationship between power, knowledge, and risks, and how this relationship shapes environmental regulation and enforcement. Beck suggests that the state and corporations hold the power to define and manage risks, which enables them to control the risks and benefits of environmental policies.

In turn, the marginalized communities, who experience disproportionate risks and suffer from environmental hazards, do not have equal access to knowledge or representation, rendering them powerless to influence policies that impact their environment and communities. Broadly Green Criminological/Marxist Perspective on Green Crime

Industrial Capitalism

Green criminologists often adopt a Marxist perspective to understand green crime. They argue that the dominant economic system of industrial capitalism has intensified the demand for economic growth, leading to the rapid exploitation of natural resources and extraction of raw materials.

The use of destructive technologies in the pursuit of profits has resulted in environmental pollution, deforestation, and other forms of environmental degradation. These activities bring harm to the environment and adversely affect the health and well-being of local communities.

Capitalism’s fixation on profits also creates a notion of “externalizing costs” where the industrial players in this economic system do not account for the negative externalities of their actions. For instance, corporations do not pay for the full cost of pollution but pass it on to the publicsuch as in the form of asthma, heart diseases, and cancerswhile still making enormous profits.

Such practices have led to various forms of green crime, including those committed by corporate actors such as dumping of hazardous waste, oil spills, and harmful emissions.

Victims of Green Crime

The victims of green crime are not limited to the environment itself but also extend to human communities that face the direct or indirect consequences of environmental harm. Poor people and marginalized communities are more likely to experience the impacts of environmental harm as they are often located in vulnerable areas and lack the financial and social resources to mitigate the harmful effects.

Moreover, transnational corporations exploit such communities in search of cheap labor making these communities more exposed to environmental attacks. For instance, the Bhopal tragedy in India, where a gas leak in a Union Carbide pesticide plant caused over 3000 deaths and affected half a million people, highlights how green crime causes victims primarily from marginalized communities.

The concept of eco-racism also recognizes that marginalized communities are at increased risk of experiencing environmental harm. Eco-racism refers to the unequal distribution of environmental risks that disproportionately affect people of different races, nationalities, and ethnicities.

Environmental hazards are often located closer to minority communities, which puts these communities at a higher risk of health issues, environmental disasters, and displacement. Conclusion:

The late modern perspective and the Marxist perspective of green crime offer useful theoretical frameworks to understand the causes and consequences of environmental harm.

Beck’s concept of the risk society highlights how modern societies create and distribute environmental risks, resulting in unequal outcomes for marginalized communities. The Marxist perspective underscores the role of industrial capitalism in creating environmental degradation and the externalization of costs by corporations.

The concepts of eco-racism and victimization of poor and marginalized communities accentuate the social justice and environmental justice aspects of the green crimes, making it a crucial area to be studied to address the inequalities created by environmental harm. Conclusion:

Green crime is a contemporary topic of immense importance, with debates around its definition and implications for social justice and environmental issues.

Green criminology, in its evolving nature, emphasizes the harm inflicted on both nature and human society and seeks to hold governments and corporations responsible for their role in environmental degradation. It is crucial to study the unequal consequences of green crime to mitigate the impacts on poor and marginalized communities, promoting environmental and social justice.


Q. Why is green crime an emerging area of study?

A. Green crime is an emerging area of study as it provides a framework to understand the impacts of human activities on the environment and their relationship with social justice aspects.

Q. What are the types of green crime?

A. The two main types of green crime are primary and secondary crimes, including environmental destruction and criminal activities related to concealing primary green crimes.

Q. Why do traditional criminologists disagree with the concept of green crime?

A. Traditional criminologists disagree with the concept of green crime, arguing that it lacks the necessary elements of harm, criminal intent, and victimization that are required to be considered a criminal act.

Q. How does Marxism theory explain green crime?

A. Marxist theory argues that industrial capitalism has intensified the demand for economic growth and extracting raw materials, resulting in environmental pollution and degradation.

Q. Who are the victims of green crime?

A. The victims of green crime extend beyond the environment itself and affect human communities, with poor and marginalized communities at a higher risk of experiencing environmental harm.

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