Green crime – Crime and Deviance

Lesson objectiveTo explore green crime
Lesson outcomes• Assess whether green crime increases or decreasing
• Evaluate how green crime impacts crime
• Explain examples of green crime


Wolf (2011) points out that green crime also known as environmental crime and also eco (confusing I know) is usually a crime that relates to breaking environmental laws. 

A transgressive approach to green crime

Lynch and Stretsky (2003) suggests environmental green criminology crime need to adapt a more transgressive approach to gain an accurate definition. White (2006) does exactly this and defines green crime as “any human action that causes environmental harm”. Clearly this differs from Lynch and Stretsky as it goes further than law implying that current laws aren’t enough to protect the environment. 

Examples of green crime

The following website is a global site dedicated to publicising green crime. Here are some excellent examples which also shows globally where these crimes occur. 

According to South (2008) there are two classifications of crime “primary and secondary”. 

  • Primary – Crimes that harm the environment and by extension its people. E.g. pollution. 
  • Secondary – also known as “symbiotic green crime” according to Carrabine et al (2004) and South (2008) is where crimes arises from not following rules that regulate environmental issues. 

The two types (primary and secondary) can be used with one crime e.g. hazardous waste can be both. 

The transnational organised crime

Beck (1992) highlights that environmental harm must be considered in a global context where crime in one country impacts another. It is no longer the responsibility of one country, but all. This is called a global risk society. 

Transnational corporations are key to transferring dumping and other harmful actions from developed countries to what is called the “global south” by White (2008). Laws and legislation are much weaker and often these dumps go unrecognised. 

Who commits green crime

Wolf (2011) states that there are four groups of people who commit green crimes:

  1. Individuals e.g. littering. 
  2. Private businesses e.g. dumping waste.
  3. States and governments e.g. nuclear waste and bombs e.g. The A bomb. Santana (2002) argues that the military is the largest institutional polluter. 
  4. Organised crime e.g. the Mafia and deforestation in South America for profit. Massari and Monzini (2004)’s research shows that mafia-type organisations carried out illegal waste disposal in Italy by colluding with the government. 

Who are the victims of green crime

  • Potter (2010) coins the term “environmental racism” whereby countries who are weak in power e.g. Africa, are victims of pressure from more powerful countries e.g. USA. Therefore, there is a strong link between ethnicity and green crime. Black ethnicity tends to be controlled by white. 
  • White (2003) argues, however, that Potter underestimates pollution in more developed countries. People in New York will have more harm and greater risks of exposure than individuals from undeveloped countries e.g. Baghdad. 

Explaining green crime

  • White (2003) emphasises that transnational corporation and nation states hold an anthropocentric view of the world and this creates green crime. According to the Cambridge dictionary, this means “considering humans and their existence as the most important and central fact in the universe”. 
  • Wolf (2011) argues the major theories of criminology e.g. strain, control theory etc, are all applicable to green crime as the motivations are the same. 
  • Pearce and Marxists believe that green crime stems from corruption and control over the powerless as a way of furthering profits acquired through capitalism (crimogenic). 

Methodological issues of studying green crime

  • Global official statistics on green crime hold low validity and reliability since different countries have different laws so crimes are not always comparable. 
  • Globally, different countries define laws differently, what might be a crime in the UK, might not be in the USA. 
  • Global statistics rely on governments and states being open and honest. States can conceal crime as it makes them look bad. 
  • Where case studies are used instead of official statistics, they have limited use since generalisations cannot be made globally. 

Evaluation of Green crime 

(Good) – Emphasise is made on how environmental crimes are increasing. 

(Good) – For the first time clear links are being made between globalisation and the environment. 

(Good) – It pushes the boundaries of contemporary sociology and criminology by exploring the environment. 

(Bad) – The methodological issues highlighted above. 

(Bad) – It will always be challenging to have high validity and reliability since there are so many global discrepancies about definitions and also state bias. 

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