Crime statistics often present a distorted view of crime because they fail to include the large volume and scope of crime and harm that ecological disorganization produces. In short, green criminologists often reference this harm in comparison to traditional ‘street’ crimes that the state records for statistical purposes for crimes such as murder, rape, robbery, assault, larceny and motor vehicle theft. Green crimes easily surpass the volume and number of victims reported in crime statistics that are kept by the state. There are a wide variety of green crimes, and the victims of green crimes include non-traditional victims whom criminologists do not ordinarily examine. In addition to human victims, green crimes also have non-human victims including animals, plants, and ecosystems. Green crimes do not outnumber the crimes reported by the police such as murder, rape, assault, larceny, burglary and motor vehicle theft simply because there are more categories of victims. For instance, green-harms often victimize larger numbers of human victims in a single incident compared with typical street crimes.
A single green crime may produce hundreds, thousands or even millions of human victims. Some of those victims suffer repeated victimization as green crimes can also unfold over long periods of time and have a duration not typically associated with street crimes. Each of these factors increases the scope, intensity, and numbers of green victimizations, making these forms of victimization quite different from the typical street crime victimization incident. Green harm and crime are important conceptually and theoretically as well because they have the ability to cause forms of ecological damage that change the very nature of the world.
These green harms can also make the world uninhabitable. Abandoned towns and communities exist because of the health hazards posed by toxic pollutants and other related environmental disasters that are counted among green crimes. In the United States, for example, these locations include: Times Beach, Missouri (due to dioxin pollution); Centralia, Pennsylvania (due to underground mining fires); Love Canal, Niagara Falls, NY (due to widespread disposal of toxic waste); Pitcher, Oklahoma (due to concentrations of lead and zinc pollution); Treece, Kansas (due to lead pollution). These cities, and others around the world, stand as monuments to the tremendous harms green crimes can produce. In addition to these abandoned cities, there are currently 1,163 Superfund sites that are portions of cities, towns, and communities in the United States listed as containing sufficient levels of ground pollution to require remediation.
The environmental impacts of the international capitalist economy include escalated carbon dioxide pollution and other hazardous pollutants. As some researchers note, corporations fail to consider how their behaviours impact ecological disorganization because they externalize the costs of ecological harms—ecological problems that are produced by corporations become social problems which the government, rather than the private firms that create those problems, must address. This shifts the expense of anti-environmental practices to the state, which must tax citizens to generate the funds for remedies. Corporations benefit from the combination of weak environmental regulations and a pseudo-free market which enables the corporations to externalize costs to the state. This, in turn, facilitates private-sector accumulation by transferring corporate costs to individual tax-payers.
Exerpts from “IS IT A CRIME TO PRODUCE ECOLOGICAL DISORGANIZATION?” by Michael J. Lynch, Michael A. Long, Kimberly L. Barrett and Paul B. Stretesky. BRIT. J. CRIMINOL. (2013) 53, 997–1016
Photo courtesy CoastalCare.org