In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Green Criminology

  • Introduction
  • General Introductions and Overviews
  • Early Contributions and Developments
  • Conceptualizations and Alternative Formulations
  • Responses to Environmental Harm (2000–2005)
  • Responses to Environmental Harm (2006–2011)
  • Future Directions

Criminology Green Criminology
Nigel South, Avi Brisman, Bill McClanahan
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 May 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 April 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396607-0161


In recent years, a strand of criminology explicitly concerned with “green” or natural environmental issues has emerged, aiming to place a primary emphasis on the matter of harms and crimes affecting the environment and the planet, and addressing issues such as climate change; natural resource extraction and exploitation; pollution of air, land, and water; biodiversity loss; and wildlife trafficking. The case has been made for a “green perspective” within criminology—an approach that seeks neither to propose a definitive theory with respect to the causes of environmental crime or harm nor to offer a specific set of solutions, but more modestly sets forth an argument that criminology should be more sensitive to the extent and implications of these urgent and globally important matters. Arguably, this orientation for criminology reflects the times and in that sense there is a degree of inevitability about its arrival from the early 1990s onward. The development of a “green criminology” has led to an international community of common interest concerned with the biophysical and socioeconomic consequences of various sources of threat and damage to the environment. Major themes, topics, and problems that have been examined include pollution and its regulation; corporate criminality and its impact on the environment; health and safety in the workplace where breaches of regulations and law have environmentally damaging consequences; the involvement of organized crime and official corruption in the illegal disposal of toxic waste; the impact and legacy of law enforcement and military operations on air quality, landscapes, water supply, and living organisms inhabiting these areas; as well as forms of regulation, law enforcement, and prosecution relevant to such acts and omissions. Green criminological research, as it has developed, covers environmental damage and destruction (both as proscribed by law and defined as “crimes” and those harms that are not); environmental laws (i.e., administrative, criminal, and civil, applied via a governmental agency or the criminal justice system, and including enforcement measures and court proceedings, prosecution, and sentencing); and environmental regulation (e.g., systems and processes for purposes of protection and monitoring). As recognized in the natural sciences and most policy circles, the resources of the Earth are finite and this has implications that criminology is well-placed to examine in cases where problems such as abuse, conflict, corruption, exploitation, law-breaking, rule-avoidance, manslaughter, and murder can all be identified. In this article, we note (1) General Introductions and Overviews; (2) Early Contributions and Developments; (3) Conceptualizations and Alternative Formulations; (4) Topics of Study in Green Criminology; (5) Responses to Environmental Harm (2000–2005) and (2006–2011); and (6) Future Directions.

General Introductions and Overviews

Since the initial proposals for a green criminology in the 1990s, there have been a number of works published that represent efforts to introduce and provide general overviews of this emerging and growing field. These titles serve, then, as excellent resources for those seeking to understand broadly the developments made within green criminology in the roughly two decades since its inception, and include work focused on theoretical, methodological, and conceptual issues relevant to the field. Environmental Crime: Enforcement, Policy, and Social Responsibility (Clifford 1998) serves as an early introduction to green criminology, exploring topics related to environmental crime and enforcement. Beirne and South 2007 provides an expanded overview of the field, introducing readers to green criminology and devoting attention to animal rights and animal abuse (three chapters) and ecological systems and environmental harms (six chapters), while Sollund 2008 focuses on animal abuse, speciesism, and ecological harm. White 2008, the first monograph in green criminology, examines some of the underlying conceptual issues surrounding environmental crime and harm. South and Beirne 2006 and White 2010 bring together contributions from scholars from around the world, exploring the parameters of an emergent green criminology, and providing theoretical, methodological, and substantive insights into the nature and dynamics of environmental harm, such as climate change, wildlife crime, and the disposal of toxic waste. Meško, et al. 2011 considers environmental issues in southeastern Europe, incorporating perspectives from both natural and social scientists. Ellefsen, et al. 2012 is the first volume in Ashgate’s Green Criminology Series and one composed almost entirely of scholars in Scandinavia; it focuses on speciesism, animal abuse, and social movements (six chapters) and biodiversity and environmental and species justice (five chapters). The field was enriched by the publication of both South and Brisman 2013, which includes international perspectives on a wide range of historical, methodological, and theoretical issues relevant to green criminology, and Walters, et al. 2013, a volume exploring issues such as animal trafficking and abuse, organized crime in the carbon trading sector, e-waste disposal, and resource wealth and conflict. See also Burns, et al. 2008.

  • Beirne, Piers, and Nigel South, eds. 2007. Issues in green criminology: Confronting harms against environments, humanity and other animals. Cullompton, UK: Willan.

    Twelve chapters with contributors providing a comprehensive overview of issues relevant to green criminology, including animal abuse, climate change, ecological and social justice, environmental regulation, and food crime. Provides an introductory overview of green criminology with advice for readers on how to best approach the field.

  • Burns, Ronald G., Michael J. Lynch, and Paul Stretesky. 2008. Environmental law, crime, and justice. New York: LFB.

    Created for classroom use, the nine chapters in this volume provide a thorough exploration of issues relating to environmental law and justice from a criminological perspective. Includes examples of how to best use federal crime databases to conduct criminological research into environmental crime and harm.

  • Clifford, Mary, ed. 1998. Environmental crime: Enforcement, policy, and social responsibility. Gaithersburg, MD: Aspen.

    Chapters by various authors present an introduction to the study of environmental crime, an interagency approach to the enforcement of environmental protection legislation, the identification of essential connections in addressing environmental crime, and case studies of environmental crime and efforts to counter it.

  • Ellefsen, Rune, Ragnhild Sollund, and Guri Larsen, eds. 2012. Eco-global crimes: Contemporary problems and future challenges. Surrey, UK: Ashgate.

    The fifteen chapters in this volume use empirical and theoretical arguments to discuss the multi-dimensional character of eco-global crime. Individual contributions deal with animal abuse, biodiversity, environmental activism, environmental justice, and speciesism.

  • Meško, Gorazd, Dejana Dimitrijević, and Charles B. Fields, eds. 2011. Understanding and managing threats to the environment in south eastern Europe. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.

    Proceedings of the NATO Advanced Research Workshop on Managing Global Environmental Threats to Air, Water and Soil—Examples from South Eastern Europe, Ljubljana, Slovenia 28–30 June 2010. Focusing on southeastern Europe, this volume includes natural and social science perspectives on harms and threats to the environment. Examines a number of issues particularly relevant to the area, including environmental policy and enforcement, food safety, pollution, and waste trafficking and dumping.

  • Sollund, Ragnhild, ed. 2008. Global harms: Ecological crime and speciesism. New York: Nova Science.

    Explores the presence and prevalence of speciesism and its impact on activism, scholarship, and human/nonhuman animal interactions more generally. Examines the ways that speciesist attitudes are socially learned, and how those attitudes drive the exploitation of nature and animals. Links ecological exploitation to the Marxist concept of alienation.

  • South, Nigel, and Piers Beirne, eds. 2006. Green criminology. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate.

    This book brings together criminological research on environmental issues from a diverse group of scholars, reflecting the global concerns of green and eco-global criminology. Chapters provide theoretical, methodological, and substantive insights into the nature and dynamics of environmental harm, such as animal abuse, rights, victims and regulation, organized crime, wildlife crime, and the future of green criminology.

  • South, Nigel, and Avi Brisman, eds. 2013. Routledge international handbook of green criminology. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.

    Twenty-six chapters from a wide range of international scholars demonstrate the breadth and depth of current green criminological scholarship. Chapters cover history, theory, and methods; region-specific issues (e.g., Africa, Amazon); international and transnational issues (e.g., climate change, air and water pollution); and relationships between environment and culture, environment and economy, and humans and nonhuman species.

  • Walters, Reece, Diane Solomon Westerhuis, and Tanya Wyatt, eds. 2013. Emerging issues in green criminology: Exploring power, justice and harm. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

    DOI: 10.1057/9781137273994.0011

    Twelve chapters divided into three parts: Concepts, Perspectives, and Dimensions; Rights and Wrongs; and Policing, Regulation, Enforcement. Chapters explore such issues as animal trafficking; crime related to the commodification of carbon; environmental victimization and e-waste and natural resource wealth and conflict.

  • White, Rob. 2008. Crimes against nature: Environmental criminology and ecological justice. Cullompton, UK: Willan.

    Ten chapters exploring a wide range of concepts, theoretical frameworks, and responses to environmental crime. Utilizing various legal, political, social, as well as activist, frameworks, White describes the conceptual issues underlying environmental harm and crime, building the case for a robust green criminology.

  • White, Rob, ed. 2010. Global environmental harm: Criminological perspectives. Cullompton, UK: Willan.

    This book brings together criminological research on environmental issues from a diverse group of scholars, reflecting the global concerns of green and eco-global criminology. Chapters provide theoretical, methodological, and substantive insights into the nature and dynamics of environmental harm, such as climate change, wildlife crime, and the disposal of toxic waste.

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