Transnational Crimes And Environmental Crimes Report Examples

Type of paper: Report

Topic: Environment, Social Issues, Crime, Law, Terrorism, Criminal Justice, World, Politics

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2020/11/09


Anthropogenic phenomena have severely challenged and undermined the sanctity of earth’s air, land and water. Environmental crime refers to human behaviors and actions that breach government statutes and provisions implemented in order to protect the physical and ecological environment. Although the formal statutory efforts to curb infractions against the environment, collective efforts to mitigate or stem environmental harm have a long history. During the nineteenth century, several countries enacted legislation that aimed at protecting the physical environment from harm. In Great Britain, Prime Minister Disraeli passed the Rivers Act of 1876, and the United States passed the Refuse Act of 1899. Both of these policies marked the inception of broader efforts to control and curb pollution on a national scale. It was not until the last decades of the twentieth century, however, that legislative bodies spanning the globe made concerted efforts to define and assign criminal penalties for a spectrum of acts rendered pernicious to the environment (Shover & Routhe, 2005, p. 321).


Block (2002) uses the concept of waste to conceptualize the social ills that have permeated the history of mankind. He points out that the nexus between organized crime and sanitation has persisted for centuries, as organized crime in the United States sought to monopolize waste groups and industries. Traditionally based on the premise that once waste was passed on from the producer to waste disposers that it became the property of the disposers, regulatory legislation has historically aimed at supervising, controlling, and disciplining companies and individuals responsible for waste disposal. Large firms and companies have engaged in illicit practices of dumping toxic waste on Third World countries. Thus, Block provides nuance to an environmental justice framework, which embraces goal and a vision in which no community is unfairly burdened with pollution or other environmental harms. Rather, social justice and economic sustainability prevail. Companies and corporations continue to abuse their economic clout at the expense not only of the environment in poorer nations but also of the denizens of those impoverished nations. Many First World companies continue to pollute regularly without impunity. Thus, Block investigates the underpinnings and systemic machinations that facilitate the ability of companies, national enterprises, and firms—many of which are run by organized crime and mobs and engage in illicit and criminal activity—to pollute areas they know lack the political and economic clout to challenge such environmentally harmful and unjust practices.
Using social and cultural historical methods, Bullard examines environmental racism in the Third World regions to show how race, class, and environmental quality converged social justice with the environmental movement. Subaltern communities in the United States often bear the brunt of the adverse consequences spawned by environmental problems despite the notion that all Americans possess a basic right to thrive in healthy environmental conditions. Bullard points out that mainstream environmental movements were too narrow in focus to effectively fight for environmental justice. U.S. communities were not all created equal, and social and racial components create hierarchies and competing systems so that not all classes and races benefit from environmental regulations. Historically, the environmental movement has focused on wildlife preservation, wise resource management, population control and pollution abatement. It was supported mainly by middle-upper class whites even though environmental concerns cut across racial and class lines. Though very exclusive, mainstream environmental movements very successful in influencing and shaping environmental policy. Environmental justice movements thus were not monolithic in goals and strategies. Non-white took charge in mobilizing grassroots activism because the mainstream movements failed to connect environmental issues with social justice, thereby ignoring issues that largely affecting colored communities. The emergence of grassroots movements mobilized politically and socially conscious subaltern communities against hegemonic systems that oppressed them as well as against the mainstream environmental movements. Through political lobbying, preventative tactics, and letter writing campaigns, grassroots movements emulated civil rights tactics in order to bring attention to the mainstream groups about the need to address environmental justice issues. Historiographical gaps have elided counter-narratives about the activities of grassroots environmental movements from a transnational perspective. Nonetheless, Bullard provides a trenchant view of the heterogeneity of efforts to stem environmental crimes often perpetrated by state governments and social groups within the dominant heteronormative paradigm.
Gerrard (2003) considers how the events of 9/11 brought national security to the fore of American politics, focusing on the legislatives responses of the U.S. government to the deadly terrorist attacks situated within the trajectory of U.S. responses to other disasters. Politicians deployed a cost/benefit analysis between health /safety laws pertaining to workers and the protection and enforcement of environmental policies. Often, Gerard points out, the government enacted various environmental statutes as a direct response to disasters such as oil spills and gasoline explosions. Disasters—whether accidental, natural or intentional—all portend adverse ecological impacts that the government always seeks to address. Critical of the government’s approach to environmental legislation passed in the wake of disasters, Gerard contends that a disproportionate and inordinate amount of resources are channeled into environmental policies despite the presence of qualitative data that demonstrates that occupational hazards pose a far greater threat to human health. Moreover, he criticizes the fact that environmental legislation often contains provisions that grant enforcement power to citizens, while occupational health agencies and laws can only be supervised by government officials. Rather than prevent transnational environmental crimes, Gerard posits that stricter environmental legislation merely acts as a hindrance during times of emergency or disaster. Thus, he complicates the notion of environmental terrorism by positing that such language was hyperbolic in comparison to the political and social injustices taking place worldwide.
Focusing on the language of legal precepts, Green, Ward and McConnachie (2007) examine logging as a significant transnational environmental crime that harms the environmental through the deliberate destruction of forests globally. The boundary separate “legal” from “illegal” logging, however is a nebulous one despite the commonplace belief that illegal logging has traditionally constituted one of the major manifestations of organized, transnational crime. The language used in crafting forest laws and forestry regulation have complicated any attempts at effective enforcement. Moreover, many state laws are rife with ambiguity, rendering it difficult to identify and prosecute “illegal” activities. The illegal trade in timber and products made out of timber has emerged as the gravest international environmental crime from an economic perspective (p. 95). Apart from focusing on the legality of timber practices, the authors assert that unequivocal legality does not translate into guaranteed sustainability. The authors use the case study of Tasmania as a microcosm that demonstrates how highly destructive logging practices waged by the Tasmanian timber industry are on the immediate environment. They proffer a definition of crime as behavior that has been rendered deviant and thus affected by and subject to legal and social processes of sanction and rebuke. Moreover, acts considered a state crime directly violates standards that criminologists have endorsed and rendered normative. The authors ultimately posit that civil society often plays a more prominent and hegemonic role in “defining, censuring, and sanctioning deviant behavior” than the government does (p. 94). As a result, the agency of civil society in defining and criticizing illegal logging must become the subject of careful and meticulous scrutiny. International regulations placed on the timber trade must shift its focus from legalities to advocate more for sustainability. Legal precepts have hitherto had very little impact, thereby revealing a need for alternative approaches to combating transnational environmental crimes.
Miller, Rivera, and Yelin (2008) approach the subject of environmental crime from a civil and human rights perspective, thereby articulating the grievances of environmental groups and activists internationally who seek to exercise their political agency through confrontational politics against national, regional, and international governing bodies as well as multinational corporations. They argue that the escalation of terrorist activities around the globe have propelled many nations to seek the implementation of specific policies in order to thwart and combat terrorist acts and behavior. In order for these policies to be effective, the international community must come to a consensus about a “transnational working definition of terrorism” in order to discern what acts constitute terrorism and which do not (Miller et al., 2008, p. 109). The United Nations’ General Assembly has yet to pass a resolution that universally condemns terrorism, a concept they have only defined in for academic audiences (p. 112). However, ambiguity surrounding the concept of terrorism within the context of modernity has resulted in the infringement of civil liberties, resulting in environmental groups being marked as hostile and oriented towards acts of terror. The socially constructive nature of the concept of terrorism has thus complicated efforts to combat eco-terrorism and environmental terrorism by imbuing them with political and social meanings. Ultimately, the authors broach the subject using discursive analysis to show how language has played and continues to play a formative role in complicating transnational efforts to prevent ecological terrorism and fully prosecute perpetrators guilty of environmental crimes.
Drawing on historical and philosophical precepts to link white racism with legal, psychological and cultural frameworks connected images of non-white people with pollution, barbarism, filth, and dirt, Charles Mills proffers a theoretical model that the state uses to conceptualize subaltern communities using the language connected to the environment and environmental concerns. Through such discursive analysis, it is unequivocal that Mills connects white racism to the framework of environmental justice whereby individuals who occupy the bottom rungs of society were projected as dirty pollution. As a result, it is justifiable for the state to dump trash and other toxic wastes in these racialized areas, there providing a rationale for constructing African-American neighborhoods close to toxic waste sites. Mills views African Americans as well as immigrants and indigenous people metaphors for pollution. The global exploitation of natives by forcing them to live in areas that were in close proximity to toxic waste sites reveals that pollution and racialization worked in tandem against non-white bodies that are perceived as the embodiment of pollution, thereby constructing racial Others as dirty forms of toxic waste and pollution, By naturalizing the idea that subaltern peoples personify pollution, Mills contends that the racial thinking undergirded state-sponsored environmental degradation, thereby insinuating that polities around the world are run by hegemonic whites rather than indigenous peoples. Space, pollution, and raciality are all related and results in the spatialization of race and conversely the racialization of space. Although global environmental efforts center their movements on the notion that all global citizens are responsible for the waste that is produced, waste is not disposed of equally. Such environmental crimes against subaltern, global citizens demonstrates the ways in which modernity and political-economic structures produce environmental racism and results in the covert perpetuation of environmental crimes throughout the globe. Mills thus proffers a framework that demonstrates how environmental inequities are firmly embedded in de facto global policies of both corporations and states in dealing with waste disposal.
Deploying a legalistic framework, O’Hear (2004) examines a largely ignored area of scholarship regarding environmental crimes: the prosecution and sentencing of perpetrators. Federal law in the United States regulates pollution emissions and waste management vis-à-vis a complex system of administrative permits and rules. If violated, these laws mandate both monetary penalties doled out by civil courts as well as criminal prosecution, where perpetrators faced incarceration for environmental crimes. Towards the end of the twentieth century, the criminal enforcement of environmental policies has cultivated a burgeoning epistemology regarding environmental crimes, as lawyers, environmentalists, and scholars alike have proliferated various discourses and scholarship on the issue. Despite the proliferation of literature covering ecological and environmental crimes, scholars have largely ignored the sentencing process and the formative role the sentencing judge plays in sanctioning actions categorized under ecoterrorism. The majority of criminal defendants today around the world plead guilty, so trials rarely occur while sentencing proceedings have become the norm. Thus, environmental crimes are within a transnational context more often litigated rather than subsumed under “the finer points of he substantive law,” including the mens rea prerequisites (p. 135). Moreover, compendiums of published case law and other empirical information have proliferated on the subject of sentencing in environmental crime cases. While the United States has set forth explicit guidelines that governed the severity of sentencing commensurate to the severity of the crime committed, most nations around the globe have yet to construct and utilize any governing taxonomy. O’Hear nonetheless examines sentencing guidelines used in the United States in order to not only point out inherent flaws that have rendered environmental crimes less serious than other criminal acts, but also to set a blueprint for other countries where blatant environmental crimes define the quotidian experience can implement their own idiosyncratic set of guidelines and rules of enforcement.
As a result of the September 11 attacks in 2001 combined with ensuing anthrax incidents, the national security of the United States has been gravely undermined. The notion that terrorist groups harnessed biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons to carry out is agenda has instilled fear in the masses, as the reality of globalized terror and the used of nature and the environmental no longer remains a remote possibility. Thus, studies and writings about the notion of environmental security has proliferated, fostered by the onset of an epoch defined by global commerce. As a result, Penders and Thomas (2002) argue for the to forge an integrated, transnational system in which information among law enforcement agencies, environmental protection and regulatory agencies, customs service, intelligence, and trade agencies can be shared and disseminated in order to effectively combat the threat of environmental crimes on an international level. Positing that only through such international frameworks can environmental crimes be controlled and ultimately eradicated. The September 11 attacks had shifted the focus of environmental agencies from regulation and management to security regarding infrastructure and industry. Thus, the unwavering search for security and safety from an array out external threats, real or perceive, has cultivated a governmental and legislative interest in policymakers to implement more secure and sustainable environmental practices. Thus, this article frames its analysis around a seminal event to articulate how environmental and why environmental crimes have garnered much more recent scholarly attention and why environmental crime has become a truly transnational problem rather than one idiosyncratic to the United States. In an epoch defined by technological innovation, it is now possible for countries and terrorist groups alike to manufacture and use weapons that have harnessed biological or chemical substances in order to inflict immense and catastrophic on intended targets.
As a result of the globalization of terrorism in the context of modernity, the concept of environmental terrorism has increasingly entered public discourses and dialogue about transnational crime. Examining crimes through a political lens, Schwartz (1998) considers the notion of ecological or environmental terrorism within the North American context, as it has infiltrated the media, politics, and academia. Despite the diffusion of dialogue surrounding terror within an ecological context, the term remains nebulous and ambiguous, resulting in its widespread misuse. Schwartz thus proffers a taxonomy that facilitates the concrete discernment of different kinds of environmental crimes that fall under the liminal category of “terrorism” and those that can be categorized as “environmental terrorism.” Terror is an elastic and heterogeneous concept that entails a multitude of focal points and strands, one of which is the ecological dimension. Environmental crimes only constitute acts of ecological terrorism if the act or behavior violates national or international laws that govern the protection of the environment during wartime or peacetime as well as an act or behavior that demonstrates any associative characteristics or traits of terrorism, meaning the threat or act of violence retains the objective of harming a specific target. These two prerequisites must be present in environmentally destructive acts in order to be considered manifestations of environmental terrorism. Moreover, the perpetrator uses the environment as a mechanism—realm or symbolic—to cultivate fear in the community or population at large regarding the adverse environmental consequences spawned by the perpetrator’s action or behavior. This article provides a clear conceptual framework that can be applied to a transnational study of and approach to understanding the nature and function of environmental crimes.
Shover and Routhe (2005) broach the subject of environmental crimes from an economic standpoint in order to see how the globalization of economic relationships has rendered it both challenging and difficult for regulatory and government oversight of corporations have become increasingly transnational in nature. Unfortunately, there is a dearth of systematic data on the diffuse nature and extent of environmental crimes, the perpetrators of these crimes, and how governments and agencies have responded and/or attempted to combat them. States across the globe have embraced a rational-choice approach in which governments have empowered regulatory agencies to respond to and combat environmental crimes and illegalities. Unfortunately, the implementation of penalties have not been enforced, thereby enabling environmentally harmful industries to thrive without the threat of sanctions due to adverse environmental consequences. The criminal prosecution of those who violate environmental protections have hitherto largely been non-existent. Although environmental advocates in many countries across the globe have touted environmental regulatory policies as the most effective means to address traditional problems of control, regulation, and prevention, tangible evidence still has not surfaced. Although the oversight of environmental regulations globally functions on an idiosyncratic basis, the authors stress the need for a more transnational approach to effectively combat environmental crimes because only in well-organized and technologically advanced society are regulations enforced as a result of the litany of grassroots and middle-class movements. Ultimately, the authors argue that strategies for combating environmental crimes must abandon traditional, deterrence-based strategies in favor of more flexible and cooperative enforcement measures within a transnational context.
White frames his analysis around the concept of state crime, or crime perpetrated by state against its own citizens or against the citizens of another society if involved in that state’s civil conflict. Rather than viewing crime perpetrated by the citizens, White proffers a counter-narrative regarding environmental crime that focuses on the injustices that some governments engage in for a variety of purposes through the misuse of or corruption in public office for their own personal advancement or gain. Government machinery often aligns with the mechanisms created within a polity in order to ensure that citizens and the government comply with federal laws. However, state agencies often coordinate with those in charge in order to systemically deny any environmental harm inflicted by certain enterprises, companies, or corporations. Thus, those who possessed political and economic clout and agency are often able to engage in environmentally harmful behavior with impunity, which has resulted in the diffusion of environmental victimization not only in the United States but worldwide. Thus, this article provides a unique perspective about the nature of environmental crimes within a transnational context. At the core of this analysis is the paradoxical relationship between victim action and environmental activism. The state often emerges as the primary facilitator and perpetrator of acts that cause direct environmental harm, thereby contributing to the ubiquitous environmental victimization witnessed during the past few decades. However, activism at the grassroots level is often oriented towards the state as well. The state thus occupies a liminal position in which it transgresses as well as defends fundamental ecological and human rights. The tenuous nature of this paradoxical relationship must be viewed from a global perspective. Ultimately, it is subtly evident that White and other likeminded scholars believe that transnational ecological citizenship provides one avenue through which environmental crime can be controlled and eradicated, as other countries would function as checks to one another if any nation violated the prerequisites for global environmental citizenship.


Transnational environmental crimes are a relatively new phenomenon that the world has had to address and combat as a result of the diffusion of ecoterrorism. As a result, effective responses and deterrents have yet to be effectively applied. The United Nations and the European Union must effectively come up with viable solutions in order to ensure that such heinous crimes do not occur in the future.


Block, A. A. (2002). Environmental crime and pollution: wasteful reflections. Social Justice, 29(1/2), 61-81.
Brown, C. S. (2007). Beyond intrinsic value: undermining the justification of eco-terrorism. American Journal of Economics and Sociology, 66(1), 113-126.
Bullard, R. D. (2000). Dumping in Dixie: race, class, and environmental quality (3rd ed.). Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press.
Gerard, M.B. (2003). Disasters first: rethinking environmental law after September 11. Widener Law Symposium Journal, 222, 80-101.
Green, P., Ward, T., & McConnachie, K. (2007). Logging and legality: environmental crime, civil society, and the state. Social Justice, 34(2), 94-110.
Miller, D. S., Rivera, J. D., & Yelin, J. C. (2008). Civil liberties: the line dividing environmental protest and ecoterrorists. Journal for the Study of Radicalism , 2(1), 109-123.
Mills, C. (2001). Black trash. Faces of environmental racism: confronting issues of global justice (pp. 73-91). Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield.
O'Hear, M. M. (2004). Sentencing the Green-Collar Offender: Punishment, Culpability, and Environmental Crime. The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology (1973-), 95(1), 133-276.
Penders, M. J., & Thomas, W. L. (2002). Ecoterror: rethinking environmental security after September 11. Natural Resources & Environment, 16(3), 159-164.
Schwartz, D. M. (1998). Environmental terrorism: analyzing the concept. Journal of Peace Research, 35(4), 483-496.
Shover, N., & Routhe, A. S. (2005). Environmental crime. Crime and Justice, 32, 321-371.
White, R. (2010). Environmental victims and resistance to state Crime through transnational activism. Social Justice, 36(3), 46-60.

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