Green criminology

Green criminology is a branch of criminology that involves the study of harms and crimes against the environment broadly conceived, including the study of environmental law and policy, the study of corporate crimes against the environment, and environmental justice from a criminological perspective.


The term "green criminology" was introduced by Michael J. Lynch in 1990, and expanded upon in Nancy Frank and Michael J. Lynch’s 1992 book, Corporate Crime, Corporate Violence,[1] which examined the political economic origins of green crime and injustice, and the scope of environmental law. The term became more widely used following publication of a special issue on green criminology in the journal Theoretical Criminology edited by Piers Beirne and Nigel South (1998, volume 2, number 2). Green criminology has recently started to feature in university-level curriculum and textbooks in criminology and other disciplinary fields.[2]

The study of green criminology has expanded significantly over time, and is supported by groups such as the International Green Criminology Working Group See There are increasing interfaces and hybrid empirical and theoretical influences between the study of green criminology, which focuses on environmental harms and crimes, and mainstream criminology and criminal justice, with criminologists studying the 'greening' of criminal justice institutions and practices in efforts to become more environmentally sustainable and the involvement of people in prison or on probation in ecological justice initiatives.[3][4][5]


Though green criminology was originally proposed as a political economic approach for the study of environmental harm, crime, law and justice, there are now several varieties of green criminology as noted below.[6]

Political economy, environmental justice, and the treadmill of production approach

The initial grounding of green criminology was in political economic theory and analysis. In his original 1990 article,[7] Lynch proposed green criminology as an extension of radical criminology and its focus on political economic theory and analysis. In that view, it was essential to examine the political economic dimensions of green crime and justice in order to understand the major environmental issues of our times and how they connect with the political economy of capitalism. The political economic approach was expanded upon by Lynch and Paul B. Stretesky in two additional articles in the Critical Criminologist.[8] In those articles, Lynch and Stretesky extended the scope of green criminology to apply to the study of environmental justice, and followed that work with a series of studies addressing environmental justice concerns,[9] the distribution of environmental crimes and hazards,[10] and empirical studies of environmental justice movements and enforcement.[11] Later, working with Michael A. Long and then Kimberly L. Barrett, the political economic explanation and empirical studies of green crimes were adapted to include a perspective on the structural influence of the treadmill of production on the creation of green crimes [12] drawn from the work of Allan Schnaiberg, environmental sociology, eco-socialism and ecological Marxism. Throughout the development of the political economic approach to green criminology, scholars have made significant use of scientific and ecological literatures, as well as empirical analysis, which have become characteristics of this approach and distinguish it from other varieties of green criminology.

Nonspeciesist and nonhuman animal studies

The second major variation of green criminology is the nonspeciesist argument proposed by Piers Beirne.[13] In Beirne’s view, the study of harms against nonhuman animals is an important criminological topic which requires attention and at the same time illustrates the limits of current criminological theorizing about, crime/harm, law and justice with its focus almost exclusively on humans.[14] This approach also includes discussions of animal rights. Beirne’s approach to green criminology has been extremely influential, and there are now a significant number of studies within the green criminological literature focusing on nonhuman animal crimes and animal abuse.[15] In addition to studies of animal abuse, included within the scope of nonhuman animal studies are those focused on illegal wildlife trade, poaching, wildlife smuggling, animal trafficking and the international trade in endangered species.[16] Many of the studies green criminologists undertake in this area of research are theoretical or qualitative. Ron Clarke and several colleagues, however, have explored empirical examinations of illegal animal trade and trafficking,[17] and this has become a useful approach for examining green crimes. Clarke’s approach draws on more traditional criminological theory such as rational choice theory and crime opportunity theory, and hence is not within the mainstream of green criminological approaches. Nevertheless, Clarke’s approach has drawn attention to important empirical explanations of green crimes.

Bio-piracy and eco-crimes

Similar to the political economic approach but without grounding in political economic theory, some green criminologists have explored the issue of green crime by examining how corporate behavior impacts green crimes.[18] Among other issues, this approach has included discussions of eco-crimes and activities such as bio-piracy as discussed by Nigel South.[19] Bio-piracy is largely an effort by corporations to commodify native knowledge and to turn native knowledge and practices into for-profit products while depriving native peoples of their rights to that knowledge and those products, and in most cases, avoiding payments to natives for their knowledge or products. Bio-piracy includes issues of social and economic justice for native peoples. These kinds of crimes fall into the category of eco-crimes, a term associated with the work of Reece Walters.[20] Also included within the examination of eco-crimes is the analysis of other ecologically harmful corporate behaviors such as the production of genetically modified foods [21] and various forms of toxic pollution.[22]

Eco-global criminology

Some of those who study environmental crime and justice prefer the use of Rob White’s term, eco-global criminology.[23] In proposing this term, White suggested that it is necessary to employ a critical analysis of environmental crime as it occurs in its global context and connections.[24] Similar to Lynch’s political economic approach to green criminology, White has also noted that it is desirable to refer to the political economy of environmental crime, and to social and environmental justice issues.

Green-cultural criminology

As proposed by Avi Brisman and Nigel South [25] green-cultural criminology attempts to integrate green and cultural criminology to explore the cultural meaning and significance of terms such as “environment” and “environmental crime.”

Conservation criminology

Conservation criminology is compliment to green criminology. Originally proposed by an interdisciplinary group of scholars from the Department of Fisheries & Wildlife, School of Criminal Justice, and Environmental Science & Policy Program at Michigan State University, conservation criminology seeks to overcome limitations inherent to single-discipline science and provide practical guidance about on-the-ground reforms.[26][27] Conservation criminology is an interdisciplinary and applied paradigm for understanding programs and policies associated with global conservation risks. By integrating natural resources management, risk and decision science, and criminology, conservation criminology-based approaches ideally result in improved environmental resilience, biodiversity conservation, and secure human livelihoods. As an interdisciplinary science, conservation criminology requires the constant and creative combination of theories, methods, and techniques from diverse disciplines throughout the entire processes of research, practice, education, and policy. Thinking about the interdisciplinary nature of conservation criminology can be quite exciting but does require patience and understanding of the different languages, epistemologies and ontologies of the core disciplines. Conservation criminology has been extensively applied to extralegal exploitation of natural resources such as wildlife poaching in Namibia[28] and Madagascar[29] corruption in conservation,[30] e-waste,[31] and general noncompliance with conservation rules.[32] By relying on multiple disciplines, conservation criminology leapfrogs this ideal; it promotes thinking about second- and third-order consequences of risks, not just isolated trends.

Green criminological theory

It is often noted that green criminology is interdisciplinary and as a result, lacks its own unique theory or any preferred theoretical approach. Moreover, significant portions of the green criminological literature are qualitative and descriptive, and those studies have generally not proposed a unique or unifying theory. Despite this general lack of a singular theory, some of the approaches noted above indicate certain theoretical preferences. For example, as noted, the political economic approach to green criminology develops explanations of green crime, victimization and environmental justice consistent with several existing strains of political economic analysis. Beirne’s approach takes an interdisciplinary view of theory with respect to various animal rights models and arguments. Clarke’s rational choice models of animal poaching and trafficking build on the rational choice tradition found within the criminological literature. To date, these different theoretical approaches have not been examined as competing explanations for green crime and justice, a situation that is found with respect to orthodox or traditional criminological theories of street crime.


  1. Frank, Nancy and Michael J. Lynch 1992 Corporate Crime, Corporate Violence. Albany, NY: Harrow and Heston.
  2. White, R., & Heckenberg, D. (2014) 'Green Criminology: An Introduction to the Study of Environmental Harm' London: Routledge.
  3. Chapter 4 'Greening Justice' of Graham, H., & White, R. (2015) 'Innovative Justice' London: Routledge.
  4. White, R., & Graham, H. (2015) 'Greening Justice: Examining the Interfaces of Criminal, Social and Ecological Justice' British Journal of Criminology [Advance Online Access]: 1-21.
  5. Moran, D., & Jewkes, Y. (2014) Green' Prisons: Rethinking the ‘Sustainability’ of the Carceral Estate' Geographica Helvetica, vol 69: 345-353.
  6. For a general guide to green criminology, its definition, and varieties see, South, Nigel, Avi Brisman, and Piers Beirne. (2013). A guide to a green criminology. Pp. 27-42 in N. South and A. Brisman (eds), The Routledge international handbook of green criminology. UK: Routledge.
  7. Lynch, Michael J. 1990. The Greening of Criminology: A Perspective for the 1990s. The Critical Criminologist 2,3:3-4,11-12.
  8. Lynch, Michael J. and Paul B. Stretesky. 1999. Clarifying the Analysis of Environmental Justice: Further Thoughts on the Critical Analysis of Environmental Justice Issues. The Critical Criminologist. 9,3: 5-8; Lynch, Michael J. and Paul B. Stretesky. 1998. Uniting Class and Race with Criticism Through the Study of Environmental Justice. The Critical Criminologist. Fall: 1, 4-7.
  9. Stretesky, Paul B., and Michael J. Lynch. 2002. Environmental Hazards and School Segregation in Hillsborough, 1987-1999. The Sociological Quarterly. 43,4: 553-573; Stretesky, Paul B., and Michael J . Lynch. 1999. Environmental Justice and the Prediction of Distance to Accidental Chemical Releases in Hillsborough County, Florida. Social Science Quarterly. 80,4:830-846; Stretesky, Paul B., and Michael J. Lynch. 1998. Corporate Environmental Violence and Racism. Crime, Law and Social Change 30, 2: 163-184; Lynch, Michael J., Paul B. Stretesky and Ronald G. Burns. (2004). Determinants of Environmental Law Violation Fines Against Oil Refineries: Race, Ethnicity, Income and Aggregation Effects. Society and Natural Resources. 17, 4:333-347; Lynch, Michael J., Paul B. Stretesky, and Ronald G. Burns. 2004. Slippery Business: Race, Class and Legal Determinants of Penalties Against Petroleum Refineries. Journal of Black Studies. 34,3: 421-440.
  10. Stretesky, Paul B., and Michael J. Lynch. 2011. Coal Strip Mining, Mountain Top Removal and the Distribution of Environmental Violations Across the United States, 2002-2008. Landscape Research 36,2: 209-230; Stretesky, Paul B., and Michael J. Lynch. 2009. A Cross-National Study of the Association Between Per Capita Carbon Dioxide Emissions and Exports to the United States. Social Science Research 38:239-250.
  11. Lynch, Michael J., and Paul B. Stretesky. (2013). The Distribution of Water-Monitoring Organizations Across States: Implications for Community Policing. Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies and Management 36,1: 6-26; Lynch, Michael J., and Paul B. Stretesky. (2012). Native Americans, Social and Environmental Justice: Implications for Criminology. Social Justice 38, 3: 34-54; Stretesky, Paul, Sheila Huss and Michael J. Lynch. 2012. “Density Dependence and Specialized Environmental Justice Organizations, 1970-2008.” The Social Science Journal 49,3: 343-51; Stretesky, Paul B., Shelia Huss, Michael J. Lynch, Sammy Zahran and Bob Childs. 2011. The Founding of Environmental Justice Organizations Across US Counties During the 1990s and 2000s: Civil Rights and Environmental Movement Cross Effects. Social Problems 58,3: 330-360; Stretesky, Paul B., Tara O’Connor Shelley, & Matthew S. Crow. 2010. Do conservation organizations influence the social production of natural resource violations? Organization and Environment, 23 (4): 398–416.
  12. Long, Michael A., Paul B. Stretesky, Michael J. Lynch and Emily Fenwick. 2012. Crime in the Coal Industry: Implications for Green Criminology and Treadmill of Production Theory. Organization & Environment 25,3: 299-316; Lynch, Michael J., Michael A. Long, Kimberly L. Barrett and Paul B. Stretesky. (2013). Is it a Crime to Produce Ecological Disorganization? Why Green Criminology and Political Economy Matter in the Analysis of Global Ecological Harms. British Journal of Criminology 55, 3; 997-1016; Stretesky, Paul B., Michael A. Long and Michael J. Lynch. (2013a). The Treadmill of Crime: Political Economy and Green Criminology. UK: Routledge; Stretesky, Paul B., Michael A. Long and Michael J. Lynch. (2013b) Does environmental enforcement slow the treadmill of production? The relationship between large monetary penalties, ecological disorganization and toxic releases within offending corporations. Journal of Crime and Justice 36, 2: 235-249.
  13. Beirne, Piers. 1999. For a nonspeciesist criminology: Animal abuse as an object of study. Criminology 37, 1: 117-148.
  14. Beirne, Piers. 2009. Confronting animal abuse: Law, criminology, and human-animal relationships. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
  15. For examples see the special issue of Crime, Law and Social Change Beirne has edited (volume 55, number 5); Cazaux, Geertrui. 1999. Beauty and the beast: Animal abuse from a non-speciesist criminological perspective. Crime, Law and Social Change 31, 2 : 105-125.
  16. Wyatt, Tanya. Green criminology & wildlife trafficking: The illegal fur and falcon trades in Russia Far East. LAP Lambert Academic Publishing, 2012; Wyatt, Tanya. 2009. Exploring the organization of Russia Far East's illegal wildlife trade: two case studies of the illegal fur and illegal falcon trades. Global Crime 10, 1-2: 144-154.
  17. Lemieux, Andrew M., and Ronald V. Clarke. 2009. The international ban on ivory sales and its effects on elephant poaching in Africa. British Journal of Criminology 49, 4: 451-471; Clarke, Ronald V., and A. Rolf. 2013. Poaching, habitat loss and the decline of neotropical parrots: a comparative spatial analysis. Journal of Experimental Criminology 9, 3: 333-353; Pires, Stephen, and Ronald V. Clarke. 2012. Are parrots CRAVED? An analysis of parrot poaching in Mexico. Journal of research in crime and delinquency 49, 1: 122-146; Pires, Stephen F., and Ronald V. Clarke. 2011. Sequential foraging, itinerant fences and parrot poaching in Bolivia. British Journal of Criminology 51, 2: 314-335.
  18. Ruggiero, Vincenzo, and Nigel South. 2013. Green criminology and crimes of the economy: theory, research and praxis. Critical Criminology 21, 3: 359-373.
  19. South, Nigel. 2007. The ‘corporate colonisation of nature’: Bio-prospecting, bio-piracy and the development of green criminology. Pp. 230-247 in P. Beirne and N. South’s (ed), Issues in green criminology. Devon, UK: Willan.
  20. Walters, Reece. 2006. Crime, bio-agriculture and the exploitation of hunger. British Journal of Criminology 46, 1: 26-45.
  21. Walters, Reece. 2007. Food crime, regulation and the biotech harvest. European Journal of Criminology 4, 2: 217-235.
  22. Walters, Reece. 2010. Toxic atmospheres air pollution, trade and the politics of regulation. Critical Criminology 18, 4: 307-323.
  23. White, Rob. 2011. Transnational environmental crime: Toward an eco-global criminology. UK: Routledge; Ellefsen, Rune, Guri Larsen, and Ragnhild Sollund (eds). 2012. Eco-global Crimes: Contemporary Problems and Future Challenges. UK: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.
  24. White, Rob. 2009. Researching Transnational Environmental Harm: Toward an Eco‐Global Criminology. International journal of comparative and applied criminal justice 33, 2: 229-248.
  25. Brisman, Avi, and Nigel South. 2013. A green-cultural criminology: An exploratory outline. Crime, Media, Culture 9, 2: 115-135.
  26. Gibbs, Carole, Meredith L. Gore, Edmund F. McGarrell, and Louie Rivers. 2010. Introducing conservation criminology towards interdisciplinary scholarship on environmental crimes and risks. British Journal of Criminology 50, 1: 124-144.
  27. Gore, Meredith L. (2011-08-01). "The Science of Conservation Crime". Conservation Biology. 25 (4): 659–661. doi:10.1111/j.1523-1739.2011.01701.x. ISSN 1523-1739.
  28. Gore, Meredith L; Ratsimbazafy, Jonah; Rajaonson, Andry; Lewis, Amanda; Kahler, Jessica S (2016-07-12). "Public perceptions of poaching risks in a biodiversity hotspot: Implications for wildlife trafficking interventions". ResearchGate. 2016 (21).
  29. Gore, Meredith L.; Lute, Michelle L.; Ratsimbazafy, Jonah H.; Rajaonson, Andry (2016-04-15). "Local Perspectives on Environmental Insecurity and Its Influence on Illegal Biodiversity Exploitation". PLOS ONE. 11 (4): e0150337. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0150337. ISSN 1932-6203. PMC 4833313Freely accessible. PMID 27082106.
  30. Gore, Meredith L.; Ratsimbazafy, Jonah; Lute, Michelle L. (2013-11-01). "Rethinking Corruption in Conservation Crime: Insights from Madagascar". Conservation Letters. 6 (6): 430–438. doi:10.1111/conl.12032. ISSN 1755-263X.
  31. Gibbs, Carole; McGarrell, Edmund F.; Axelrod, Mark (2010-08-01). "Transnational white-collar crime and risk". Criminology & Public Policy. 9 (3): 543–560. doi:10.1111/j.1745-9133.2010.00649.x. ISSN 1745-9133.
  32. Solomon, Jennifer N.; Gavin, Michael C.; Gore, Meredith L. (2015-09-01). "Detecting and understanding non-compliance with conservation rules". Biological Conservation. Detecting and Understanding Non-compliance with Conservation Rules. 189: 1–4. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2015.04.028.

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