top of page
  • Antara Mandal


Antara Mandal,

Christ University

"We in Himalaya are facing a crisis of survival due to the suicidal activities being carried out in the name of development… The monstrous Tehri dam is a symbol of this… There is need

for a new and long-term policy to protect the dying Himalaya. I do not want to see the death of the most sacred river of the world-the Ganga- for short-term economic gains."

 ~ Sunderlal Bahuguna

It is not hidden today that Man because of his own conduct ends up harming himself. The wrath of climate change is not only faced by humans but also by other innocent species thriving on our Earth. In light of the recent judgements, the apex court and our legislative bodies have taken considerable steps to address the issues related to climate change and have come forth with new interpretations of old laws that incline towards the protection of the environment. Debates on considering the environment as a separate legal entity and changing the definition of environmental harm by looking into it through the point of criminology are getting into the limelight. The major object behind green criminology is to analyze and define harm done to the environment through an ecocentric aspect and decide the liability of humans or any other entity just like criminology does. This blog will discuss the intricacies of green criminology and environmental crimes and will dive into the major issues and problems in environmental crime investigation. 

What is green criminology? 

The term green criminology was coined by Michael Lynch in 1900 and according to Matthew Hall, Lynch was influenced by eco-feminism, ecological socialism and environmental racism. [i]Hence, green criminology can be said to be based on sociological ideology. It is an offshoot of criminology and mainly focuses on research based on environmental harms and their impacts. Green criminology has its offshoots like ‘species justice’, ‘atmospheric justice’ and ‘Astro-green justice’. [ii] It is a study wherein individuals share views solely based on crimes against the environment as opposed to critical criminology that mainly focuses on crime against humans or property. 

Green criminology includes a wide variety of studies and highlights a spectrum of issues related to the environment. Each issue is categorized with a particular color and hence we derive the spectrum of Green Criminological research. For example, the colour white in green criminology denotes genetically formed or environment-related communicable diseases. 

Core concept of green criminology

Environmental law and the concepts related to environmental crime are still a niche as compared to the age-old civil and criminal laws. Green criminology emphasizes providing a proper definition of harm in the context of ecology that is presently absent in the laws. Environmental crimes can also be called ‘dark figure crime’ as they are not well defined and not recognized by law.3 Green criminology hence identifies and advocates for such crimes to come into the limelight and be identified by law as these crimes leave behind a fatal impact on the environment. For example, shipbreaking by European countries is a legal practice, however, scrapping an old ship into the ocean is one of the reasons for water pollution. Reports show that the scrapped parts of the ships travel from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean and end up on the shores of the Bay of Bengal. The legislation fails to address these issues and companies keep taking advantage of the loopholes.[iii] Exceeding the daily limit of carbon emissions and countries failing to abide by the goals of the COP summit of carbon emissions are simply overlooked. Mainstream criminologists today have duly noted that environmental crime is the biggest threat to humankind and can be said the most heinous aspect of crime against humans. 

Theorists also suggest that the increasing number of green crimes could be controlled with proper policy formulation. The theory of the treadmill of production shows how the unending hunger for economic power and profit by the big industrialists causes environmental damage and also does not improve their well-being. This theory puts forth an important aspect of policy formulation i.e., as long as legislation does not identify and penalize for the harm caused to the environment, big industries and individuals will be casual towards the environment and keep harming it. Hence, it highlights the psychological fear factor among humans. 

Environmental Crimes Investigation 

The core concerns of environmental crimes revolve around state crime i.e., the state failing to comply with international obligations or take up the responsibility to protect the environment and natural resources. Criminologists and theorists like Johnson [iv] and Lynch and Stretesky[v] have duly pointed out that states and industrialists commodify water resources by leasing out or privatising water bodies and exploiting the same resulting in major environmental harm. Under criminology, water offences don’t fall under the ambit of criminal law and are generally overlooked by legislation. The laws available are generally advisory, regulatory or administrative. The industries exploiting the water bodies are lawful entities and hence they don’t attract criminal proceedings and are often charged with fines or ordered to administrative action to correct the problem and later continue with the business. Such lenient actions make the industrialists casual towards environmental harm. 

With the emergence of the Industrial Revolution and the chemical revolution the danger caused to the environment also emerged. According to a report by Wright and Imfeld, the chemical revolution has alone created over 80 million pounds of hazardous waste and only 10 per cent of the waste has been properly disposed of.[vi]  

Environmental crimes are related to other crimes like illegal logging is done to clear forests for illegal mining or poaching. This also leads to smuggling, drug trafficking and human trafficking. Independent environmental crimes also lead to other serious crimes like money laundering, tax fraud and forgery. Hence, a comprehensive and efficient body is deemed necessary to investigate such crimes, as a good investigation establishes the fate of the case and as a case is decided the scope to amend laws is also welcomed. 

There are different methods available for environmental investigation like use of sampling and testing to obtain evidences, proper interviews and strict legal prosecutions. With the help of the new age technologies like AI investigation will become much more efficient and reliable. 

The Unending Dilemmas

1.     Lack of proper information in the mainstream media. Green criminology and environmental crimes are still a niche. 

2.     Lack of strict laws and strict legal prosecutions. This is one of the reasons that encourages industries and individuals to commit crimes against the environment. 

3.     The laws available are economic or advisory in nature and overlook at individuals as offenders of environmental harm. 

4.     Many countries are yet to identify and give legal recognition to environmental crimes. 

5.     Due to lack of legal recognition there are no proper investigating bodies and technologies available for environmental crime investigation. 

The Way Forward

The hazardous impact of environmental harms is well identified in the international arena but identifying them as crimes seems a long struggle. The laws existing today are anthropocentric wherein prevention of environmental destruction is done for the welfare of humans. Countries like Ecuador and India have made the effort to make a shift from the traditional view to ecocentric views by providing the environment a separate legal entity. This shift would make it a lot easier to legalise major environmental crimes and invite stricter laws. 

Environmental crimes are interlinked with many other heinous penal crimes which is now a huge challenge for the entire world community. The solution to these uncontrolled and everincreasing crimes lies in the ideologies advocated by green criminology. The dire need of the hour is to change human thought and attitude towards the environment and overcome the hunger of power and money. 




[iii] Lieselot Bisschop, "Many ‘environmental crimes’ s ll not labelled as illegal or criminal", Erasmus Universiteit Ro erdam, last accessed Jan 2024 h ps:// ll-not-labelledillegal-or-criminal 

[iv] Johnson H, South N and Walters R, The commodifica on and exploita on of fresh water: Property, human rights and green criminology, Int J Law Crime Jus ce (146–162) 2016

[v] Lynch MJ, Stretesky PB, The distribu on of water-monitoring organiza ons across states: Implica ons for community policing. (2013)

[vi] Mar n Wright and William Imfeld, Environmental Crimes Inves ga ve Basics, FBI Law Enforcement Bulle n Volume 60 Issue 4 (1991)


bottom of page