To begin with, it should be noted that in modern world the field of environmental criminology is constantly growing. Researchers and theoreticians actively explore crimes as events that can be understood when explored by considering potential offenders and their distal and proximal surroundings(Faure, 2009). Thus, theoretical approaches developing within the specific field of environmental criminology are analyzed and reviewed. In this paper, the discussion centers on the basic understanding of the environmental crime phenomena and the analysis of its reasons. Research results show that environmental crime usually occurs under the influence of the social conditions and circumstances, when environment is a resource for survival, and economical factors, when environment is a resource for fast profit. The usual origin for the committing environmental crime seems to lie in the nature itself, because the environment represents the opportunity for profit and the variety of resources for the survival. It is possible to conclude that the primary reason for the committing crime against the environment is usually human nature related to anthropocentric attitude towards the environment. Generally, the primary motives for environmental crime are connected with economical profit.
It is important to mention that acid rain, air and water pollution, global warming are all part of modern societies with developing or developed economic and industrial systems (Pires, 2011). On the basis of the evidence currently available, it seems fair to suggest that nowadays in different countries not only natural habitats are disappearing, causing the extinction of animal species and rare plants, but there is also a huge rise in the number of births of handicapped babies, abortions, skin damage, headaches, allergies, and an increased number of cancer based illnesses. Obviously, such situation is produced by the results of environmental pollution caused by environmental crime. Thus, criminological discussions about environmental crime usually refer to several interrelated questions about how this crime is realized, measured, prevented, regulated, punished, or explained. It should be noted that from the point of view of modern criminology the main characteristics of environmental crime consist of the anonymity and collectivity of the victim, an abstract comprehension of the damage caused to the environment, the insignificant visibility of the perpetrator of such acts, and a widespread imperceptibility of ecological crimes (Faure, 2009). Therefore, it is extremely important to make a qualitatively new theory of environmental crime, which will show the borders of the crime and the outlook of their development in order to prevent the possibly harm for the planet.
Unfortunately, the form of environmental crime is constantly evolving (Uhlmann, 2009). A historical review of the development of those sciences, which have addressed the phenomena of environmental crime, shows that they have not made the single theory, which can explain this phenomenon. It is necessary to add the newest theoretical information to the results of previous studies. Obviously, such theory needs to expand to encompass the global environment, within the framework of environmental criminology. Thus, further development of theories requires close cooperation between different models and needs to consider the ecological parameters and borders of collective human activity. Without any doubts, the development of new theories of environmental crime continues to influence the emergence of some new ways of defining it.
However, there exists a big disagreement in determining the basic definition of environmental crime, meaning that the criminal justice system nowadays is not adequately prepared to deal with this problem (Mandiberh, 2010). Needless to say that a number of different reasons can explain these problems of defining environmental crime and may range from abstract and theoretical differences to political concepts due to some different interests of individual countries. More recently, this problem could be explained through the globalization of human society. There is no doubt that nowadays it is extremely hard to avoid the increasing influence of the international dimensions of human’s life and, consequently, of harming the environment. Thus, by forming a single definition of environmental crime it is necessary to consider both features and adjust them when searching for final solutions. Undoubtedly, by abolishing and discussing the causes of such differences on the state, interstate, individual, local, regional, and international levels, and by using accepted tools and methods, these causes could be grouped on all levels from the individual up to the international. For the above-mentioned reasons, such issues help clarify the definition of environmental crime. It should be also noted that beside disagreements surrounding a satisfactory term, some further problems could be caused by different criminal-political concepts, because the political interests of states regarding global environmental criminal law can vary greatly.
The data yielded by this study provides convincing evidence that environmental crime can nowadays be understood as every permanent or temporary process or act, which has or could have a negative influence on the people’s health, natural resources or environment, including building, destruction of buildings, air or soil emissions into water, waste processing and elimination of waste, transport and handling of dangerous substances, reduction of natural genetic resources or reduction of biological diversity, and some other activities or interventions, which put the environment at risk. On these grounds, there is growing support for the claim that nowadays four main types of environmental crime can be distinguished. Firstly, it is an environmental crime of an individual. Although it is quite small and seems insignificant, at practice it can be very damaging to the environment, because of the big amount of population living on the planet. It results from a lack of traditions and socio cultural values, and reflects the personality of the individual. In such situation the profit imperative, though very small, cannot be totally excluded. These crimes consist of illegal waste dumps in the woods, conscious improper use of pesticides and fertilizers, directing waste water from some household septic tanks in the village ditches, trafficking of rare plant and animal species, and other human actions that are environmentally harmful, which are usually committed from the reasons of human comfort and prestige. Secondly, it is possible to classify environmental crimes of the powerful and rich, which includes occupational crime, white-collar environmental crime, corporate environmental crime, and such illegal industrial pollution as dumping of toxic waste, the risks in the workplace in mines and factories, improper storage of toxic waste, release of toxic substances in factories, etc. Thirdly, it is important to mention some environmental crimes of particular groups, which comprises potentially harmful acts against the environment caused by each group with its management and business. For instance, it may be societies and the local communities by organizing some musical parties and events that result in improper separation and disposal of waste or cause noise, a church or local communities with lighting of cultural buildings and church, some sports clubs, such as aircraft, hang gliders, or motorcycle clubs, causing noise and air pollution, small productions or businesses with improper storage of harmful materials, etc (Stretesky, 2012). The fourth type of environmental crime is committed by the state or the ruling authorities. Unfortunately, this form of environmental crime is present in the actually visual form, especially in the sphere of military operations or nuclear researches. It is also present in the case when the State, as owner or supervisor ignores the violations and knowingly endangers its citizens. For example, it can be connected with hazardous emissions of harmful substances in deprived areas or major cities, when the State is ignoring the present situation.
Undoubtedly, each type of environmental crime presents its own type of offender by its individual characteristics, each containing different levels of risk to people and the environment, and each is determined by a complicated combination of different criminological theories. In addition, environmental police have to be aware that many corporations are involved in illegal activities with legal transactions. For instance, the waste disposal company can be involved in illegal disposal of waste, which brings more profit. In this and some similar ways, environmental organized crime has become increasingly widespread worldwide over the recent years. Representatives of corporations and companies often cooperate with organized criminal groups, which bring harm to environment by taking care for the fast disappearance of corporate waste. A close look at the data illustrates that instead of paying large sums of money for the legal destruction and disposal of hazardous waste, organized crime groups in all cases charge much less for the illegal disposal of this waste (Uhlmann, 2009). Unfortunately, the only link between them is the financial or bank transaction for the performed work, but this is often hidden and fragmented.
Needless to say that environmental crime is changing and developing in parallel with progress of mankind and the technological development. Nowadays there are many evidences about the activities of transnational environmental crime. Moreover, results of the criminological studies show that the fact that criminal organizations are involved in environmental crime is not surprising any more to the public (Faure, 2009). Additionally, it also seems that corporate environmental crime is usually an inevitable consequence of business. However, when the authority, which is empowered by people to protect the environment, is the main perpetrator of the crime against the environment, wide range of population is particularly outraged. This can indicate a very important factor in reporting and detection of various forms of environmental crime and should be investigated in future studies.
It should be noted that the increasing number of studies, publications, and articles shows that the criminological research of environmental crime and environmental harm is growing. The perpetrators of the environmental crime and psychological reasons for their behavior have awakened the increasing interests of the criminologists. Thus, the studies, focused on the individual perpetrator, the organization, or company, and on the environment in which it operates were conducted. They show that there is a greater likelihood that some violations of legislation in the field of illegal hazardous waste management will occur in the case, when the level of awareness of the problem of the hazardous waste management by the higher management is low, especially in large organizations. Furthermore, the likelihood of violations usually increases when the lack of adequate training of company’s staff in the field of hazardous waste management exists.
However, the analysis of the biggest multinational corporations in the U.S. and in the rest of the world shows that environmental crime represents only a certain part of the total sample of global criminal activities taking place within a political economy. In addition to corporate crime, which is most commonly associated with waste disposal, environmental crime is also connected with such organized crime activities as dumping of toxic waste and infiltration into the waste processing activities, and corruption, which is represented by the oil, automotive, petrochemical, and electrical industries. In such situation, it is important to understand the reasons of laws violation that guide the company.
It should be highlighted that environmental crime arises when global or local environmental standards are violated and a significant lack of environmental legislation occurs. Moreover, it also happens when there is a discrepancy between some legal norms and their implementation and realization in common practice. Unfortunately, despite a strong increase of environmental protection legislation in the last couple of years, the majority of organizations that commit various acts of environmental crime are not punished or prosecuted. Furthermore, even if they are punished, the fines are often derisive and insignificant. Thus, organizations apply the pragmatic economic approach and easily violate the legislation and bring harm to the environment (Mandiberh, 2010). The insignificant implemented fines are a smaller expense for them than environmentally friendly production. Therefore, their managers adopt rational decisions and turn their companies into rational polluters. Obviously, since organizations apply the rational economic approach, they continue with pollution and regularly violate environmental legislation. The presumption of the maximization of company profit provides several ideas and useful starting points in the context of political legislative decisions and supplementing legal regulations in combination with the settlement of various problems of environmental crime. Thus, there appear some possibilities of solving the environmental problems on the basis of the profit theory, which derives from the anthropocentric and hedonistic philosophical approach to environment. On these grounds, it is understandable that theoretical analysis of the environmental crime phenomena and its reasons can help to improve the current environmental state worldwide.
Taking everything into account, it should be concluded that only dismembered and clear concepts and definitions can be a firm basis for the proposed attempts to improve the current situation in the field of environmental protection. Clearly, when dealing and studying the phenomena of environmental crime it is important to be aware of ongoing changes and progress of technologies and society, which will create new forms of environmental crime. Obviously, environmental crime usually results from selfishness, which could be determined by the need for fast economic profit associated with the control of nature. Pollution of nature and the environment brings an intentional destruction of the living environment. Dealing with environmental crime from criminal and criminological justice perspective demands qualitatively new ways of thinking about humans and society. Obviously, more consistent implementation of some formed responses and supplementation with the global crime prevention methods, represents more promising response of society to environmental crime. Therefore, the scientific research in the field of environmental crime needs to be continued and expanded. The general conclusion confirms the fact that environmental protection must become an international priority and the society must develop a complete and constant intolerance to all forms of environmental crime.
Faure, Michael.(2009). Environmental Crimes. Criminal Law and Economics, 2009 (2): 320-345.
Mandiberh, S.(2010). Locating the Environmental Harm in Environmental Crimes. Utah Law Review, 2009(4).
Pires, S., Moreto, W.(2011). Preventing Wildlife Crimes: Solutions That Can Overcome the Tragedy of the Commons. European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research,17: 101-123.
Stretesky, Paul, Huss, Sheila, Lynch, Michael.(2012). Density dependence and specialized environmental organizations. The Social Science Journal, 49 (3): 343-51.
Uhlmann, David.(2009). Environmental Crime Comes of Age: The Evolution of Criminal Enforcement in the Environmental Regulatory Scheme. Utah Law Review, 2009(4): 1223.