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Leading green criminologist Rob White asks what can be learned from the problem-solving focus of crime prevention to help face the challenges of climate change in this call to arms for criminology and criminologists.

Industries such as energy, food and tourism and the systematic destruction of the environment through global capitalism are scrutinized for their contribution to global warming. Ideas of ‘state-corporate crime’ and ‘ecocide’ are introduced and explored in this concise overview of criminological writings on climate change. This sound and robust application of theoretical concepts to this ‘new’ area also includes commentary on topical issues such as the US withdrawal from the Paris Climate agreement.

Part of the New Horizons in Criminology series, which draws on the inter-disciplinary nature of criminology and incorporates emerging perspectives like social harm, gender and sexuality, and green criminology.

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This chapter discusses the notion of victimhood as this pertains to climate change. Each section deals with a specific victim category — non-human environmental entities, children and young people, and Indigenous communities. Each grouping has its own specific histories, stories, and issues. What perhaps unites the discussion is an underlying emphasis on adopting an ecocentric perspective that incorporates social and ecological justice. From a human perspective, ecocentrism attempts to strike a balance between the need to utilise resources for human survival and the need to develop rules that facilitate the benign use of the ecosphere. Thus, for example, ensuring the preservation of biocentric values becomes integral to maintaining long-term human needs. To do this means minimising the victimisation of both the human and the non-human — in essence, to assert a form of ecological citizenship.

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This chapter addresses how criminal justice institutions are responding to climate change. This entails description of court cases intended to bolster the reduction of carbon emissions and the overall role of climate change litigation in the pursuit of climate justice. The chapter argues that an action plan against climate change must include activities and responses that involve the law and legal change, environmental law enforcement activities, courts and adjudication processes, and direct social action. Ultimately, however, this will also require action in and around the exercise of state power as well — since the carbon vandal more often than not acts with direct and indirect state support, through government policy decisions and via laws and courts that are skewed in pro-business directions. The place and role of the criminologist in pursuit of climate justice, therefore, can never be politically neutral.

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This concluding chapter summarises the main propositions and areas of concern for Climate Change Criminology. It also emphasises the role of criminologists as public intellectuals and political activists, and the necessity that there be stewards and guardians of the future. This translates into prioritising research, policy, and practice around climate change themes. For criminologists, this means that they need to go beyond parochial viewpoints and those perspectives that frame harm in terms of national or regional interests. Their loyalty has to be to the planet as a whole, rather than being bound by a narrow prescriptive patriotism based on nation. Ultimately, the endeavour of Climate Change Criminology should be to create the conditions for a future that is more forgiving and generous rather than exploitive of humans, environments, and animals.

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This chapter defines and describes the concept of ecocide, which refers to the destruction of ecological systems and habitats. This includes the everyday activities that contribute to climate change and thus to ecocide on a larger and small scale. The chapter then introduces the notion of state–corporate nexus by examining how industries, supported and abetted by governments, contribute to global warming. Indeed, pro-capitalist ideologies and practices ensure continued economic growth at the expense of ecological limits. As such, effective responses to climate change need to address the deep-seated inequalities and trends within the treadmill of production that go to the heart of the ownership, control, and exploitation of resources. The crime of ecocide is rarely embedded, however, in state legislation. This is, in part, because the state is directly implicated in perpetuating activities that contribute to global warming.

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This chapter presents a variety of explanations and typologies relating to the crime–climate relationship. It is clear that there are many specific causes for particular kinds of crime, and that it is the immediate variables, persons, and contexts that shape what occurs, why, where, and how. It is also apparent that temperature and climate changes do have an impact on human behaviour, and these are related to broader structural factors such as global warming. Moreover, government policy and market responses to climate change become important variables in the rise of new crimes and the movement of criminal networks and individuals into domains that hitherto did not exist. The carbon emissions credit market, for example, is precisely such a phenomenon. For Climate Change Criminology, it is imperative to keep developing sustained analyses of climate-related crimes.

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The link between criminology and aesthetics might not be immediately apparent. People’s expectations of aesthetics are central to what is regarded as acceptable behaviour within public spaces. This chapter shows how aesthetics and expectations are central to what gets criminalised and what doesn’t. For example, which graffiti writers become celebrities and considered ‘art’ and who ends up in prison or, ideas of landscape beauty which dictates what, or who, is permitted to be in a certain place. This chapter argues that beauty is not objective but subjective based on notions of taste. Taste is essential to what is authorized and what is criminalised. Class and power plays a key role on whose tastes becomes legislated and seen as valid, and whose tastes are seen as ‘wrong’ leading to marginalisation. Ultimately, it becomes clear that aesthetics have a key role to play within criminology.

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In this chapter the place of a philosophical criminology is considered. Criminology is an inter-disciplinary enterprise and, as such, it makes sense for criminologists to engage with other disciplines such as philosophy that have for centuries attempted to answer questions of importance to criminology. By engaging with philosophy, this book has demonstrated that textbook histories of criminological thought only present a partial picture of ideas central to criminological understanding. This concluding chapter reflects on the previous seven chapters and assesses the usefulness of a philosophical approach to criminology. There is particular emphasis on Kantian philosophy, especially regarding human dignity. Relatedly, the book has drawn on ideas concerning the Golden Rule and Paul Ricoeur’s (1990) work on Christian theology and an ‘economy of gift.’ Building on the common theme of dignity, respect and the economy of gift, the previous chapters consider the possibility of an empathetic criminology. This chapter concludes by reflecting on these chapter individually and on the merits of a philosophical criminology.

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This chapter demonstrates that there is much crossover between moral philosophy ad criminology. The day-to-day interests within criminology are linked with ideas and notions to do with morality, whether to criminalise, how to police, how to punish, limitations of social control and how to side with the powerless. These are all questions which revolve around ideas of morality. This chapter discusses different philosophical traditions such as virtues and consequences and deontological notions of duty and rules. Then a historic association between utilitarian thinking and criminology is noted, concluding by considering the Golden Rule and Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative.

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Criminology is intrinsically concerned with questions of order and disorder. Philosophy can help understand people’s conceptions of order and the mechanisms which take place that make order more likely to occur. The importance of social order in criminology and how it can be maintained is considered. As well as ideas about how we can live together at a time where this increasing emphasis on the importance of individualism and always putting yourself before others. How can social existence be encouraged within a society of individuals? This chapter also looks at disorder, drawing from Emile Durkheim and Robert Merton’s perspectives on anomie and chaos theory. Furthermore, this chapter continues the discussion about aesthetics and crime by placing order as a central aspect of aesthetics.

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