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An eco-justice perspective
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This unique study of social harm offers a systematic and critical discussion of the nature of environmental harm from an eco-justice perspective, challenging conventional criminological definitions of environmental harm.

The book evaluates three interconnected justice-related approaches to environmental harm: environmental justice (humans), ecological justice (the environment) and species justice (non-human animals). It provides a critical assessment of environmental harm by interrogating key concepts and exploring how activists and social movements engage in the pursuit of justice. It concludes by describing the tensions between the different approaches and the importance of developing an eco-justice framework that to some extent can reconcile these differences.

Using empirical evidence built on theoretical foundations with examples and illustrations from many national contexts, ‘Environmental harm’ will be of interest to students and academics in criminology, sociology, law, geography, environmental studies, philosophy and social policy all over the world.

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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 elaborates on the three approaches that singly and collectively contribute to and underpin an eco-justice perspective: environmental justice, ecological justice and species justice. Eco-justice is itself a complex notion that incorporates elements from all three justice approaches. Fundamentally, applying an eco-justice perspective involves weighing up the nature and degree of harm, in specific risk situations, in relation to humans, eco-systems and nonhuman species (including plants). Action outcomes and specific interventions can and should only proceed on the basis of detailed knowledge and discussion of these three types of injustice, and how they ‘fit’ together and overlap in any given circumstance. After briefly outlining these approaches, the main part of the chapter explores the conceptual and methodological challenges associated with defining and measuring ‘harm’, including environmental harm. The purpose is to raise issues and provide a background framing for the analysis of eco-justice concerns in subsequent chapters.

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This concluding chapter begins with the observation that when dealing with environmental harms described and examined in this book, there are tensions both within and between the three approaches to justice. The chapter discusses how in their extreme versions, the weighing of certain elements within the particular approaches skew the moral compass in certain directions: for example, toward an environmental justice that is ssocially exclusive to specific oppressed human communities and downplays or ignores ecological inclusion and species interests; an ecological justice that pprioritises places over people and sacrifices specific community interests for the sake of ecocentric conservation ideals; and a species justice that hold the rights of animals over those of human need and the requirements of specific biocentric environments. The chapter attempts to grapple with these tensions by illuminating key dilemmas and identifying possible pathways for their resolution.

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Climate change continues to be the most significant and urgent matter of our time. Global warming is not ‘natural’. It is human made. The resultant climate change is distorting what used to be the familiar patterns of weather. All of this is entirely due to the continued collusion of national and state/provincial leaders with the fossil fuel industries and other degraders of the environment. Yet even in the face of these contemporary changes, the Earth continues to be a battleground where plundering of resources and pollution of the planet is rampant and inexorably moving towards an even more radically altered ecological state. Prominent world leaders are diminishing emission controls and environmental protections, burning forests and fracking oils, and actively encouraging violence against Indigenous peoples and local farmers. Much of this occurs in so-called rural and remote locations, away from prying media eyes and governmental purview. The geographies of ecocide provide insight into how crimes of the powerful are perpetrated and communities victimised. This chapter considers questions of eco-justice from the point of view of place and ‘sights unseen’.

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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 focuses on corporate harm. The problem with trying to tackle corporate harm is that virtually every act of the corporate sector is deemed, in some way or another, to be ‘good for the country’. This ideology of corporate virtue, and the benefits of business for the common good, is promulgated through extensive corporate advertising campaigns, capitalist blackmail, and aggressive lobbying of government and against opponents. The prevailing view among government and business is that, with few exceptions, the ‘market’ is the best referee when it comes to preventing or stopping current and potential environmental harm. To address corporate harm, then, requires a political understanding of class power and a rejection of formally legal criteria in assessing criminality and harm. As such, it implies conflict over definitions of conduct and activity, over legitimacy of knowledge claims, and over the role and use of state instruments and citizen participation in putting limits on corporate activity.

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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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