Environmental Crimes

Environmental Crimes

Michael J. Lynch

The public has been convinced that the biggest threat to their health and well being is terrorism. This has legitimized a massive military build up designed to intervene in Middle Eastern nations. The war on terrorism and terrorist (WOTT) has helped drown out increasing bad news about the health of the world’s environment (from global warming to pollution and species extinction), and the shrinking supply of oil. At the same time, the WOTT has provided a means to satisfy the oil supply crises looming in the US.

These are issues students need to confront and which critical criminologists have largely ignored. To be sure, these topics have been the subject of critical research that takes globalization as a central concern, especially in relation to state crimes (e.g., the work of Kramer, Michalowski, Kauzlarich). However, the majority of critical criminology has become bogged down in issues of local identity and communicative expressions, which are symptoms of the extreme forms of alienation engendered by modern societies. The tendency to take these forms of alienation as an expression of real and meaningful developments in human consciousness has allowed much contemporary critical criminology to dissolve into fractured, discontinuous, isolated postmodern critiques that facilitate individualism rather than the unification of people with similar interests. These interests, for example, include the fight against environmental contamination (and for environmental justice), global warming, and the end of oil.

Important Links

See below for links you and your students can employ to investigate a variety of issues related to the environmental health of the world, looming crises, and the general decline in the health of the world eco-system.

The End of Oil

The U.S. is the world’s largest consumer of oil. The US consumes 25% of the oil produced in the world while its citizens comprise only 5% of the world’s population. To put it bluntly, US society is an energy hog.

Since the mid-1950s, geologists have used world oil reserve and consumption data to estimate the number of years left in the world oil supply. The term “peak oil” or “Hubbert’s peak” is apply to the point in time where one half of an oil supply has been used. In the US, peak oil production occurred in 1973. Since then, US production of oil has declined because of a shrinking natural supply. This has caused the US to rely more heavily on imported oil. At the same time, the US has done virtually nothing to deal with the fact that its oil supply has diminished, and continual increasing demand for oil. This problem has been expanded by realization that the world oil supply has now peaked. At current levels of use, it is estimated that there are three to four decades of oil remaining in the world.

Use the following links and other materials to investigate the implications of the end of oil.

Global Warming and the Greenhouse Effect

Is the world warming up? Most scientists agree that it is. What’s more, most agree that the cause of global warming is human activity, especially the burning of fossil fuels.


The world’s climate and ecological situation is also tied to the health of the world’s rainforests. The health of natural species is also connected to the disappearance of rainforests. Learn about rainforests using these links.

Environmental Hazards, Chemical Data and Databases, and Health Issues

There are hazardous waste sites and toxic hazards found all across the US which threaten the health and well-being of US citizens. Much of this data is centralized on the US EPA website. In addition to the EPA, each state has its own department of environmental protections. Links to these sites may be found in R.G. Burns and M. J. Lynch, 2004, Environmental Crime: A Sourcebook. NY: LFB Scholarly. Discover more about these using the following links.

To make use of these data, it is also necessary to understand the health consequences of exposure to environmental toxins. A number of the links below direct you to on-line information related to health topics such as exposure levels, cancer rates and causes, and other relevant disease information.