Example Essays Criminology

Green criminology refers to the study of environmental crimes and harms affecting human and nonhuman life, ecosystems, and planet Earth as a whole. It has emerged as a distinctive area of study, drawing together criminologists with a wide range of specific research interests and representing varying theoretical and ecophilosophical orientations. Despite occasional disagreements about the proper name or label for the study of ecological or environmental crime or harm, research in this area is burgeoning and will continue to do so in the second decade of the 21st century.

Scope and Focus of Green Criminology

More properly considered a perspective than a theory, green criminology draws on research and writing across academic disciplines to achieve the following:

  • Expose instances and patterns of environmental harm, ranging from the micro to the macro
  • Illuminate risks and threats to specific places or localities, as well as larger regions in and across geopolitical boundaries
  • Identify and understand the etiology of environmental harm, including violations of existing environmental law and regulation designed to protect the health, safety, and vitality of humans, animals other than human animals, and ecosystems, as well as environmental harms that may not be statutorily proscribed
  • Analyze and assess existing and proposed environmental law and regulation, as well as failures of law and regulation, and avoidance of corporate, state, and personal responsibility regarding environmental harms and threats
  • Predict environmental disaster and degradation, and propose measures for avoiding or mitigating such destruction
  • Investigate grassroots and institutionalized resistance and opposition to environmental crimes and harms
  • Explore and critique the depictions and representations of nonfictional and fictional environmental crimes, harms, disasters, and threats in newspapers, film, television, on the Internet, and in other media outlets

Although these tasks had been undertaken for decades, the term green criminology did not appear until 1990, when it was first introduced by Michael J. Lynch in a short article in The Critical Criminologist as part of an appeal for increased criminological attention to issues pertaining to environmental crimes, harms, and hazards. Green criminology’s roots lie in critical criminology, and much research in green criminology contemplates environmental harms that may not be statutorily proscribed. It considers state-corporate collusion in the propagation of environmental harm—two hallmarks of critical criminology. Nevertheless, green criminology includes research conducted from both mainstream and critical theoretical perspectives and reflects a range of ecophilosophies (e.g., anthropocentric, biocentric, ecocentric). Regardless of theoretical or ecophilosophical orientation, the broad spectrum of green criminological scholarship includes work on the following:

  • Air pollution and water pollution and their regulation
  • Animal abuse and animal rights
  • Environmental justice
  • Food crimes
  • Harm caused by global warming and climate change
  • Harm caused by the hazardous transport of e-waste
  • Illegal disposal of toxic waste
  • Violations of the Endangered Species Act in the United States and the illegal trade in species threatened with extinction listed in the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Appendix I
  • Violations of workplace health and safety regulations that have environmentally damaging consequences


Despite the agreement on major themes, topics, and problems, predictably, those conducting research in these areas have reflected on the term green criminology and there has not been universal agreement on the appropriate name or label for this perspective or subfield. For example, Rob White has argued that the term environmental criminology should be reclaimed from what is more properly considered “place-based criminology” to refer to the study of environmental harms and threats, environmental legislation, and related research and scholarship. This usage is an obvious reflection of the way that the word environment is frequently employed in everyday discussion and contemporary media, but it suffers the disadvantage of being too easily confused with the longer established usage of “environment” in criminology to describe relationships between the incidence of crime and the spatial features of the built and urban environment. Without expressly abandoning this endeavor, White has also offered the term eco-global criminology to refer to a criminological approach that is informed by ecological considerations, an inclusive definition of harm, and a critical analysis that is worldwide in its scale and perspective.

In a related vein, Reece Walters has suggested that the term eco-crime is helpful and capable of encapsulating violations of existing environmental law (including civil and regulatory violations) designed to protect the health, safety, and vitality of humans, natural resources, and ecosystems, as well as sociological analyses of those environmental harms not necessarily specified by law. Other formulations include “conservation criminology,” but at this stage in its development, it seems that criminologists most frequently employ the term green criminology to describe the study of ecological, environmental, or green crime or harm and related matters of speciesism and of environmental justice and injustice.

History and Emergence

While criminologists were initially slow to respond to Lynch’s call, special issues of journals such as Social Justice, Theoretical Criminology, and Current Issues in Criminal Justice demonstrated growing interest in the study of environmental harms, environmental laws, and environmental regulation by criminologists and helped catalyze further criminological research in this area. Green criminology stands as a bona fide (albeit evolving) perspective within the discipline of criminology, as evidenced by monographs, edited volumes, a book series, and the proliferation of “green criminology” sessions at the annual conferences and meetings of the American Society of Criminology, the British Society of Criminology, and the European Society of Criminology. In 2013, “green criminology” appeared as its own submission category at the annual meeting of the American Society of Criminology. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Green Criminology Research Series began in October 2012 and will consist of five half-day seminars every term in different locations around the United Kingdom until August 2014, when it will conclude with a two-day miniconference. The International Green Criminology Working Group (IGCWG)— a group of academics, students, and professionals who conduct research in green criminology—was formed in 2010 and continues to add members to its international directory.

Environment and Culture

Avi Brisman and Nigel South have demonstrated that cultural criminology is, at some levels, already engaging in green criminological analyses, and have suggested that green criminologists have not adopted a cultural criminological lens. Promulgating a “green cultural criminology,” Brisman and South highlight a number of ways in which green criminologists might openly employ a cultural criminological approach to their study of environmental crimes and harms: (1) by adopting cultural criminology’s concern with the contestation of space, transgression, and resistance to investigate and analyze the ways in which environmental harms are opposed in/on the streets and in day-to-day living; (2) by devoting greater attention to the way(s) in which environmental crime, harm, and disaster are constructed and represented by the news media and in other popular culture forms; and (3) by dedicating increased attention to patterns of constructed consumerism and related global capitalist processes endemic to late modernity.

In a different vein, Steven Kohm and Pauline Greenhill have extended Nicole Rafter’s concept of “popular criminology” to green criminology in order to better appreciate the emotional, moral, and philosophical dimensions of the relationship between crime and the physical and social environments—an endeavor they have labeled “popular green criminology.” Just as “popular criminology” is a discourse found in accessible mass-media texts exploring issues pertaining to crime and justice, Kohm and Greenhill encourage a “popular green criminology” that deals with environmental crimes and harms, issues of place and space, and the oppression of humans and animals other than human animals by people and institutions.

Environment and Conflict

While arguably the existence of any group or groups of humans will bring about some degree of socioenvironmental conflict, green criminologists have begun to focus on three types of conflict.

First, the environment and natural resources can be a source of conflict, that is, when groups fight over access to or use of natural resources— a phenomenon likely to occur with greater frequency as a result of global climate change. Second, the environment and natural resources can fuel or fund existing conflicts (e.g., when warring groups extract diamonds or metals or timber that are then sold to finance conflicts). Third, the environment and natural resources can be a casualty of conflict (e.g., in the Vietnam War, when deforestation chemicals, such as Agent Orange, caused crop destruction; in the first Gulf War, when oil wells were set ablaze).

While the linkages between environment and conflict are varied, green criminologists recognize that they do not always describe or represent current or anticipated violence. High-value, well-managed natural resources can help fund reconstruction efforts after a violent conflict and have the potential to promote and consolidate peace. Such resources can spur development, help ensure sustainable growth, elevate living standards, and increase economic equality. They may also be an important source of foreign currency for post-conflict governments strapped for cash; they can reduce dependence on international aid, and can generate compensation for conflict-affected populations. Thus, it is here, in the analysis of environment and conflict, that green criminologists might expose some of the greatest injustices in the world (and reveal which groups have been, currently are, or are likely to become environmental victims) but also discover potential for justice.


  1. Beirne, Piers. Confronting Animal Abuse: Law, Criminology, and Human-Animal Relationships. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2009.
  2. Beirne, Piers and Nigel South, eds. Issues in Green Criminology. Cullompton, UK: Willan, 2007.
  3. Brisman, Avi and Nigel South. “A Green-Cultural Criminology: an Exploratory Outline.” Crime Media Culture, v.9/2 (2013).
  4. Burns, Ronald G., Michael J. Lynch, and Paul Stretesky. Environmental Law, Crime, and Justice. New York: LFB, 2008.
  5. Ellefsen, R., R. Sollund, and G. Larsen, eds. Eco-Global Crimes. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2012.
  6. Kohm, Steven and Pauline Greenhill. “‘This Is the North, Where We Do What We Want’: Popular Green Criminology and ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ Films.” In Routledge International Handbook of Green Criminology, Nigel South and Avi Brisman, eds. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2013.
  7. Lynch, Michael J. “The Greening of Criminology: A Perspective on the 1990s.” The Critical Criminologist, v.2/3 (1990).
  8. Nurse, Angus. Animal Harm. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2013.
  9. Sollund, Ragnhild, ed. Global Harms: Ecological Crime and Specieism. New York: Nova Science,
  10. South, Nigel and Piers Beirne, eds. Green Criminology. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2006.
  11. South, Nigel and Avi Brisman, eds. Routledge International Handbook of Green Criminology. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2013.
  12. Walters, Reece. Eco Crime and Genetically Modified Food. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2011.
  13. White, Rob. Crimes Against Nature. Cullompton, UK: Willan, 2008.
  14. White, Rob. Transnational Environmental Crime: Toward an Eco-Global Criminology. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2011.
  15. White, Rob, ed. Climate Change From a Criminological Perspective. New York: Springer, 2012.
  16. White, Rob, ed. Environmental Crime: A Reader. Cullompton, UK: Willan, 2009.
  17. White, Rob, ed. Global Environmental Harm: Criminological Perspectives. Cullompton, UK: Willan, 2010.

This example Green Criminology Essay is published for educational and informational purposes only. If you need a custom essay or research paper on this topic please use our writing services. EssayEmpire.com offers reliable custom essay writing services that can help you to receive high grades and impress your professors with the quality of each essay or research paper you hand in.

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In 1988, criminologist Gregg Barak coined the term newsmaking criminology. Newsmaking criminology refers to “the processes whereby criminologists use mass communication for the purposes of interpreting, informing and altering the images of crime and justice, crime and punishment, and criminals and victims.” Newsmaking criminology was largely a response to the popular but typically inaccurate portrayal of crime and perpetrators of crime in the mid-1980s. Newsmaking criminology represents a call to criminologists to help shape, and in many instances correct, conceptualization of criminal justice issues. The concept makes clear, as Barak notes, that taking sides is part of the formula.

Some criminologists seem to suggest that actualizing newsmaking criminology is an exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, task. They note that successfully altering how crime and criminal justice issues are reported requires knowledge of the format, frame, and genre of specific media. Yet, many newsmaking criminologists approach their task by trial and error. Barak and others suggest that by understanding communicative frames and drawing on this understanding, newsmaking criminologists can use the media, rather than being used by the media, to alter perceptions. Under this framework, the criminologists act as “experts, journalists, subjects and/or as educative provocateurs.”

The Landscape

In the years immediately preceding Barak’s labeling of newsmaking criminology, the media had become fascinated with crimes that inflamed the passions of their consumers. Rare crimes that involved gruesome circumstances and wild plot lines crowded out the more typical instances of criminality. A common media phrase of the time was, “If it bleeds it leads.” Reporter David Anderson calls this practice “the politics of hysteria.”

As Anderson explains, escaped felon Willie Horton fundamentally changed how the media covers crime and criminal perpetrators. The 1988 presidential campaign pitted George H. W. Bush against Michael Dukakis, then governor of Massachusetts. A central issue in the campaign became Dukakis’s record on criminal justice issues. To illustrate his contention that Dukakis endorsed lenient and dangerous criminal justice policies, Bush called national attention to the case of Horton, a Massachusetts inmate serving a life sentence who had been granted a weekend furlough, escaped, and assaulted a young couple in suburban Maryland. Most political scholars agree that the Willie Horton story cost Dukakis the presidency.

Anderson argues that the Willie Horton case began a trend in reporting on criminal justice issues. He contends that the formula for a popular crime story involves five components. First, the crimes must be “luridly violent,” often involving rape, murder, and assault. Second, the victims and perpetrators must be of different races, providing a racial element to the story. Third, the victims must be “wholly innocent” and cannot be contrived to be at fault in their own victimization. Fourth, perpetrators must appear “to have chosen their victims at random.” As Anderson notes, crimes between couples or friends do not make headline stories. And finally, perpetrators must have had prior contact with the criminal justice system, “suggesting that if the criminal justice system worked better, the terrible crime might have been avoided.” These characteristics of crime, Anderson contends, drive media interest, as such stories will attract a disproportionate amount of attention from consumers.

The Introduction of Newsmaking Criminology

In 1988, Gregg Barak noted that criminological research often focused on the role of the media in constructing the image of crime and the criminal. He also noted, however, that criminologists rarely “participated in the mass construction of those portrayals.” Barak’s proposal centered on the idea that criminologists should use the media and take part in shaping reports of crime and criminals. Barak termed this practice “newsmaking criminology.”

Barak’s concept of newsmaking criminology draws on Alvin Gouldner’s concept of “newspaper sociology.” Gouldner noted that newspaper sociologists “participate in the public sphere,” “receive recognition for doing so,” and “thus play a role as public persons.” The primary purpose or goal of a newspaper sociologist is to help shape the moral rules and definitions of social reality. Barak’s notion of the newsmaking criminologist tracks Gouldner’s prior definition.

In the context of crime, Barak contends that news outlets rely too often on official police reports and political statements regarding crime. He argues that these reports are typically one-sided, focusing almost exclusively on street-level crime, typically to the exclusion of white-collar criminal offenses. As Barak explains, many news outlets will regularly cover the mugger who steals the old woman’s purse, but will not report the old woman’s demise because corporate executives mishandled her pension fund. Barak also notes that crimes are reported without appropriate context. He observes that the media often overlook the social, political, and economic factors that play a role in crime. And finally, Barak suggests that such distorted reports of crime and criminal offenders have a significant impact on reactive public policy.

Executing Newsmaking Criminology

Barak argues that the single most important aspect of newsmaking criminology is criminologists’ ability to develop relationships with the media. While he acknowledges that the “technocrats of the news-producing industry” share common bonds with the “capitalist-driven media,” these same technocrats also value free expression and objectivity and often sympathize with an academic perspective of criminal justice issues. It is these windows of opportunity, Barak argues, through which criminologists can enter, develop relationships, and alter how crime is reported.

Once a relationship with the media is established, Barak argues, criminologists can become professional viewpoints on criminal justice issues. They can supplement, and in some cases supplant, “official” sources like law enforcement personnel and politicians. But notably, Barak also contends that criminologists can move beyond a reporting or informational role. He urges criminologists to begin the task of “producing crime themes.” Barak explains that criminologists can “participate as a credible public voice, offering a variety of theoretically enriched analyses that challenge the prevailing crime myths and enlarge the popular discourse on crime and justice.”

Barak has further refined the role of the newsmaking criminologist, noting that to be effective, criminologists must gain an understanding of the way the media frame the news. Drawing on the work of Simon Cottle, Barak explains that communicative frames are either conflict-oriented or consensus-oriented. Making up these larger communicative frames are several narrative frameworks specific to either conflict or consensus communicative frames. Importantly, narrative frameworks of social conflict employ propositions, claims, counterclaims, and arguments. Conversely, narrative frames of social consensus employ “‘cultural displays’ rather than ‘analytic deliberations.’” Social conflict frameworks are based in logic and objectivism while social consensus frameworks appeal to emotion. Barak contends that effective newsmaking criminologists should gravitate toward the narrative frameworks of social conflict, as they allow for a more in-depth, analytically grounded coverage of crime and criminal justice policies.

The Current Landscape

Anderson’s account of crime reporting is alive and well. The cases of O. J. Simpson and George Zimmerman provide illustrative examples of how certain factual elements of a crime make a case more likely to attract media coverage and the accompanying polarized national attention. Moreover, media outlets are increasingly controlled by corporate factions and still typically rely on law enforcement as “official sources” of crime news. Accordingly, the task that befalls newsmaking criminologists is as burdensome as ever.

Barak himself has noted that crime reporting has changed little in the past 20 years. For this reason, the role of the newsmaking criminologist, he argues, is as important as ever. Though some scholars question the potential of newsmaking criminology, others argue that criminologists who situate themselves close to media sources, developing bonds with those sources, and approach crime news from an objective, contextual prospective can provide valuable information that shapes conceptualizations and themes about crime and criminal justice policy.


  1. Anderson, D. C. The Politics of Hysteria: How the Willie Horton Story Changed American Justice. New York: Random House, 1995.
  2. Arrigo, B. “Media Madness as Crime in the Making: On O. J. Simpson, Consumerism, and Hyperreality.” In Representing O. J.: Murder, Criminal Justice and Mass Culture, G. Barak, ed. New York: Harrow and Heston, 1996.
  3. Barak, G. “Doing Newsmaking Criminology From Within the Academy.” Theoretical Criminology, v.11 (2007).
  4. Barak, G., ed. Media, Process, and the Social Construction of Crime: Studies in Newsmaking Criminology. New York: Garland, 1994.
  5. Barak, G. “Mediatizing Law and Order: Applying Cottle’s Architecture of Communicative Frames to the Social Construction of Crime and Justice.” Crime, Media, Culture, v.3 (2007).
  6. Barak, G. “Newsmaking Criminology: Reflections on the Media, Intellectuals, and Crime.” Justice Quarterly, v.5 (1988).
  7. Cottle, S. “Mediatizing the Global War on Terror: Television’s Public Eye.” In Media, Terrorism, and Theory: A Reader, A. P. Kavoori and T. Fraley, eds. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006.
  8. Gouldner, A. The Dialectic of Ideology and Technology: The Origins, Grammar, and the Future of Ideology. New York: Seabury, 1976.

This example Newsmaking Criminology Essay is published for educational and informational purposes only. If you need a custom essay or research paper on this topic please use our writing services. EssayEmpire.com offers reliable custom essay writing services that can help you to receive high grades and impress your professors with the quality of each essay or research paper you hand in.

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