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Crimcast is a virtual resource devoted to critical conversations about criminology and criminal justice issues. Our blogposts, twitter feeds, podcasts and other content provide an overview of trends, research, commentary and events of interest to criminal justice practitioners, academics and the general public. CrimCast is sponsored by The Center for Crime and Popular Culture, St. Francis College, Brooklyn, NY.

Filtering by Tag: environmental justice

Historic Climate March Headcount Was 400,000

Staci Strobl

In an unprecedented display of people power, 400,000 individuals marched in New York City on Sunday at the People's Climate March to send a message to the United Nations that the time has come for international cooperation on significant reductions in carbon emissions.  Framed as a social justice issue, the "stop climate change" environmental movement effective allied with labor unions, church groups, and others in a historic demonstration.  Crimcast offers a small gallery of pictures from the march below.


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Crimes Against Flounder and the "End of Fish"

Nickie Phillips

Staci Strobl, Crimcast co-founder

photo: Brian Switek

Last night I enjoyed a delicious meal of local flounder at B. Smith's in midtown Manhattan.  Unfortunately, due to illegal over-fishing, this flounder may have been in-bred in its small sub-population off the southern coast of Long Island and more of an endangered species than I had thought.

Overfishing happens when fish are caught faster than they can reproduce, often the result of the market demand for seafood, poor management of fisheries and destructive fishing techniques. If unaddressed, it can threaten marine ecosystems and imperil the availability of fish for people whose diet depends on it.  Once populations of fish get too small, they in-breed and are susceptible to diseases which can wipe out the population for good.  According to the Save Our Seas Foundation, one in five people in the world depend on fish as their main source of protein.

Under federal regulations, New York fishers can only bring in 7.6% of the total haul of flounder in a given season and each fisher has a particular individual quota per season based on the most recent data of the strength of the fish population.

As a result of the limitations, the number of licensed fishing operations in the state are down approximately 20% over the last decade.  And, many New York fishers are landing their catch in other nearby states where the quotas are higher-- even as the fish almost all end up consumed in the same place-- New York City.  Recently, Senator Chuck Schumer has called for reform of the fishing quotas which he believes are hurting New York fishermen and women.  Indeed, the declining economic viability of fishing in Long Island appears to motivate over-fishers, suggesting that important economic incentives are needed to control this harmful activity.

flounder (talkfish.org)

A recent federal prosecution shows that Long Island commercial fishers are falsifying records in order to over-fish for greater profit.  At least one of them has been held accountable.  Charles Wertz, head of C&C Ocean Fisheries, under-reported approxim

ately 80,000 pounds of fluke (summer flounder) that he over-fished between 2009 and 2011, earning an extra $200,000.  In an agreement with prosecutors, the

fisherman will lose his fishing licenses and pay over $500,000 in fines.

This enforcement activity is good news for scientists who warn we may be facing the apocalyptic "end of fish."  A 2006 study projected that fish and seafood populations will collapse by 2048.  Lead scientist on the study Boris Worm explained:

At this point, 29 percent of fish and seafood species [worldwide] have collapsed -- that is their catch has declined by 90 percent. It is a very clear trend, and it is accelerating... The good news is that it is not too late to turn things around.. [With areas of marine protection we] see that diversity of species recovered dramatically, and with it the ecosystem's productivity and stability.

Protecting fish populations through specifically regulated ocean spaces is a key part of the equation of preventing the fish apocalypse, also known as the aquacalypse, as well as working with the fishing industry to make under-fishing profitable.   For criminal justice policy makers, however, the most helpful role to play is to demand the enforcement of federal and state over-fishing laws and to make sure national laws support the United Nations' Fisheries & Aquaculture Department Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries.

Crimes against fish are crimes against a humanity who needs fish protein.  But for those who don't require anthropocentric rationales, it is a matter of co-existing with other life forms on an increasingly environmentally-threatened planet.  Humans wiping out an entire form of life, consisting of multiple species who have done nothing but swim gracefully in our vast ocean waters, seems morally indefensible to me as well.

Environmental Justice at Stake in Canadian Provincial Election

Nickie Phillips

Sierra Club of Canada

Crimcast caught up with environmental activist John Wimberly who alerted us to an upcoming critical vote for the anti-fracking movement in Nova Scotia, Canada. As the documentaries Gasland and Gasland II have shown, regular people's access to fresh, clean water and unspoiled natural spaces have been threatened in U.S. states like Pennsylvania and North Dakota where corporate interests have been making big money off a risky form of extracting natural gas from deep underground in a process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Recent protests in England flared up at the prospect of fracking companies operating there for the first time. Canadians are wrestling with the same problem-- is short-term profit worth risking a natural habitat in the long-term? As John Wimberly explains:

Preventing fracking is tremendously important, especially in a small province like Nova Scotia. We have varied geology and nowhere to retreat if we experience a worst-case scenario event, like a spill of waste-water or a polluted water table. As such, many citizens have been pushing for a ban or moratorium on the practice of hydraulic fracturing.

Unfortunately, a legislated moratorium or ban does not have any guarantee of stopping it from happening. These laws are made by the provincial government and can be removed by the provincial government if it so suits its interests. The only way to prevent fracking is by having a provincial government that is committed to the same goal.

NS fracking

With a provincial election nearing its final week, this is where I point out who the best option will be. It’s the New Democratic Party (NDP), the current provincial government and Canada’s foremost left-leaning political party. By a long-shot. No fracking is going on in Nova Scotia because they created a moratorium. They’ve also initiated two studies into fracking on the environmental and human health impacts. Beyond treating fracking as a public relations issue, it fits in line with their environmental policy: banning uranium mining, hugely increasing the amount of protected lands in Nova Scotia, and moving us toward renewable energy. This is all in stark contrast to the alternative, the Nova Scotia Liberal Party, who – if the polls are any indication – are likely to form the next government.

The Liberals are directly misinforming Nova Scotians in their platform by claiming they were the ones who initiated a moratorium that the NDP opposed. On fracking, they’re even lying in their platform. Their leader, Stephen McNeil, opposed the NDP’s expansion of protected land, suggesting that what we needed was a “moratorium on protecting land.” McNeil and the mining industry were the only ones opposed to this protection – and now he might be the next premier.

Of the greatest concern is the Liberal plan for U.S.-style deregulation of Nova Scotia Power. While there is certainly support for his broadly-stated call to “break the monopoly” of Nova Scotia Power, there are obvious consequences that directly undermine the interests of Nova Scotians – especially those concerned about environmental issues, fossil fuel use, and our contributions toward climate change. The Liberal plan to deregulate would remove our ability to continue to mandate a switch to renewable energy – which is both an environmental and fiscal issue for our province, as the cost of the coal we’re currently using is quickly increasing.

Infographic by Lucy Kim

And who makes up each party? The NDP, while not delivering a perfect environmental record, have environmentalists as a core-constituency and they occupy the highest levels of the party. They have also spent the vast majority of their political capital on switching to renewable energy – popular for being clean, green, and providing stable rates, but very unpopular for being more expensive than the coal we burn now.

The Liberals candidates and record is deeply troubling. One of their Halifax candidates declared that Nova Scotia should become a world innovation capital for fracking, and that he would pursue “green fracking”, a process that even the most unapologetic oil baron hasn’t suggested as ‘something that exists.’ In rural Nova Scotia, they have a candidate who has promised to bring liquid natural gas ports to the coastal community for trans-Atlantic shipping. Poorly thought-out plans like “the free-market will solve the problem” U.S.-style deregulation, combined with candidates that seem squarely opposed to moving away from fossil fuels, leads me to believe that the right decision for voters is clear-- go with the NDP.

The NDP have been far from perfect, and they have, especially recently, been very open about that. They didn’t live up to the expectations many of us had for them. But they remain the best choice for Nova Scotians, especially those concerned about environmental issues.

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John Wimberly is a social, political, and environmental activist in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He works for the NDP and also as a freelance writer. He is a regular contributor to Crimcast.

Green Criminology and the Illegal Mahogany Trade in Peru

Nickie Phillips

A recent article in National Geographic about illegal logging in Peru raised interesting questions about the ability of government to effectively protect the environment-- and the communities that rely upon it-- from criminal exploitation. Agents from Peru's park service are outmatched by loggers intent on cutting down endangered, but highly valued mahogany for furniture markets abroad. And, the service does not have the boots on the ground to effectively patrol tens of thousands of miles of protected forest. Meanwhile, indigenous communities who attempt to protect their forests are met with a timber mafia with guns and reputations-- and such criminal monikers as "El Gato." Complicating matters, some indigenous communities accept pay-offs from illegal loggers.

Interestingly, Peru came reluctantly to environmental criminal enforcement in the first place, spurned on by a caveat to a 2007 U.S. free-trade agreement which required the country to comply with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES).

Although Peru has development a logging regulation and permit system, many permits are traded on the black market and inspection and enforcement stations are few and far between. Legitimate permit holders are expected to plant 10 times the amount of new mahogany plants that they cut down. With few operating legitimately, the hope for a million new mahogany trees by 2013 is unmet.

s_america-map

Criminologists are increasingly becoming interested in crimes against the environment under the banner of green criminology. Although criminology is still largely obsessed with street crimes, the field has opened up considerably in the last twenty years to previously under-researched criminal behavior. Among the questions surfacing is whether new theoretical models are needed to explain such avenues of study as environmental crime.

In the case of Peruvian mahogany, one could make a rational choice argument about demand for mahogany creating a powerful monetary incentive for loggers to go rogue and provide the supply. Green criminology, however, is more interested in the social, economic and political conditions that lead to environmental crimes and exactly what harmful human behavior against the environment should be criminalized. Lynch and Stretsky (2003) describe the perspective as an environmental justice one in which race, class, and gender all factor into the analysis. In its critique of capitalism and its focus on power relations, the discourse appears to be a subsection of critical criminology with the environment as its focus.

Critical criminology would look at the kind of first-world conspicuous consumption represented by mahogany and link it back to the kinds of unequal social relations and environmental harms at the source point. According to Jennifer L. Anderson's Mahogany: The Price of Luxury in America, the demand for mahogany in American homes is a product of the tastes of the mid-eighteenth century elite. Furniture made from the wood is frequently sold today as a luxury item.

Image

Whereas the free trade agreement may have bolstered the Peruvian economy, it also seems to have had the unintended consequence of accelerating the pace of Amazonian deforestation (despite CITES)-- an irreplaceable resource the whole world needs whether for clean air or medicinal plants. The same networks of legal trade that gives avenue to the illegal trade. And, the regulatory system is manipulated by loggers cutting both legally and illegally, drifting in and out of crime (perhaps reminiscent of neutralization theory).

green criminology

Overall, green criminology's importance is less in creating a brand-new theoretical concept than in rightly highlighting a critically important but under-recognized criminal harm. The field should not be left behind other disciplines that have taken on the problems of environmental justice.

This is the first in a three-part series on green criminology this month in recognition of Earth Day (April 22).