Environmental Crime: Who is Offending? Who is Watching?

Environmental Crime: Who is Offending? Who is Watching?

It seems as though every few years an environmental crime makes the headlines. From oil spills to chemical plant mishaps the enormity of such an event can be staggering. Who are the top environmental crime offenders and who is watching over their shoulder?

What is an Environmental Crime?

Before anyone can point their finger it is essential to know what the term environmental crime falls under. Recognized by six police and environmental organizations including the UN Environmental Programme and Interpol, the term falls under these abbreviated categories:

  • Fishing and Wildlife (i.e.: unregulated or endangered trade)
  • Dumping (hazardous waste)
  • Logging
  • Smuggling outlawed materials such as ODS (Ozone Depleting Substances)

Some of the Top Offenders

Unfortunately it is difficult to choose from the long list of so many environmental criminals that range from farming and manufacturing to mining and residential living. However, there are a few cases and companies that deserve special recognition.

  • Exxon Valdez – March 24th, 1989 this tanker ran aground spilling approximately 750,000 barrels of oil into Alaskan waters. As of 2010 there is still about twenty-six million gallons of oil remaining in the surrounding sand and soil.
  • Bhopal – December 3rd, 1984 a sleeping India village is covered in toxic chemical dust as a result of a Union Carbide pesticide company chemical mishap. Approximately 4,000 fatalities and 50,000 devastating illnesses resulted. Today hazardous waste fail safe protections are in place.
  • The Great Pacific Gyre Garbage Patch – Continuously floating human garbage sits in the middle of the Pacific Ocean where waters meet and swirl creating this twice-the-size of Texas pollution mound. It affects ocean life and its food chain. We are all responsible for this one.
  • Deepwater Horizon – A British Petroleum’s drill site in the Gulf of Mexico, April 2010 exploded spilling 4.9 million of barrels of oil. This surpassed the Exxon Valdez spill exponentially and has gone on to create fish mutations as well as devastating effects on the economy.
  • Monsanto – The creators of Agent Orange which contaminated more than 3 million civilians and servicemen in the Vietnam war. An estimated 500,000 Vietnamese children have been born with deformities attributed to Agent Orange, leading to calls for Monsanto to be prosecuted for war crimes.  Also the creators of Polystyrene, Saccharine, DDT, PCBs, rBGH (Bovine growth hormone), Roundup, and yes, the GMOs that are in 70-80% of conventional (non-organic) food.

The Watchdogs

Like a local police force in a bad neighborhood there is never enough manpower to quell the ever growing number of crimes. Add in the strong arm of corporate money and it makes for a very bleak control process. Needless to say, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) are a small example of the many organizations at the forefront of dealing with environmental crime. Fortunately, these and many other groups are intergovernmental agencies working together throughout the globe to make it more difficult for corporations to get away with desecrating our planet and our people in the name of profit.

In an age where there is a camera on every corner and in every hand, environmental crime is becoming more difficult to hide. In addition, social media is enabling the once muffled voice of the people to turn into an impactful roar. Hopefully, as more offenders fall, potential offenders will be put on notice.


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