Environmental offenses are crimes against humanity

Major environmental violations should be considered crimes against humanity, criminologist says in new book.

May 28, 2010 05:17
3 minute read.
Dr. Danny Gymshi

Dr. Danny Gymshi with white on the sides 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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Serious environmental crimes match many of the criteria for crimes against humanity, Dr. Danny Gymshi, head of the Criminology and Law Enforcement Institute at the College of Management Academic Studies in Rishon Lezion (COMAS), argues in a new book.

The book, Green Criminology: Combatting Crime Against the Environment, will be launched on Tuesday during a conference at the college. Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan will attend to inaugurate COMAS as a green campus.

Gymshi, who spent 32 years in the Israel Police before turning to academia, laid out his thesis to The Jerusalem Post on Thursday ahead of the book launch.

“The world needs to move from the current approach to environmental crimes because it’s not good enough. How would I define an environmental crime? A human action that causes great harm to a lot of people over a long period of time,” he said.

“I’m not talking about specific incidents of air pollution. I’m talking about spilling toxic materials, biological, chemical or nuclear, into the ground or water sources. For example, the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico could perhaps be considered in that category,” he told the Post.

“Organized crime sometimes gets involved as well,” he went on. “Bribing an African chief to allow the dumping of toxic waste near the village, and then the villagers start getting sick, would be such a crime. Or take, for instance, the three ships filled with toxic waste that sank off the coast of Sicily recently. It’s sometimes more cost-effective to do that than to inter them in proper landfills.”

To combat these types of crimes, Gymshi is proposing making environmental crimes crimes against humanity, which carry much more serious penalties like life in prison or even death. Most current sentences for environmental crimes involve either a fine or a short prison term.

“The criteria for defining a crime against humanity are very similar to how I would define a serious environmental crime. Long-term harm to a great many people,” he argued.

In order to move to such a stage of very serious punishments, the local authorities have to prepare for such crimes.

“At the end of the day, these crimes start at a specific spot under the jurisdiction of a specific local authority. The local authorities need to have a fully functioning system to prepare for them. They need monitoring systems, assessment, emergency response and a solution,” the former policeman said.

Finally, Gymshi argues for a change of Western mentality.

“The ultimate solution is prevention. To do that, you need to change the perception in the Western world, and the Jewish world, that man is the center of the world. A philosophy similar to that espoused by Eastern religions like Hinduism, Buddhism and Shintoism would better serve us. Man needs nature and nature needs man,” he said.

“A long process of socialization is needed,” he added.

Those four elements make up his green criminology philosophy. According to Gymshi, few have attempted to apply criminology to environmental issues thus far.

He also freely admitted that the book was a “visionary, academic work” more than a practical guide to be implemented tomorrow.

“What’s needed to implement this is leadership. It needs the prime minister” to start the ball rolling, he opined.

Half of the research was carried out in Australia with the support of the JNF/Australia, and the other half in Israel.

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