New Criminology Course to Explore Crimes Against the Environment

A new course will be offered by the Criminology and Criminal Justice Department. Toxic In/Justice: Green Criminology and Environmental Protest (CRIM 3703) will examine environmental crimes and the people who protest them through a non-traditional Criminology perspective.

The course was developed and will be taught by Dr. Chris McCormick, a professor who’s been with the department since 1997. He specializes in the study of Critical Criminology, which looks at relations in power and abuses of it.

“Toxic In/Justice covers both toxic crimes against the environment and attempts to try and address justice issues,” he said. “The course is about how these harms are not accidental, they are not minor, and they are not unpredictable—they are very predictable. They are structural.”

Toxic In/Justice will be offered in alternating years starting in the Fall 2020 semester. It will draw from a wide range of case studies from the grounding of the Exxon Valdez three decades ago to the more modern Flint, Michigan water crisis.

“The course is topical in going through these different cases and how they happen, how they are systematic and how people will sometimes try to stop them—if they can,” McCormick said.

The course is rooted in two Criminology paradigms—Green Criminology and Critical Criminology.

“A lot of Criminology is about what makes offenders tick and how to turn it off. We have courses on corporate crime, and on policing—which would cover things like corruption. This course is about how you can create situations—if you have the power—and get away with it.”

McCormick said there are only a few courses like this one offered in Canada.

“I try to develop courses that make a difference and keep me thinking. I don’t want to teach the same stuff over and over, so I only teach courses I can learn in while I am teaching, which keeps me fresh, motivated and—I think—is more interesting for the students too.”