Label corporate practices on climate change as criminal

I have been in the profession of crime and violence prevention for more than four decades. Recent events convince me that we as a nation and as a citizenry need to dramatically re-define the word “crime” and expand its scope and definition. Historically when people in my profession talk about “white collar crime” we zero in on the likes of hucksters and thieves and charlatans like Bernie Madoff who siphoned the life savings from an array of victims.

However this narrow definition gives a blank check to the greatest white collar criminals in human history. For example in the mid-1970s the Exxon corporation through meticulous research confirmed the inevitably of human caused climate change/global warming through carbon emissions. This perhaps is the greatest and most damning case of white collar crime in human history. A private corporation committed to maximizing profit omitted and hid confirming science that has sweeping implications for all mankind. The word “crime” has rarely been levied at Exxon.

The point is we need to sensitize ourselves to the realities of epic and global corporate wrong doing and levy the criminal definition and distinction that has for far too long been omitted by our cultural institutions. We have to acknowledge and identify those forces that threaten the planet as criminal renegades and take decisive and immediate action in addressing said criminal behavior.

For many this may sound like a radical re-definition of “white collar crime” or “crime.” Hardly so, when one carefully analyzes what global corporate forces are doing to the planet. The realization hits that targeting these entities with the well deserved “criminal” label is if anything a grand understatement when taking into account the peril they have put all of global humanity in.

Jim Sawyer


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