SHIOSO: Nexus between environmental degradation, climate change, crime and policing

Land, as postulated by economic theories, is the source of all wealth since it is a factor of production.

In Summary

•Indeed, future generations face an existential threat if nothing is done in the present and going forward.

•As deliberations progressed and firm positions taken to save the world, little, if no input came from the law enforcement arena on areas of convergence between climate change and crime.

Police spokesman Bruno Shioso.
Police spokesman Bruno Shioso.
Image: NPS

Much has been going on this past week or so at Glasgow, Scotland, where global leaders and policymakers converged to discuss and commit to enhanced ambition towards mitigating climate change.

This conference had one important goal namely to keep a 1.5degrees F temperature rise within reach. I followed the proceedings closely as I am a firm supporter of measures to manage climate within acceptable ranges. Even for the uninitiated in matters science like myself, it is not rocket science to understand the peril we face due to environmental degradation, and its impact on climate and livelihood.

Indeed, future generations face an existential threat if nothing is done in the present and going forward. As deliberations progressed and firm positions taken to save the world, little, if no input came from the law enforcement arena on areas of convergence between climate change and crime.

There was as such no criminological agenda advanced, and no discussions held focusing on the role of police generally and law enforcement specifically on measures to mitigate threats facing an impending climatic catastrophic. Police, as a jack of all trades (and nowadays a master of most!) play a very important role in the lives of people. At the very apex of the police objective is to save lives and property.

As well-known, life and the environment have a symbiotic relationship. Environment supports life and vice versa; as environment forms the bulk of all the property owned by citizens. Land, as postulated by economic theories, is the source of all wealth since it is a factor of production. Police are therefore central in the preservation of this ecosystem for posterity. And the correlation between environment and climate is causal, as one directly impacts the other.

Therefore, any discourse on the planet or environment’s future based on prevailing climatic conditions should be enriched by law enforcement interventions. Climate and crime are intricately connected. On one front, climate is affected by organized criminal enterprise. Through transnational organized cartels, forests are indiscriminately depleted and want on mining activities undertaken for greed and commercial profiteering or to fund conflicts in such areas.

It’s from revenues accruing from illicit markets that conflicts are funded and sustained, causing unpreceded runaway insecurity and suffering in many vulnerable areas. The sum of this is breakdown in law and order, and collapse of legitimate economic activities. On this score, it is the police who are mandated to counteract organized crime menace threatening the environment through a law enforcement option.

Conversely, deteriorating climatic conditions impacting the environment negatively cause ripple-effects that drive up crime. With soaring climatic conditions, rains become scarce, rivers dry up, farming is reduced to a chore, and no food makes it to the dinner table. Wanton destruction of environmental resources equally impacts the manufacturing sector that is denied raw materials; forcing companies to shut down, jobs rendered redundant, with employees sent home. All these leads to destitution, with the only prospect available to the majority being crime as a pathway to survival.

As such, police become bedeviled with 2crime arising out of the effects of changes in the weather, an area of their utmost policy interest. These issues confirm that the discourse on climate, environment and policing are inter connected into one whole. Law enforcement policy must therefore be strengthened around discussions on climate and environment. Law enforcement may therefore be the missing link to holistically leverage all actions intended to make the world better. Police agencies around the world should thus be empowered with enough capacities and capabilities to fight organized environmental crime on one hand; and, with an outlay of relevant and counteracting supporting policies and laws to realize intended objectives on the other.

Additionally, investments should be made in knowledge acquisition areas in order to mainstream climate and environmental degradation vis-a-vis overall crime picture and common livelihood as an integral part of overriding police doctrine. When COVID-19 pandemic happened almost two years ago, science was agile in appreciating and embracing police in their frontline service delivery role. What was initially a medical and public health nightmare soon became a shared concern between health actors and law enforcement practitioners. Globally, police and other security players continue to play a major frontline role in mitigating the effects of COVID-19.

The line between medicine and law and order has indeed been blurred in this noble pursuit. This good example remains a best practice to be benchmarked and emulated by environmental policymakers. Crime is ubiquitous, and subsists insidiously, including on the environmental front; whereas law enforcement is a baseline governance activity to tackle all forms of pervasive threats. Any public policy, however well-thought-out and intentioned, but without a law enforcement perspective will be lacking in the fullness of time.

Bruno Isohi Shioso is the NPS Director of Corporate Communication and a Spokesperson.