5 Environmental True Crime Series, to Get Your Blood Pumping

Lizzy Rosenberg - Author

Dec. 16 2022, Published 3:12 p.m. ET

True crime docuseries are all the rage these days. Shows like 48 Hours and Ryan Murphy's American Crime Story simultaneously give us bone-chilling suspense, and an inside look at some of society's most heinous figures.

But if you're interested in climate news and sustainability, you'll be just as enthralled with environmental true crime series — they're both informative and suspenseful.

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'The Lady and the Dale'

The Lady and the Dale hit HBO Max in 2021, telling the story of entrepreneur Geraldine Elizabeth Carmichael. In the 1970s, she tried to become an early adopter of the electric car, with an invention known as the Dale Car. It was a three-wheeled vehicle that was 100 percent electronic, super stable, and incredibly safe, and supposedly, it could be sold for less than $2,000. However, that evidently was not the case.

The car was ultimately too good to be true. Even though she actually tried to make the car a reality, there were only three prototypes that were actually made. But two of them were only fiberglass bodies with generator engines, and they could only reach 30 miles per hour, as opposed to the promised 80. Carmichael ended up being wanted for previous counterfeiting offenses, in addition to theft, conspiracy, and fraud.

Catch all episodes on HBO Max.

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'Dirty Money'

Dirty Money is all about corporate corruption — and while each episode focuses on different scandals, many relate to environmental crimes. The first episode hones in on the Volkswagen emissions scandal, which was when the popular car company was charged for violating the Clean Air Act. Meanwhile, episode five gives an inside look at the Great Canadian Maple Syrup Heist. Not all are blatantly eco-focused, but corporate corruption generally results in environmental crimes.

Watch it on Netflix.

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'Battleground: Rhino Wars'

This single-season docuseries tells the story of a major war that took place outside of Johannesburg, South Africa several years ago. Every year, almost 700 rhinos were dying as a result of commercial poaching for the sake of obtaining rhinoceros horns. The endangered species' horns are considered exotic, and to some, they are more valuable than gold.

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Park rangers who were there to protect the wildlife were senselessly murdered. And as a result, U.S. Special Operatives at the time were put on the front lines to take down these poachers, to protect park employees and the species, as a whole.

Catch it on Amazon Prime Video.

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'Tiger King'

While Tiger King became the subject of many memes during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns, it's an environmental crime series at its core.

It tells the story of Joe Exotic, a big cat enthusiast in Oklahoma who opened his own "big cat sanctuary." He's ultimately taken down by his arch nemesis, Florida-based big cat sanctuary owner, Carole Baskin. Although his zoo gets overtaken by Jeff Lowe, it was eventually closed down altogether when it was found that the cats weren't living in suitable conditions.

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Luckily, many of the cats have since been rescued, and sent to actual sanctuaries — but it made many of us more aware of the fact that many "sanctuaries" are simply scams.

Watch Tiger King on Netflix.

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'Meltdown: Three Mile Island'

Meltdown: Three Mile Island brings us back to the 1970s, when the U.S. was in the midst of an oil crisis. Because prices were rising, people were starting to look to the prospect of nuclear energy, and nuclear plants started popping up in small towns across the country. Two opened near Middletown, Penn., and initially, it seemed like the perfect solution.

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But after only three months in operation, things went south — alarms started going off, and plant operators feared a core meltdown. Though the problem was fixed, operators were still concerned radiation was being released into Middletown. Panic ensued, and people evacuated. And although nothing serious happened, they later found the plant had been within 30 minutes of a complete meltdown all along.

Watch Meltdown: Three Mile Island on Netflix.

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