‘Communities not shareholders’ – climate crisis must be tackled through collective action and system change

Capitalist model of profit and growth is driving climate breakdown, say organisers of Climate Camp in Leitrim

The climate and biodiversity crises must be tackled through collective action at community level that challenges corporate power and brings about system change, according to the organisers of a Climate Camp in progress this week on farmland in Co Leitrim. 

Under the slogan, “Communities not shareholders”, hundreds of people have gathered for the family-friendly event at Shanvas Cross, in Pollboy, near Manorhamilton, for workshops, debates, direct action training, practical skill-sharing, music, art and more.

The organisers, a broad alliance of climate activists, local community campaigners, farmers and others, have been sharing skills and strategies for building a radical climate movement across the island of Ireland and to “reconnect to land and each other”. 

As scientists confirmed this week that July was the hottest month on earth ever recorded, leading climatologist Prof Peter Thorne of Maynooth University told RTÉ that this summer was an “alarming wake up call”, and warned that “we face a dystopia unless we get our act together.” 

Sian Cowman, a spokesperson for Slí Eile, the main organising group behind the Climate Camp, said: 

“This camp in a stunning area of Leitrim is a central meeting point of resistance-building on the island of Ireland. The people taking part are from a range of campaign groups across the island of Ireland, including those resisting mining, fracking, data centres, LNG terminals and industrial conifer plantations.” 

“What connects them is they are communities resisting extractivism – part of the capitalist model that prioritises shareholder profit and endless growth over climate, biodiversity and local communities. This approach also extends to the government’s approach to climate action – it is developer led rather than community led.” 

Local campaigns involved in running the event include Save Leitrim, which campaigns against the expansion of industrial conifer plantations, Treasure Leitrim, which campaigns against gold mining, and Love Leitrim which continues to work on the threat of fracking, particularly in Northern Ireland.

Despite huge levels of community opposition, in May 2022 Environment Minister Eamon Ryan granted prospecting licences for 47 Leitrim townlands to mining company Flintridge Resources. The Climate Camp is taking place in one of these townlands, Pollboy. 

James Gilmartin, chairperson of Treasure Leitrim, said:

“Mining, in Leitrim and across Ireland, is being pushed as a means of sourcing minerals considered ‘critical’ for the energy transition. However, mining is an energy intensive and carbon heavy process that contributes to climate breakdown. We can’t mine our way out of the climate crisis.

“Mining also destroys the landscape, pollutes water and air and displaces existing indigenous industries such as tourism and sustainable agriculture. Gold mining is not compatible with building a safe and sustainable future for this and the next generations. 

“More than 25% of land on the island of Ireland has been licensed for prospecting. And now an alarming development is the EU’s proposed Critical Minerals Act, which would make it much easier for mining companies to gain planning permission.”

The diverse programme at Climate Camp includes talks and debates on topics including forestry policy, agri-forestry, regenerative farming, climate and capitalism, fracking, data centres, gold mining and more. Participatory workshops include cob building, composting, bike-fixing and reconnecting with nature.