One hundred young activists from across Europe, USA, Canada and Nigeria gathered recently in Lofoten, Norway, to exchange skills, motivate each other and support the local community in their campaign to prevent oil drilling off the stunningly beautiful Lofoten coast. Their message was clear – ‘keep the oil in the soil!’ Mícheál Callaghan, of Monaghan Ecological Group attended the event and reflects on what was an inspiring week at the Young Friends of the Earth gathering in the Arctic Circle.
Some of the participants of the recent Young Friends of the Earth Europe Summer Camp in Lofoten, Norway, carrying the banner “No Oil In The Arctic”. Included in this picture is Mícheál Callaghan, co – founder of Monaghan Ecological Group.
The various participants, all of whom are involved are involved in different projects and actions in their home countries, are united by one goal, that of a fossil free, positive future for the planet and its citizens. Norway, a country of just over 5 million people, contributes 2 per cent of global carbon emissions from its large oil industry.
As well as partaking in a variety of skill sharing and planning workshops, participants heard inspiring stories from committed activists in their struggles against the powerful fossil fuel industry. Environmental Rights Action, from Nigeria, spoke of the mass violations of human rights and environmental laws caused by the fossil fuel industry’s exploitation of natural resources in Nigeria. Despite having the 31st highest GDP in the world, Nigerians have a life expectancy of only 47 years. The oil industry there is huge, with locals seeing few of the benefits. Due to corruption, a lack of education and extreme poverty, companies pay little attention to regulations, many of which are not enforced, leading to serious environmental damage. Participants were told how Nigeria loses 500,000 barrels of oil per day in spills, equivalent to 1 Exxon Valdez per year.
Nnimo Bassey, former chair of Friends of the Earth International, gave an emotional and rousing speech on Friday evening. He recalled fondly, a recent visit to Ireland, where he was impressed by the actions of the local communities in Rossport and Leitrim who are engaged in campaigns to stop gas extraction and fracking. Bassey stated that given the present knowledge and gravity of the climate situation, a new drill site is akin to a crime scene and must be seen as a crime against nature and the planet.
While some may be critical of the long journeys participants had to take in order to reach Lofoten, overall the benefit outweighed the negatives in terms of the motivation generated and networks created throughout the week. It was great to see and be part of a growing movement of young people from around the world, who are committed to taking action at every level to avoid the worst case scenario of climate change and secure a better future. I left the camp with new ideas, insights and a lot of inspiration, that just maybe, with collective action, it might be possible to take on the giants of the fossil fuel industry!
To read more about the summer camp and the work of Friends of the Earth Europe go to www.foeeurope.org. If you would like to contribute to a more positive, low carbon future for Monaghan, why not get involved with Monaghan Ecological Group? Look us up on Facebook or contact firstname.lastname@example.org