Lateral thinking at Burren gathering


The protection of the home, mobilising against an undefined enemy, and the environmental role of the arts were some of the subjects raised at the Climate Gathering in Ballyvaughan, Co Clare over the weekend.

Some 60 participants from the United States and Europe descended on the Burren village to discuss ways of rousing society to action on climate change. In a sometimes jargon-heavy three days they explored ways of bringing about a “transformational leap” in the wider perception of global warming.


International experts, such as Daniel Schrag, science and technology adviser to Barack Obama; John Ashton, former climate change representative to the British government; and Regine Günther from WWF Germany, were in attendance.

The approach, part climate conference, part transcendental new age retreat, jarred with some. Vinay Gupta, an engineer and Hindu cleric said the group aspect diluted the expertise of participants and led to certain impasses. “If we are to get the best result possible, we must make sure that every individual’s expertise is brought to bear,” he said, adding that the world’s poor also needed better representation.

But for others the gathering offered a pleasant alternative to the more staid environmental summits on the international circuit. Gina Hanrahan, policy analyst at the Institute of International and European Affairs, said in the climate debate people tended to “talk at each other . . . which isn’t always constructive”. The format of the gathering provided “an interesting creative space for people to share insights”, she said. It helped “to step back and think about the broader issues”.


“I came in thinking about this as a social movement, like civil rights,” said Andy Hoffman, professor of sustainable enterprise at the University of Michigan. “Now I’m thinking of it more as an enlightenment . . . a multi-faceted movement”.

“What I hope,” said organiser and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, “is that from this moment we can take. . . some of the threads that have emerged here [and use them in] hugely important political, campaigning, industrial and social ways.”