'The Fight for Fairbourne’ – A Welsh study of environmental harm and its victims


  • Lowri Cunnington Wynn Aberystwyth University


Green Criminology, climate crisis, coastal communities, environmental victims, environmental harm


The focus of this paper is the study of the Welsh seaside village of Fairbourne, which is located on the Mawddach Estuary, Gwynedd.  Due to rising sea levels and as a direct result of a warming climate, there are palpable and stark warnings that Fairbourne will be decommissioned by the year 2045, with very real consequences for its some 800 residents. This has triggered the media to deem its population as the UK’s first ‘climate refugees,’ (Barnes & Dove, 2015) highlighting the community’s vulnerability and uncertain future in the face of a deepening climate crisis. Written from a Green Criminological perspective, this paper will outline whether the residents of Fairbourne are subject to climate change as a form of environmental harm, and whether they can be considered environmental victims. Although they cannot be treated as victims of environmental crime as defined by criminal law, their enduring adversity as a result of a warming climate and rising sea levels cannot be neglected. Accordingly, particular types of harms will be discussed, including economic, social and individual, determining how the experiences of coastal communities can help shape wider social, economic and political processes relating to climate change and environmental harm more generally. 

Author Biography

Lowri Cunnington Wynn , Aberystwyth University

Lowri Cunnington Wynn, is a lecturer in Criminology at Aberystwyth University. She has a Sociology
and Social Policy degree and PhD. Her research is primarily focused on community development
and the foundational economy with a recent focus on Green Criminology and environmental
issues from a community perspective. She’s also developed and is teaching a post-graduate module
on International Perspectives of Green Criminology.