Nature In Youth

Photo: Amanda Orlich | Natur og Ungdom members gather against the planned seafill in Førdefjord.

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One such group recently encountered turned into
an interview with an extremely interesting young woman. She is the Leader of
the Oslo Centrum Group representing ‘Natur og Ungdom’ or ‘Nature and Youth’,
she is 18 years old and her name is Sigrid Høeg.

They are a seriously committed group of
environmental stalwarts. They care passionately about the future they will
inherit as well as being deeply mindful of the future they will leave behind.
One could have expected long monologues of demands and examples of where the
adults of today have gone wrong but this was not the case at all. These are a
group of deeply caring but pragmatic individuals and frankly young people that
parents can be very proud of.

Promoting a safe
ecological footprint as an end goal

The group comprises young people up until the
age of 25 and they are organized into small groups who tend to focus their
initiatives regionally. The representative that I spoke to concerns herself
mainly with environmental issues pertaining to Oslo. Their aim is to raise
awareness in how we are all contributing to climate change and to pursue
activities that promote a safe ecological footprint as an end goal.

To that end they are currently working on
making the Ring 1 around Oslo Centrum a walking only area, to promote the use
of public transport (including taxi’s) and to increase the enjoyment of
visitors to the central area of Oslo by creating a wanderers paradise, if you
like. A move that could see Oslo deemed the ‘café city’ that captivates with
its Nordic beauty. Much like Geiranger is the Switzerland of Norway with
natural beauty and vistas so Oslo with planning and commitment could become a
walking and biking haven, a completely captivating family friendly idyll. The
Oslo group of  ‘Natur og Ungdom’ has a
meeting with the Oslo Council on October 24th to hear if their
petition for a car free centrum will be accepted.  They are also going to organise a biking tour
for the city for a day. This has already attracted the attention of politicians
from the council who wish to support such a move. This date will be announced
soon.

Car-Free Zones in Town

While to some people this idea may seem an
infringement of their right to drive a car it must be noted that many cities
around the world have huge tariffs on private cars going into the central city
while others offer cheap parking on the outskirts and increased public transport
to encourage people out of their ‘one person one car’ commuting. It would even
be acceptable to phase this idea in by making the city private-vehicle free for
the weekends to start with then, move this to Oslo being car free for the
summer and so on. This is a method where people can get used to the idea and
start to recognize there are many benefits – to themselves, for business and to
the environment.  It will be interesting
to see what the Oslo Kommune decides at its meeting on the 24th.

Sigrid is an articulate and thoughtful speaker
who is very aware of the effects people from first world countries are having
on other 3rd World countries like in Africa in order that we enjoy a
well-resourced and privileged existence. There is a sense of frustration from
her about a lack of urgency from people of all ages and the impact we each have
on this earth we call home. When asked what her vision is 100 years from now
the answer was ‘that we are still concentrating on the environment, have slowed
down the effects of climate change and that there is greater hope and energy
being put towards the livelihoods of all people’.

There is a belief that we must now start to
make the perpetrators of CO2 emissions more responsible for their outputs and
that everyone must become aware of our personal environmental impact. Høeg
feels there is a need for National and International Laws for curbing CO2, to
force sustainable farming and land use and that these laws need to have serious
consequences attached to them so that they stop anyone coming in to reap
rewards without first paying a price. She would like to see incentives put in
place that make it easy for large companies to ‘go green’ so that we all get
used to a new way of living and we start to focus on really slowing down climate
change. When we see already, that there are large tracts of previously frozen
water ways now open for ‘business’ we need to recognize that this is not only a
potential business opportunity but also proof that we must put measures in
place to safe keep the thousands of poverty stricken village peoples from
certain death and starvation due to flooding and loss of land.

It is imperative that countries look to
alternative sources of energy and that they start to make the tough decisions
for future generations. When asked what was meant by this, Sigrid replied that
the group is against oil exploration and use and current practices must be
phased out over time to be replaced with clean energy. Part of this belief lies
in the understanding that oil is a limited resource and has to, one day, run
out. Rather than wait for it to decline the group feels that oil companies
should be actively seeking to replace their reliance on oil and investigating
other sources of income and energy.

There is a real understanding of the need for
this to happen over time. Demands and high risk activities are
counter-productive along with a realization that the reason behind Norway’s
reliance on oil is multi-faceted. The personal feel is that if the forefathers
of this land had realized the environmental impact of oil they would have
chosen a different way to fund this country out of poverty. It is always easy
to have 2020 hindsight says Høeg, and the job is not to destroy what is in
place now but to replace it, to use the great knowledge and learning available
to us and to turn the world into a growing and healthy place. If we choose to
take this high road then there must be practices and plans in place which
encourage and replace the status quo.

The discussion moved to how much the oil
resource is the base upon which Norway is able to be a country of peace and
diplomacy. It has made the resource a foundation upon which social injustice is
alleviated. This was acknowledged by Miss Høeg but the response was that it is
immoral to accept the ruination of the world’s environment so that Norwegians
can live so comfortably.

Change will only occur when enough people stand
together and demand it. As a country with a lot of money there is the
opportunity to make great change by using the global respect this country
already has and leveraging change, first within Norway to show that it can work
and then on the International scene to facilitate change amongst other nations.

Two examples were given to show just how much
change can occur from one small group calling on its larger organization, going
national and ensuring the protection of small yet important regions within
Norway.

Small Steps to Attract
More Attention

In the Førde Fjorden lies a small commune where
fishing has been their main occupation for generations. This community has made
a good living from fishing but it is obviously getting more difficult as time
moves on. A mining company came in and started mining for a local product in
the area which is used in dentistry and industrial markets. This company
obviously offers job security to other families living in the area and for most
parts would be seen as a welcome addition to the area. Unfortunately part of
the waste products from the mining process is huge amounts of rock and dirt which
was expected to be able to be dropped into the fjord. A local group of ‘Natur
og Ungdom’ got hold of this story and started to do some research on the
effects to the fishing populations and behavior of fish species from large
quantities of rock being dropped into a fjord. They asked questions of the
fishing companies and of local fishermen. They then brought the practice to the
attention of their larger organization, ‘Naturvernforbundet (Friends of the
Earth Norway)’ who have made this a National issue. There is now focused
attention on potential damage and environmental impact to fishing from mining
practices and this has only got to be good for the environment.

The embodied will to
make change for the good of the world

The other example is from Loioten, Vesterålen
og Senya. This area is renowned for its salmon fishing and spawning grounds.
Some years ago it was announced that 15 nautical mile offshore there was a large oil reserve and rights were
sought in order to drill and recover this oil. This brought the area to the
attention of both National and International groups who were seriously
concerned about the potential environmental impact this oil recovery would have
for the whole region. For the last three years there has been much discussion
and wrangling within the courts by ‘Natur og Ungdom’ and a high profile oil
company. To the surprise and delight of the environmental groups they have won
this action and there will be no drilling or oil recovery made so close to
these communities or to the fishing grounds.

Whether you are a ‘green’ follower or not it is
refreshing to meet and talk with people who are passionate, idealistic yet
pragmatic and who have a desire to make change for the good of the world, not
only for themselves and their life time but for future generations. While
idealism may have holes it is only with these dreams that society can dare hope
for solutions to the ever increasing issues that abound us. When youth get
involved, become informed and strive to serve their communities then all of us
are the better off for it.

About
Nature and Youth

Nature and
Youth is the only environmentalist youth organisation in Norway. The
organization’s 80 local groups and 7000 members work on environmental issues
all over the country. Nature and Youth aims to put environmental problems on
the agenda by putting pressure on politicians and bureaucrats, and pointing out
environment-friendly solutions.

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