Human interests knock out nature

All over Norway human interests outruns eco friendliness.
Torsdag, 31 mai, 2012 - 19:37

Black smoke rises towards the sky from the coal-fired power station in Longyearbyen, Svalbard. By the harbour lays giant piles of coal, waiting to be shipped out in the Arctic sea. The left standing masts of the old aerial tramways, which used to transport coal from inside the mountains to the power station, surrounds the small town and the about 2100 people that live here. The coal has set its marks on Norway’s most northern town. The citizens of Longyearbyen, living in the melting Arctic, have been addicted to coal for hundred years. And they still are.

This winter the Norwegian government decided that a new one should be opened. Therefore Norway, known for its high environmental standards, also for many years to come will contribute to the world’s enormous coal consumption. Without the new coal mine almost half of the population in Longyearbyen will loose their jobs. There is a conflict between human interests and the environment.

The workers in Mine 7 in the entrance of the mine. Photo: Torkjell Trædal.

Watch the slideshow from the coal mines in Longyearbyen here.


Climate commitment falls

Conflicts, such as the one at Svalbard, can be seen many places in Norway.

– The king demands say yes for ambitious climate! The king demands that let the car skip the bike!

Outside the Norwegian parliament building in Oslo, Nature and Youth, Norway’s biggest youth environmental NGO, on April 24 launched a climate change campaign with the theme “The King demands”.

– The king demands more wind power! The crazy voices of Norwegian youth were shouting.

But in Norway, the young generation’s climate commitment falls like a stone. It was once reported in Norway’s second largest newspaper Aftenposten, “While youth have a history of climate change high on the list of our biggest challenges, they come this year as low as 11th place.” The youth of Norway now care more about other problems than climate change.

Encourages people to act eco-friendly

The fall in youth’s climate commitment comes despite of that the Norwegian government constantly encourage Norwegians to act environmentally friendly.

Norway wants to be known as an environmentally friendly country, and aims to develop the culture of electric cars. The Norwegian government has created an unique programme that encourage Norwegians to purchase an electric car. Currently there are about 2 million cars in Norway, of which 6400 are electric.

Vivian Sjølie Røyrvik and her family owns two electric cars. With an electric car comes a lot of advantages, but not necessarily climate commitment.

Oslo is known as the electric car capital. But it does not always bring climate commitment. Photo: Zero

Listen to why Vivian Sjølie Røyrvik and her family owns an electric car here.


Flight explosion

According to Avinor’s statistics there were made 16 700 000 flights in 1990. Since then, the Norwegian aviation has experienced a tremendous growth, and by 2025 it is expected that the number of flights has increased to 56 million. With the development, services that offers Norwegians to pay an environmental quota, has appeared. This means that travelers can compensate for their pollution.

My Climate is among those who offer the service. Climate adviser Live Juvelid in My Climate tells that a lot of people have the interest of paying for their emissions.

- In 2008 there were almost thousand persons who wanted to pay for their pollution. Or, to say it in another way: Persons who wanted to to improve their own conscience, Juvelid says, pointing to the fact that many Norwegians are concerned that all the traveling can harm the environment.

The last four years My Climate has got more than 1.2 million Norwegian kroner from the environmental quotas. This is equivalent to almost 6 500 tonnes of CO2 emissions.

The donations are, however, fewer than before. In 2011 there were 566 fewer people who chose to compensate their emissions than in 2008.

Petter Hessen (22) and his girlfriend Lena Kristine Sandvik (20) travelled to Rome in the end of March. On their trip they tell why they don’t like the idea of spending money to save the environment.

- You need a quite stable economy to pay such a quota, Petter says.

- I think most people would have failed to pay a quota when travelling with airplane. You want to arrive without spending too much money, so that you have more to spend on the place you’re going to, Lena Kristine says.


Lena Kristine Sandvik (20) and Petter Hessen (22) do not want to pay for quotas. Photo: Steinar André Danielsen.

Watch what travellers Petter Hessen and Lena Kristine Sandvik thinks about buying quotas here.


Europe’s green battery

But there is not only the comfortableness of individuals that conflicts with the environment. Also other human interests can conflict, for example economic and political interests. In Telemark, damp clouds slide down the mountain, and cover the middle parts as a blanket. The crystal clear lake reflects the mountains and makes it a typical sight if a Norwegian fjord. A bus meanders on the mountain road in Southern Norway towards Rjukan, northwest of Notodden. The deeper it drives into the nature, the more waterfalls appear.

Hydropower accounts for 98 per cent of the total electricity production in Norway and has the unique power to store energy. Experts, such as Olav Hohmeyer, professor of energy and nature reservation at the Univeritetet i Flensburg, like to see this potential turn into Europe’s ‘green battery’.

– It is reliable because the plants can store energy and release it when they wish. Unlike other renewable sources such as wind and solar power, which only produce energy. Norway’s hydropower can play an important role on Europe’s way to more sustainable energy sources, he said to Teknisk Ukeblad last year.


Watch the slideshow from the powerplants in Rjukan here.


Economy before solidarity

But many Norwegians view cheap hydropower as a birthright. The Smart Energy for Europe Platform (SEFEP) writes that if the hydroelectricity is exported to the European grid, and the demands abroad rise, so will the price for Norwegian households.:

– With the battery idea, we have to produce electricity when the demand, also from other countries, is high, Eirik Frantzen, Head of Energy projects and Technical support of Hydro’s power plants in Rjukan, says.

– The plants would have to satisfy the demands and stop at night for example. This would make the price fluctuate.

This financial setback is a major reason for Norwegians to reject Europe’s wish. The economic interests of Norway makes Norwegians doubt whether they should act as Europe’s green battery or not.

Human interests outruns eco friendliess

Back in Longyearbyen 30 percent of the employees work in the coal mines.

– There will be a demographic nightmare if they shut down the mines, the leader of the workers union in Longyearbyen, Arild Olsen, says.

And in addition to the job argument, Norway earns money on the coal. The government want people to live here. And also scientists and students depend on the infrastructure that the coal company has brought to Longyearbyen.

In the arctic sea, in the deep fjords, in the cloudy air and in the parliament builing. Everywhere, personal, economic and political interests outruns eco friendliness.