The new government of Norway has agreed to no oil drilling in Lofoten, Vesteralen or Senja for at least 4 years! Natur og Ungdom/Young Friends of the Earth Norway has been campaigning for years against opening the prestine Norwegian Arctic for oil and gas exploration and this is their fifth win! Here is a reflection written by Silje Lundberg, the leader of Natur og Ungdom (Young Friends of the Earth Norway).
Last night we got the news we’ve been working towards for the last years: the vulnerable areas in the high north of Norway, the Lofoten islands, are to be kept closed from the oil industry for the next four years. This is a major victory to the local fishermen who’ve been fighting this for more then two decades and to us, the people.
The fight against oil drilling off the coast of the Lofoten-islands has been a fight between local fishermen, environmentalists, and young people on the one side, and major oil companies and politicians blinded by the wealth from oil on the opposite side. Today we won. Yet again. Since 2001 this is the fifth time we’ve kept the oil industry’s dirty paws away from the Lofoten islands, and for each victory the oil lobby will have a harder time to convince Parliament to open the areas. Because the public don’t support them, the science don’t support them and the youth don’t support them. We believe in a different future for our country and for the northern region.
I grew up not far from these precious islands, and ever since I joined Young Friends of the Earth Norway, more then thirteen years ago, I’ve been fighting for it’s future. The oil industry and the petroholic politicians argue that we need to open these areas to secure jobs in the north. That this is the only way for young people to move back to the region. That’s bullshit. This is my region, and I have faith in it and the people here. We cannot continue to build our country on a industry that produce a product that threatens millions of people all over the world. There has to be some boundaries, also for the norwegian oil industry. We need to leave the oil in the soil, and the most obvious place to start is to keep the areas outside the Lofoten-islands free from the oil industry.
The area holds unique cold-water reefs, pods of sperm whales and killer whales, some of the largest seabird colonies in Europe as well as being the spawning grounds of the largest remaining cod stock in the world. Why on earth would any one even consider drilling for oil here?
It’s been a long fight. In 1994 the Government opened parts of the areas for the oil industry. In 2001 Young Friends of the Earth Norway and the Bellona Foundation stopped one of the exploration rigs headed towards Lofoten. The pressure from the public on the Government was huge, and they had no other option but to order the rig to turn and go back, without succeeding in their mission. Since then we’ve secured the areas at every cross road, first in 2002, then in 2006, in 2011 and then again this year. In 2013. This year will go down in the history books as yet another year when the people stood up, against major oil companies and one of the most powerful lobby groups in Norway, and the people won. We managed to get the new minority Government, consisting of two parties who both want to open the areas for oil exploration to preserve the areas. And to put the considerations to future generations and to renewable and everlasting fisheries over the short term profit that the oil industry might give us.
In 2017 the fight continues. But I’m certain that for every time we’ve won this, it gets harder and harder for the oil industry to win. And therefore I am certain that when the time comes, we’ll win again. There is no other option.