Norway’s main selling points, even to its own inhabitants, are clean air, clean water, and clean living. We get our electricity from waterfalls (which is why you don’t see them cascading down the mountainsides any more); we get our water from mountain lakes (but lack proper cleansing of that water in many places); we love to hike in the mountains (but hate waiting for a bus so we drive everywhere); we eat many kinds of fish (but only at fancy restaurants).
Our claim as an ecologically aware nation is being called seriously into question. Although not a member of the European Union (EU), as members of the European Economic Area (EEA Agreement) we are subject to many EU rules and regulations. And the EU wants to clean up. It wants to lessen Europe’s carbon footprint. And guess who has as much work to do as the other European nations? Norway.
How can this be?
The discussion at work went something like this: We have assumed we would always have clean air and clean water, and lots of it. We outgrew our hydro-electric power far sooner than expected, without having any eco-friendly alternatives in place. We end up buying coal-fueled power from Denmark, not a very “green” solution. Our cities experience smog every winter thanks to particles in the air from studded tires and old wood-burning stoves. Our current “green” government did an about-face and is now allowing a gas-fueled power plant without emissions controls to be built; the emissions controls are supposed to be in place within four years of start-up. Norwegians are still in the habit of letting their cars idle while waiting, even when it isn’t cold outside. And Norwegians are not yet in the regular habit of turning off lights in rooms they aren’t using. A co-worker noted the fad of building huge mountain cabins (luxury multi-bedroom homes with a nice rustic look) in recent years, putting demands on both fragile nature and small, local power plants. One such “cabin” has an indoor swimming pool with wave action, I was told. But not for the owner; no, it’s to exercise his dogs.
What happened to us? How did we get so careless, so irreverent? So caught up in the material? My co-worker said, “The oil has made us stupid.”
(Information for Norwegians (link to English version on site).)
“Look to Norway” was the statement made after our very successful and happy hosting of the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, suggesting that ours was the ideal Winter Games.