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Are Nature and Youth – Young Friends of the Earth, or Crime Allies of the Wind Industry?

Therese Hugstmyr Woie, do Nature and Youth [Natur og Ungdom] really think that we can defend stealing nature from our descendants?

Caption: Olav Rommetveit, leader of Zephyr, which is behind the wind power development on Haramsfjellet, is trying to legitimize its business with claims that we will “reach the climate goals in 2030” and “be a leading producer of renewable energy”. Illustration: Christina Fjeldavli

By Christina Fjeldavli translated by Ailin Terese Salbu for Bergensia

In Khaled Hosseini’s novel The Dragon Runner (2008) we meet Amir who was born in Kabul in the 1960s. The wealthy father, Baba, explains to his son that there is only one crime, and that is theft. Murder is the theft of life. Lying is the theft of truth.

Jørgen Åkre, board member of ‘No to wind power plants on Haramsøy’, describes the ongoing wind power development on Haramsfjellet as “a robbery of untouched nature”, a grand theft. At Haramsfjellet, 47 red-listed bird species have been registered. The mountain is also the habitat of a high number of species without a red list status. Both red-listed and non-red-listed species are now being robbed of their habitats. People on Haramsøya are robbed of their local nature, peace, and quiet. Also, much of the home value is stolen from them.

“If you only focus on solving the climate challenges, you risk destroying nature,” says Signe Nybø, who is head of research at the Department of Terrestrial Biodiversity at the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA). According to NINA’s comprehensive summary report «Carbon storage in Norwegian ecosystems», seven billion tonnes of carbon are stored in Norwegian nature, which is equivalent to 500 times as much CO2 equivalents as Norway emits from greenhouse gases every year. NINA has therefore concluded that the best we can do for the climate is to save nature.

Olav Rommetveit, leader of Zephyr, which is behind the wind power development on Haramsfjellet, is trying to legitimize its business with claims that we will “reach the climate goals in 2030” and “be a leading producer of renewable energy” (Firdaposten, 30 January 2020). Rommetveit fails to explain how the industrialization of Haramsfjellet in fact can contribute to curbing global warming. According to NINA, nature conservation is our most important climate measures. If we are to rely on up-to-date research on carbon storage in Norwegian ecosystems, Rommetveit has made incorrect claims in its post in Firdaposten on 30 January 2020. If huge amounts of carbon are actually stored in nature, as NINA claims, it can impossibly be climate-friendly to devastate the wetlands, as Stangeland does on Haramsfjellet, on behalf of Zephyr. Regardless of whether Rommetveit believes it or not, it must be considered a theft of the truth to call the wind power development on Haramsøya a climate measure.

The deception that sacrifice of nature is a way to prevent global warming, has enabled another crime; namely, the theft of youth’s engagement. Idealistic young people have believed in the wind industry’s commercial climate narrative. One after another has been caught, like flies in a spider’s web. It is painful to realize that the truth has been stolen from you. Maybe you will for the longest time avoid admitting it, both to yourself and others? Could this be one of the reasons why Nature and Youth (Young Friends of the Earth Norway) has not yet settled with the organization’s, to put it mildly, unfortunate statements in the wind power case?

“Nature and Youth demands that Norwegian wind power is developed, which will produce a total of 20 TWh by 2020,” reads the organization’s website in a post dated 27 February 2012, signed by the then central board member Stine Østnor. For the sake of other species “Nature and Youth believe that wind farms that are planned in areas with many [my emphasis] red list species should not be developed”. However, it is not stated how many red-listed species must be in an area before Nature and Youth will require protection.

In a post dated 13 March 2012, Nature and Youth boasts of the green certificates, a scheme the organization helped to push through. Under the heading “Green light!”. It is informed that «the first wind turbines financed with the support of green certificates are up and running, so it is buzzing and whizzing in the municipality of Time in Rogaland». How many red-listed, and non-red-listed, species lost their habitats when wind power was developed in the municipality of Time, does not seem to occupy Nature and Youth in this post, which is written by Kasper Sandal. “The power situation in Norway is absolutely fantastic. We have never had anything to complain about, and we will probably not get it either “, he predicts.

Gaute Eiterjord was head of Nature and Youth from 2018-2020. On 23 May 2019, he set up a kind of interview on the website of the wind power developer Norsk Vind. “The climate needs wind power,” Eiterjord claims in the interview. He cites the development of Høg-Jæren as an example of an “acceptable project”. The Friends of the Earth Norway (Norges Naturvernforbund) has also been positive about the wind industry, but they warned against development on Høg-Jæren already in 2003, in a statement to the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate dated 30 August. Under the heading “Largest encroachment on Jæren since the ice age”, The Friends of the Earth Norway writes the following:

«The application from Jæren Energi AS to build up to 40 wind turbines at Høg-Jæren must be rejected”, Friends of the Earth Norway demands in a statement to NVE. The wind turbines represent the largest single encroachment on nature on Jæren since the ice age. The wind farm will [give] significant very negative interventions in a natural and cultural landscape worthy of protection with great Quaternary geological, botanical, and ornithological values. ” This was thus “an acceptable project”, according to Nature and Youth’s leader in 2019.

Therese Hugstmyr Woie took over as head of Nature and Youth in January 2020. In a post on Nature and Youth’s website dated 18.10.2020, she reproduces the organization’s input to the revised licensing system for onshore wind power. The post shows that Nature and Youth still views wind power development as a climate measure. Woie writes: “When we accept interventions from wind power today, it must be because there is a very ambitious climate policy that requires renewable energy relatively quickly.” Expanding the wind industry can thus be part of “a very ambitious climate policy”, according to NU’s doxa (perception of reality). The claim rhymes poorly with the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research’s report «Carbon storage in Norwegian ecosystems», where it is concluded that the best we can do for the climate is to leave nature alone. For some reason,  Nature and Youth is failing to take this research into account. The organization holds on to an undocumented notion that wind power development can slow down global warming, and that development should also take place before other possible measures have been implemented, such as energy-saving, streamlining of existing hydropower plants, and research on geothermal energy.

Nature and Youth proposes in its input to the revised licensing system for onshore wind power “a hierarchy of considerations”, where “the consequences for endangered species and habitats, Sami business practices and proximity to the grid must be weighed far more heavily than outdoor life, aesthetics and noise”. That Nature and Youth will protect endangered species and habitat types, and in addition, protect Sami reindeer husbandry, is of course very positive. However, it seems very ill-considered when the organization recommends that “outdoor life, aesthetics, and noise” be given little weight.

“If we are to preserve outdoor life as we know it, it is important that those who grow up today also have a relationship with the outdoor recreation act. It is an important prerequisite for nature to continue to be accessible to all”, says Siri Meland, acting Secretary General of The Norwegian Outdoor Council. Do Nature and Youth really think that the right of the outdoor recreation act should withdraw and that the wind industry should be allowed to seize people’s local nature? Does Nature and Youth think that species that live in areas where outdoor life is conducted do not have the right to life? How can an organization that has “Nature” in the name, be so eager to support a very area-intensive industry that requires massive degradation of nature?

Aesthetics is, according to The Great Norwegian Encyclopedia, «traditionally the area of philosophy that examines the basis and laws of beauty in art and nature. The term is also used about the perceptions and methods that apply to an artist or craftsman at work, or when judging sensory impressions from art, nature, things, surroundings, atmosphere, and so on in relation to beauty. Aesthetics in a broad sense reflects our sensuous way of being in the world. ” How significant is the aesthetic competence in Nature and Youth? Does the organization’s leader have a professional basis for assessing the importance of aesthetics?

The third thing that is proposed to be downgraded, is the consideration of noise. Do you Nature and Youth know the different connections between audible noise, infrasound, and various health problems? Does Nature and Youth have knowledge of how noise and infrasound affect insects, birds, animals, and humans? When Nature and Youth writes that they will propose that the consideration for “outdoor life, aesthetics, and noise” be downgraded, the little thought is also visible in the linguistic, because strictly speaking, it is not “noise”, but silence Nature and Youth will downgrade?

Olav Rommetveit in Zephyr makes a living from wind power development. He makes money from it. I am guessing that the members of Nature and Youth are more driven by idealism. Now in 2020, the destruction of nature is visible to all who can see. These are facts that can be measured accurately and documented photographically. Nevertheless, Nature and Youth choose to cling on to their outdated position.

Nature and Youth’s leader takes on too much when she in one and the same sentence wants to downgrade both “outdoor life, aesthetics and noise”. Is it in practice a robbery proposed here, a grand theft from plants, insects, birds, and wild animals? Do Nature and Youth really think that we can defend stealing nature from our descendants?

There is only one crime, and that is theft, according to Baba in Hosseini’s Dragon Runner. Has the truth been stolen from the idealistic youth too many times?

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