Kurt Willy Oddekalv – In Memory of Norway’s Great Environmental Warrior

From original published in Norwegian on Green Warriors of Norway –
The Norwegian Environmental Protection Association

January 11. 2021 we lost a great environmental warrior. Through a long and rich life, Kurt Oddekalv has left a great legacy behind in Norway, and around the world. His life and life’s work was devoted to nature, the environment, the family, people, and to environmental protection.

Kurt Oddekalv the Green Warrior of Norway

He was known for his clear opinions and for his steadfastness and fighting spirit. It was more than one environmental sinner, politician, and bureaucrat who got more than a handful to work on when they did shortcuts on environmental issues. You do not mess with the environment. To many, he was both breezy and controversial, but everything he did was with a good heart and in the best sense. And Kurt always had a twinkle in his eye and could both smile and joke with his best enemies and opponents.

In Kurt’s view, it was always about caring. Both about their fellow human beings and about the fellow creatures who could not defend themselves.

The Way Forward

The Green Warriors of Norway have for a long time struggled with tight finances and are in a demanding financial situation. Our good supporters have loyally stood up for us, but the job of raising money for environmental protection and operations has never been easy. We may have been a little too good at tormenting the environmental sinners and industries that profit most from failing the environment. As the leader of The Green Warriors of Norway, this has been a very strenuous and burdensome task for Kurt. As Kurt himself said, we in The Green Warriors of Norway have been more concerned with working with issues than recruiting members. To get better at this, we switched to a new membership system and focused more on membership recruitment and communication to our members, local teams, and local environmental groups in recent times. We want a stronger and more robust Environmental Protection Association to tackle the environmental challenges we face, and it is the members and our loyal supporters who are the backbone of the environmental struggle and The Green Warriors of Norway.

The environment, nature, species diversity, and the many communities and individuals across the country need us. The Green Warriors of Norway is committed to continuing Kurt’s work, and to continuing his thoughts and visions by continuing to build a strong and active organization that works on environmental issues. We have a strong voice, and not least, many good friends.

With the loss of Kurt Oddekalv, we have lost our very best. The time after his death will be long and tough, but that was exactly what he taught us and prepared us for. The road continues and we have started on it now.

Growing up

Kurt was born and had his first childhood years at Senja before he and his family later moved to Bergen where he went to school from the age of eight. Some of the toughness he got from having to fight through the first school years as a minor and with the wrong dialect. This has been clear in shaping the environmental warrior that Kurt would later become known as. With his mother from Senja and his father from Solund, at the far end of the sea gap in Sogn in Western Norway, he has brought most of nature and weather conditions with him from childhood. He has used both places diligently when he has been on holiday and relaxed in one of his cabins.

He was an avid hunter and fisherman and was very keen to reap the benefits of nature. He called the catch a gift and greatly appreciated what he could get home from nature. Being able to live in harmony with nature was something he enjoyed sharing with others and told both willingly and enthusiastically about the importance of this to anyone who would listen. Much of this and the respect for what we have around us he has gained from his time with the Lakota tribe in the United States, and from his good acquaintances from our own indigenous people, the Sami. Their deep ecological thinking and approach to nature meant a lot to him. He himself was an inexhaustible source of knowledge about everything from conservation methods to old building customs, history, and good environmental solutions. As a builder, he has tried this out in practice. For example, many buildings in Vestlandet, in his career, have had turf roofs made by Kurt.

The legacy of an environmental warrior

Kurt has left many and solid traces in Norwegian society and politics. Not only has he built up The Green Warriors of Norway, but he has also ensured that the association has many important tools for the environment. One of his many children of the heart is the environmental hotel Seletun near his home south of Bergen. Here he and The Green Warriors of Norway have collected several older buildings and tested good environmental solutions and building customs. He has also had a state-of-the-art catamaran built, “MS Miljødronningen”, which has been on a crusade along the entire Norwegian coast to expose environmental sinners and conduct information work. In recent years, it has mainly been used to clean plastic waste from Hordaland to Finnmark, and in 2019 it helped to remove as much as 220 tonnes of plastic waste in collaboration with “In The Same Boat” and thousands of schoolchildren and volunteers. With a large helicopter deck and a large conference hall on board, not very few have received training in environmental protection in the many large and small ports it has visited along the long coast.

In addition to the environmental hotel Seletun, The Green Warriors of Norway has several other buildings and businesses. Kurt was always proud of the story and how everything is built. There was not a single lecture he gave that this was not mentioned. Kurt founded the Norwegian Environmental Protection Association aka The Green Warriors of Norway in 1993 when he left the Nature Conservation Association. He did not have the patience for delays and impatience. He wanted action and results. In the very first brochure that was made in the new association, it is clearly stated on the front page; «ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION ASSOCIATION – DEFENDERS FOR THE ENVIRONMENT!», And not least «As much environmental protection as possible in the shortest possible time».
For Kurt, it was not just about working with environmental protection, but about winning as many cases as possible. That is what is and has been the driving force. Caring, and making a positive difference to society, to the individual, and to nature.

Always fearless

Another character of Kurt was that he was never afraid of being unpopular or ridiculed. As a “self-taught robber”, he was incredibly knowledgeable and was never afraid to read through massive heavy professional reports or to go new ways. In many of the cases, he worked for he was alone at first, but often others came after when he had received attention about the cases. There are many who ridiculed him and called him both a fool and worse, who later had to admit that he was actually right. Some of his best friends, or “tjommier”, as it is called in Bergensian, he has previously reported to the police, as one of the country’s largest mackerel fishermen whom he previously reported for dumping small mackerel, or the farmer he found with an excavator in a protected watercourse. It became both a police report and good public discourse, his good heart, the twinkle in his eye, and generous demeanor gave him many friends where one would not think they existed. Kurt was in many ways bigger than himself.

Environmental crises can be solved

Kurt was also convinced that most environmental crises can be resolved. This applied not least to the fight against acid rain, the hole in the ozone layer, and the smoking law. In the fight against acid rain, he said:

«I made a protest where we got a two-tonne gneiss (Norwegian National Stone) from the Hardangervidda and a pine from Fanafjellet which we mounted on gold-plated bolts, and a sign with an inscription was mounted on this pine branch. «I was born in 1785. Been standing on this place in fighting, wind, rain, and snow, watching my children growing. Now, I’m sadly watching my children dying in the acid rain ».

Costumes were borrowed from the “Stiklestadspel”, and the Gokstad ship rented from Ragnar Thorseth. Then we rowed out with 30 Vikings, 15 of our own, and 15 of the most bearded and hairy we found in town.

This stunt received full coverage on both CNN and the BBC, where I read the text of a Margaret Thatcher lookalike who was engaged for the occasion In the text I threatened to return as at Stamford Bridge in 1066 when Harald Hardråde fell. England should stop the discharges or feel the consequences of angry Vikings…

Of course, we also did many other things in the fight against acid rain, but one of the most important things was to get attention to the issue outside our own country as well. This battle was a victory when emissions in Europe and the United Kingdom were cleaned up, and new strict emissions laws were passed. “

Resistance works

An important rule of thumb Kurt has always been concerned with is that resistance works. With more than 37 years of experience as one of the country’s most controversial and inventive environmental fighters, he has set the tone in the environmental struggle. Many things we today take for granted or do not reflect on are Kurt’s merits. Many former environmental sinners have had to build treatment plants or reorganize their businesses, and good public transport projects have been created after Kurt became involved in the cases. Many rich and powerful players have felt Kurt’s resistance far inside the bank account, not least the aquaculture industry which has experienced lost revenue and staggering sales in other countries as a result of information about an unhealthy business and environmental toxins in the farmed fish from The Green Warriors of Norway’s information campaigns.

It is solving the environmental problems that have been the driving force and not where the income has come from. This has meant that The Green Warriors of Norway, despite many assets, has always been broke when the salaries of the employees were to be paid. The fact that there has been money to pay salaries when a new month begins has been more the exception than the rule. This is also why many have quit their jobs over the years, but also why those who work in The Green Warriors of Norway are tenacious and sincerely concerned with solving environmental issues. Kurt liked to say that he wanted “environmental warriors with knowledge as professors, the strength of an elite soldier, the morale of a priest, and who can speak like a taxi driver”.

Old and new environmental challenges

Throughout his career as an environmental warrior, Kurt has gone his own way and has not been concerned about whether what he is fighting for is popular or pays off in money. Here has often gone against the flow and in a number of areas been far ahead of its time. While the overall part of the environmental movement early on actively supported the construction of the wind power industry, Kurt has always been completely opposed. He saw early on what consequences this would have for nature, species diversity, landscape, local environment, and for individuals. There was no stable or good source of energy either. Kurt always went deep into the issues to understand the mechanisms and consequences. When it comes to the climate, he was also out early, and at the environmental summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, he came roaring into the meeting itself and confronted the then Minister of the Environment Torbjørn Berntsen with some truths. In the climate issue, he never saw wind power as a solution. All the negative consequences we point out today he saw already at the very beginning.

At the Rio conference in 1992 Kurt confronts Minister of the Environment Torbjørn Berntsen

From the very beginning of The Green Warriors of Norway, he worked with issues around pollution, environmental toxins in food, classical nature conservation, species protection, habitat protection, protection of watercourses, consumption and consumption patterns, electromagnetic radiation, transport, areal use planning, and public transport. Today, environmental issues are much the same as when Kurt started his life as an environmental warrior. Many problems have now become both more severe and much bigger, and destruction of nature that took months now get lost forever in a few weeks with large and efficient machines. We have all taken nature for granted because we have always had so much of it. Now we have less and less left, and what we have now has been broken up and degraded in so many ways. Kurt saw it as a life task to raise awareness of the values ​​we are now about to lose forever and ever. We must use nature, not consume it.

The environmental warrior we all knew is now gone

Everyone in Norway, and also outside our borders, has had a relationship with Kurt Oddekalv, whether we are aware of it or not. He has achieved a lot of positive things that are important to many of us. He has been good at highlighting issues and getting them on the agenda. Many others have followed suit when the cases have received attention, but it is an undisputed fact that Kurt has been one of the great pioneers in the Norwegian environmental movement and he has left us a great legacy. The work he has led will continue after him as well, but it goes without saying that it will be difficult to achieve the same as he has managed and accomplished over the years. Fortunately, he has also left deep traces in very many people who now stand together and are engaged in continuing the environmental struggle.

Kurt engages his audience

The time after Kurt will be long and difficult, but tens of thousands of enlightened, nature-loving, and environmentally committed people have for decades been inspired by his courage and good heart, and with his life and life’s work as a driving force, it is a hope for the future. It was also what Kurt himself wanted, that he built something bigger than himself, and that would give people hope far into the future.

The loss of Kurt is a great blow to his family, loved ones, and to his many environmental warriors, supporters and friends. His life and life’s work that has inspired so many will now live on. Kurt was the one who never gave up. Let his life and life’s work be our guide. Kurt’s memory is best honored by continuing his work.

“Who dears win” was Kurt’s motto, and he lived it to the fullest.
We still have a tougher man to face. But we children, we also know him as much as an adventurer, sailor, hunter, cowboy, designer, curious rigs, fisherman, joker, and a rarely knowledgeable and skilled craftsman. He was loving, strong, and present as a father. A brilliant teacher.

Rest in peace, Kurt. We take the fight further. We are eternally grateful to you and your life’s work.

Kurt’s four children; Mathilde, Gyda, Odin, and Ruben
Ruben will lead The Green Warriors of Norway

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We would also like to take this opportunity to thank you for the nice support and the kind words we have received.

From original published in Norwegian on Green Warriors of Norway –
The Norwegian Environmental Protection Association

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