|Posted on July 8, 2010 at 8:49 AM|
Loser: Norwegians and the World
Summary: The Norwegian government has, after years of haggling and arguing, finally approved high-voltage transmission towers which would criss-cross Norway's most beautiful and untouched fjords and fjord views, views currently enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of tourists each year.
I know something about this: I am sitting in a cabin with a view of similar high-voltage transmissions towers, which jut with great ugliness from the Drammen fjord at Svelvik, Norway, crossing it, traversing menacingly over a series of lovely old white wooden homes to climb the other side at Klokkarstua, where they disappear into the inland with equal ugliness. They are, to be modern about describing these, suck ugly. And there is no longer any reason to use this form of electricity technology to get power around. Granted, Bergen needs more power. Let them get it another way!
When my husband and I were discussing this over our morning coffee (with the suck ugly view I just referred to), I asked him how the"Norwegian government" could make such a decision: ie. didn't the legislature have to approve it? Where would the money come from if they did not? The answer was: No, they don't have to approve it: we have a majority government in Norway, and therefore the legislature is a majority of what the government is, so no one has to approve it except "the government." "But," I continued, "who owns Statkraft?" Answer: "The government."
To be honest, I thought these fjords and fjord views were already world-protected. The area is similarly as lovely and nearly on top of one added to the list of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites in 2005 (http://whc.unesco.org/en/news/134 ). World Heritage areas are supposed to be protected from excess human development and modifications under an international treaty. (This is embodied in the international treaty, Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, adopted by UNESCO in 1972.) The idea is to safeguard such sites. Countries involved (such as Norway) should report to UNESCO how they are preserving such sites. Not destroying such areas. The site of the present proposal should also qualify for protection under UNESCO.
Another point: Norway has been slow to protect natural areas by national legislation, such as establishing national park territories, as the U.S. has done. Norway's first national park was designated in 1962, and a second not again until 1989, while the U.S. established its National Park Service in 1872, when Yellowstone became its first national park.
My husband's argument against these, er, suck ugly lines and towers is that high-voltage power lines are not the best economic alternative available when one considers the loss of tourism Norway could experience as a result of such lines. The lines are not the least of it: the government then gets busy killing everything that dies within a wide space of the high-voltage assemblages (they're not poles). Add to this the fact that the tourism losses will be multiplied year after year after year. Add to this the fact that power lines are showing up everywhere in the world: is there no place that they cannot and should not show up? Of course there is. . . but is there anything about this that is not some political pork project paying off someone who is on the inside before the government is voted out of power? That's a rather more interesting question.
In fact, Norway is quite capable of making sea cable that would accommodate all the power needed, which is, after all the result that is sought. As the famous Danish designer, Poul Henningsen, has said, as I paraphrase: Focus on the light, not the lamp. Similarly, Bergen, focus on the result, not the means. Focus on getting the power to your homes and offices by sea cables, not by overhead wires.
This lead me into a broad array of related memories of lessons learned when I moved to Norway. If it sounds like Norway's version of democracy has forgotten about those precious words we revere so in the United States of America, balance of powers, you would be correct. New permanent residents are right to be suspicious when they get to the polling place and are asked not which person they would like to vote for, but which party's ballot they would like to be handed to take into the polling booth. That's right: there is no true representation in Norway; a Norwegian has no representative whose duty is to vote for those things of interest to him/her – the person whose office you call and blast when bad decisions are being made, the person you call when you want a new initiative to be taken up in the law. This makes doing whatever the government wants quite easy – in fact, it's a free-for-all. Once you're 'elected,' as they call it, you're in – in like Flint. Which means in with the budget. Roads? Screw 'em: we won't build better roads. So what if Sweden is so proud of theirs? Schools? Let them rot – look the other way. It's all party-politics. Want to get something for your community? Good luck.
The fact that the legislature is the same as the government doesn't help matters right now either, since the present government is a majority government and that government, as we noted, represents the legislature. It's kind of like putting the wolves in charge of the chicken coop: and then kicking out the chickens. The present government is really quite unpopular, despite the fact that they got re-elected last year. "They" are a combination of the Labor party, Center party (the farmer's party – price supports), and the Socialist party (everybody's equal – we mean it. . . and the government is always right, just like in communist countries.) This present "government" – have they really done anything? My husband says, Yes: they saved Norway from the economic crisis by... using the Oil Fund (excuse me, now called the Pension Fun.) They've done exactly what everyone else has done – gone to Afghanistan, send money to Africa, walk around acting holier-than-thou, and give two hoots about infrastructure and communities at home. They have not failed to deliver on any initiatives by never being quite clear enough to commit themselves to some, and are generally obfuscatory when put on the point. Being offended by critique is one of their favorite childish ploys. Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, for example, will appear frowning and 'pissed off' in public photos. That takes care of things. Be nice about things and Jens will smile. We want Jens to smile, so most folks around Norway keep their critical opinions to themselves. They just keep quiet, like good Norwegians do.
I myself should have shut up two paragraphs ago. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words. Here are some for your perusal on the topic of the post: http://stoppkraftlinja.no/index.jsp?pid=5001 . There are plenty of terrible photos here. You don't have to know Norwegian to see that. Now, what is anyone going to do about it? . . . who can, that is?