Theater of Cruelty

Stunned and goal-bound

The environmental movement lost the battle for the Barents Sea. They were also stripped of their own arguments, says a scientist.


[environment] Proponents of drilling in the Barents Sea are rapping environmental rhetoric and making the environment an argument for drilling. In this way, the Norwegian environmental movement has lost its own arguments – in addition to losing the actual environmental battle for the Barents Sea. That is the opinion of researcher at Fridtjof Nansen's Institute (FNI), Leif Christian Jensen.

Both oil supporters and environmentalists were apparently disappointed after the management plan for the Barents Sea was presented on Friday. Environmentalists lost – no areas in the Barents Sea are permanently protected.

Jensen recently published the report "Drilling for the environment", in which he has done a qualitative analysis based on around 1200 articles from the Norwegian press. He charts how the drill trailers have used the environment as an argument for drilling:

"It is misunderstood environmental policy to let the Russians alone set the environmental standard for oil extraction in the northern regions. Norwegian politicians must allow Northern Norway to take part in the oil adventure, both for the environment and for the sake of value creation, "for example, Frp politician Øyvind Korsberg told Nordlys in December 2003. The same month, editor of the Class Fight, Bjørgulv Braanen wrote:" It is actually also a real argument that Norway, by participating itself, could help set high environmental standards. "

- This argument was repeated often, and was not problematized. Thus, it eventually emerged as a truth. The thesis that Russia is an environmental sink was taken for granted

the debate, says Jensen.

- The Norwegian environmental knowledge about Russia is more influenced by what we know about Chernobyl, nuclear clean-up on the Kola Peninsula and the Nickel Plant than the Russian petroleum industry, says Pål Skedsmo, also a researcher at FNI, who says Russian requirements in some areas are stricter than Norwegian.

Research colleague Arild Moe agrees and says the problem on the Russian side is not standards, but enforcement and implementation.

- Environmental considerations are drawn in very late

the process, he thinks.

Skedsmo did field work in a Russian environmental protection organization in Murmansk and says the environmental debate in Russia is virtually absent.

- Environmentalists are often dismissed as extremists in Russia. Petroleum extraction is not something they think they can stop, he says.

The environmental authorities also have less power and are less centrally located than in Norway.

Jakub M. Godzimirski at Nupi believes the Russians treat environmental issues as a luxury problem.

- Russia wants strong and lasting economic growth, and is willing to pay a certain environmental price for it. They are aware that the USA and Norway have paid a lot to clean up after them, and that the environment is a cross-border issue. Which means that if they do not sort it out, someone else will have to do it, says Godzirmirski.

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