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The hunt for the green

Gold or green forests. Politics for the good life.
In a Norway where waste volumes are growing, food soil is being reduced and greenhouse gas emissions are increasing, Eivind Hoff-Elimari will awaken its citizens.


How do we move towards the fossil-free society? And a life of good qualities and sustainability? Not so long ago the book came From everlasting growth to green politics, where author Svein Hammer gives us a good overview of different ideologies and different paths to a green society. To supplement such a book based on theories and ideologies, it would have been nice if someone had looked at existing practical examples. And unfortunately there is not a book as ordered, written by special adviser in the division of energy, resources and environment Eivind Hoff-Elimari. Rare surname, worth noting. The man is a cornucopia. He has hammered loose on his keyboard and out comes green-edged golden grains.

Formation Travel. Hoff-Elimari is based on a modern version of the old educational journey. Conversations with people in all walks of life, both at home and abroad. That's what they did, the old guys: Goethe, Byron, Welhaven, Bjørnson, Darwin and others. With a license to understand. Study first, then writing. To influence. I love it.

"We all know what we need to do, but not how to be re-elected after doing so." European Commission President Jean-Claude Junker's heartbeat is Hoff-Elimari's main concern. He wants to help. That's why he wrote the book Gold or green forests. Politics for the good life. After several years as an environmental lobbyist in Brussels, he is now ready to try to give some qualified advice.

I have sympathy for Hoff-Elimaris project. The old German saying that If someone was doing their own travel, he could tell – "When someone makes a trip he has something to tell" – is correct. Therefore, Hoff-Elimaris method works. He wants to create debate. He wants to go along the broad tracks to "spur" many. His point of departure is that GDP remains a poor target for what makes life worth living, as Robert Kennedy said in a famous speech in 1968. And we're not talking about the good life, and happiness, we don't meet people at home, Hoff claims -Elimari. All the talk about competitiveness prevents us from this. It also prevents us from taking the necessary steps in a Norway where waste volumes are growing, food soil is being reduced and greenhouse gas emissions are increasing.

Credible argument. How are we going to take the necessary green investment measures today to have a better world tomorrow? This question is plaguing the entire western world, although much is happening now. Hoff-Elimari has a sober review of discounting, that is, how we convert a future value to present value. He soberly shows how it is "profitable" to let the world go under. This blind spot also applies to inequality. We become more different the more emphasis we place on profitability. Here, Hoff-Elimari finds support in Guy Standing's concept of Precariat and in research done by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. IN The price of inequality (Res Publica, 2012) they have quite unequivocally demonstrated that we will not be happier if we reach beyond a certain degree of growth-based economic security. On the contrary, if inequalities become too great, our society does pretty much every bad thing imaginable. A rich society therefore makes a good choice if it gives wage increases to people with bad advice.

Hoff-Elimari describes the carbon bubble we are trapped in, where politicians are not re-elected if they are party brakes through a climate policy that is moaning. The companies themselves are forced by the market logic to increase the oil and gas estimates they have as so-called reserves, in order to avoid a decline in share value. This in turn puts pressure on continued high recovery. In other words, compared to the Paris Agreement, it is a system that does not work. And the economists in this? They are like taxi drivers, writes Hoff-Elimari. Very helpful when we know where to go. But we obviously do not know. He he. This hits well, I think, especially when I look at August 31 this year Public educationn with Andreas Wahl at NRK, where it appears that the widely used chief economist Harald Magnus Larsen (now in Swedbank) is notoriously wrong in most of his financial predictions. Economists' advice is in fact worthless. But they get space and transmission surfaces. And not least a fat salary. Submit Eivind Hoff-Elimari next time!

The power of good examples. But Hoff-Elimari does not have the answer to everything, does he? Of course not. But he has the advantage of having traveled extensively and can provide concrete examples, for possible follow-up. He writes well about advertising as an organized representation of dissatisfaction, as former General Motors chief Charles Kettering has put it. Hoff-Elimari explains how advertising is partly responsible for our ecological footprint, and goes to Grenoble to show how the city did something about public space and advertising pressure. Educative.

The analysis of other countries, such as New Zealand and Bhutan, is also very interesting. Not least because none of them have quite got what they originally wanted. But they inspire more assessment, further development and another local adaptation. The work on New Zealand is thought provoking. They have worked with a growth concept that includes different sizes, with both financial and physical capital, natural capital, social capital and human capital. Growth is being sought, but pursuing a policy that increases one type of capital while breaking down another capital will be wrong.

Norway and Bhutan. I myself have long been interested in Bhutan and their idea of gross national happiness product. I even wrote a case on the topic in Dagsavisen where I called on the then Minister for Development Aid Heikki Holmås to enter into a binding collaboration between our two countries, with mutual learning.

That's why I swallowed the Bhutan chapter. It is currently the best I have read about the country. It is both personal and analytical. Hoff-Elimari speaks with both high and low, he dispels myths and utopias, but with respect and a watchful eye as well as sufficient intellectual distance. Bhutan is not at all a Shangri-la of luck, but we can still learn useful lessons from it. And Norway, one of the world's best functioning countries, has all the prerequisites to emerge (even more) as the true fairy-tale country, you ask me.

The economists are like taxi drivers, writes Hoff-Elimari. Very useful when we know where we are going.

The book also contains a good review of the philosophical-political concept good living – "the good life" – which is part of the social discourse in Ecuador and Bolivia. These are two countries that live right at the intersection between social development for the many poor and the preservation of natural capital for all. They want to, but they can not. There are, of course, many reasons for this. But that de taking the debate should make Norwegian politicians blush a little.

We get what we measure. We get what we measure, writes Hoff-Elimari. And he shows it by many good examples also from Norway. We get an insight into how the municipality of Malvik now manages to prioritize what counts for the inhabitants, how Tine factories in Heimdal take out productivity growth in shorter working hours and how the district of Landås in Bergen has become an eco-city in the city. These are already known examples for many in the environment. But Hoff-Elimari puts them into a larger context. He makes them relevant at the societal level.

Hoff-Elimari's vision is that the concrete examples presented in the book will be translated into practical politics in today's Norway. In this connection, he points out that we need a climate law, with independent bodies to follow it up. He argues that our democracy must be revitalized through referendums. He has good, concrete examples from Grenoble, which show how ordinary people can be included in political work without becoming politicians, but that they can participate almost as in the current jury system. He proposes a form of activity duty for youth at NAV, carbon tax for processing and progressive consumption tax. He is open that the 23rd licensing round should be followed up by a lawsuit against the state.

Through 57 (!) Different interviews, the book feels very relevant. (The only person I feel the author has a slightly ironic approach to is Trine Schei Grande.) So many people may sound like a lot, but it works well with short reasoning, and the author lets it all flow seamlessly into the big story. Many of the interviewees are people with power and high positions right now. Perhaps this will make the book live somewhat shorter than other related books. But Gold or green forests. Politics for the good life was written just to start the debate, here and now. It deserves to succeed. This is a necessary journey of formation on the road to the green shift.

Andrew P. Kroglund
Andrew P. Kroglund
Kroglund is a critic and writer. Also Secretary General of BKA (Grandparents' Climate Action).

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