In the last couple of years, I have had the pleasure of reviewing many books on environmental protection, green social development and green politics here in Ny Tid. Many have been academic, some written by journalists. Now a Norwegian politician has also signed up.
Eivind Trædals The black shift points to how environmental policy awakening in the 1970 years led to the environmental election 1989, with cross-political agreement that Norwegian climate policy should be a horse head in front of the other countries. This is not how it went: 30 years later we are a climate policy slowdown. Tredal's book sheds light on what happened on the road between then and now.
The story told is about the oil's increasing power over our minds, combined with the strong growth in consumption and the larger greenhouse gas emissions that follow. In line with Norwegian prosperity, the willingness to take necessary precautions has become less and less; instead, we have changed the way we argue, giving the impression that Norwegian oil production is not a problem, but rather the solution to the problem.
This policy was challenged by Arne Næs, Erik Dammann and Sigmund Kvaløy Setreng, on which strong growth criticism flourished.
There is no doubt that the black turn needs to be analyzed. Still, I opened the book with a solid dose of skepticism. It is now the case that when you are within the framework of a political party, you are simultaneously trapped in a world where arguing along a straight line is an ideal. One should not hesitate, and one should not show too much doubt and ambivalence: The most important thing is to win the debate and to increase the opportunity to carry out his political project.
Such a form of discussion can be found in everything from small debate meetings via the wording of the Storting to threads on social media. Some master it well and thus manage to influence the political agenda. In Norwegian context, Eivind Trædal is one of the most talented. On Facebook, he is sharp, powerful and thorough in his reasoning, while showing a liberating ability to self-environment. For good reason he has become a center that creates a lot of discussion around him, with the effect that he sets the agenda and makes a difference to the content of the debate.
How would Trædal succeed in taking the step from the small areas to the larger format of the book? The book is steady. Especially the description of the years from 1990 to 2013 has trumps. But as soon as we are over in the phase that begins as the Greens are elected to the Storting, it is noticed that the author is too close to his subject. The chapter had probably benefited from being tightened and made less polemical. All in all, Trædal has nevertheless done an impressive job of systematizing 40 – 50 years of environmental political history, in a way that manages to balance between fact-making and criticism. The book tells about important events, processes and patterns in Norwegian politics, created by people with a will to power.
What is missing, however, is a clearer recognition that what is happening in Norway also expresses a shift in the environmental policy regime in the West in general. Yes, we had a dominant growth policy until the 1970 years. Yes, this policy was challenged by Arne Næs, Erik Dammann and Sigmund Kvaløy Setreng, after which a strong growth criticism flourished.
But everything in the 1980 years brought about important changes internationally that led to discussions of growth or protection being overshadowed by the idea of "protection through continued growth". It was not Norwegian politicians who first made this reversal – rather, they were woven into the formation of what I have previously described as the discourse of ecological modernization. That is, a discourse that, rather than seeing growth and protection as contradictions, states that they can interact through a technology-driven, often market-based, progress project.
In other words, in the concept of ecological modernization we find a professional analysis that makes it understandable how radical environmental ambitions leveled out and were transformed into a mixture of outline politics and technical administration. It is obvious that Norway became an important driver in this development, probably as a result of our being collectively seduced by the oil adventure and the wealth that followed. I myself have previously described this as a "Nation AS logic" that made us unable to maintain the growth-critical legacy.
The black shift is a detailed and thorough presentation of important shifts in Norwegian climate policy. Those who want a more research-based, analytical review should look elsewhere than in debate books. But if you appreciate a politician who prints a longer line of documentation and reasoning about why environmental policy is wrong – then you should read this book.