Environmental activists in Norway were calling it “one of the greatest things that’s ever happened:” Film star Leonardo DiCaprio has taken up their campaign to protect the scenic waters around Lofoten from oil and gas exploration and production.
DiCaprio made his appeal to protect Lofoten, Vesterålen and Senja from oil and gas activity by posting a photo of the Northern Lights, by photographer Paul Nicklen, and text on the social media site Instagram.
“Lofoten is a haven for orcas and humpback whales alike,” DiCaprio wrote. “The Norwegian government is considering oil and gas exploration in the same place where thousands of whales congregate to feed, threatening one of the most biodiverse cold-water locations in the world.”
The star of films including Titanic went on to urge his Instagram followers to “let the Norwegian government know how we feel. Join the growing chorus of voices opposing this short-sighted plan that will forever change these fjords.”
DeCaprio concluded by writing: “Tell Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg (including her social media address) to keep these fjords clear of oil.”
For Ingrid Skjoldvær, leader of the environmental organization Natur og Ungdom (Nature and Youth), it was the best Christmas gift she could receive.
“When I saw the photo (and DiCaprio’s text) I was so happy,” Skjoldvær told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “We need all the support we can get.”
Skjoldvær is also a member of the board of Folkeaksjonen, which has been trying for years to get the Norwegian government to ban all oil and gas exploration and production activity in the waters off Lofoten. Not only does the area attract the whales DiCaprio wrote about, it’s also one of the richest fishing grounds in the world, not least for cod.
“This (DiCaprio’s support) is definitely one of the greatest things that has happened, in terms of commitment from well-known personalities,” she told NRK. She called DiCaprio’s support “big news, and very cool.”
Local newspaper Lofotposten was the first to pick up DiCaprio’s appeal. Nearly half-a-million people expressed support for it, and nearly 3,000 had commented on it, within hours of its publication. Skjoldvær wasn’t at all sure, however, that protesters from Hollywood would have much effect on the Norwegian government.
“I don’t think Erna Solberg will change her opinion because of them,” Skjoldvær told NRK. “But when well-known people commit themselves, it can contribute towards opening up more eyes to this issue, both here at home and abroad.”
Norway’s most recent national political leadership, whether led by Labour or the Conservatives, has been stymied in their efforts to open up the waters off Lofoten to oil and gas drilling. Local tourism and fishing lobbies, backed by Norway’s small but powerful centrist parties, have opposed oil activity in the area. Solberg, who won re-election in September, had to put her party’s oil plans for Lofoten on ice during her first term in office. She continues to face opposition from the small non-socialist parties that refuse to give her government a majority on Lofoten drilling in Parliament.