Norwegians value intact nature most

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Wilderness, the silence of the great outdoors, and the sound of rushing water ranked highest in a recent overview of which nature experiences Norwegians value the most. That can explain all the strong opposition that always occurs when Norwegians fear their scenic and peaceful areas are threatened.

Norway’s vast wilderness areas, like here in the mountains west of Haukeli, are greatly valued by a majority of Norwegians. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

The latest opposition this spring has flared over windmills set to be built atop otherwise untouched coastal and mountain plateaus. Even though the windmills can capture a needed source of renewable energy, and provide an alternative to oil and gas, Norwegians out protesting fear losing a bit more of their natural heritage.

Starry skies, the winter and forests were next on the list of Norwegians’ top 10 natural experiences. The list was recently compiled through voting by around 6,000 Norwegians who took part in a project fronted by the World Wildlife Fund WWF and the outdoors organization Norsk Friluftsliv.

Vulnerable to development
The project was aimed at compiling a “red list” of the aspects of Norwegian nature that are vulnerable to development. “We have the most ‘intact nature’ not least in mountain wilderness areas, but also in the form of old forests,” Jon Bjartnes, deputy leader for environmental policy at WWF, told newspaper Dagsavisen.

“It’s also exciting that so many people are most concerned about losing the silence of the nature,” Bjartnes added. “That doesn’t mean the complete absence of sounds, but the silence that includes natural sounds.

“When it comes to the sound of running water, that can be everything from creeks running through towns, to rivers that folks don’t want to see dammed up, to paddlers who brave rapids.”

WWF and Norsk Friluftsliv view the biggest threats to nature as roadbuilding, energy production, forestry operations and large developments of the holiday cabins known as hytter. It all means that Norway’s wilderness is being chipped away at, year by year.

Master plan for preservation needed
They’re urging creation of a master plan for preservation of Norway’s untouched wilderness areas, where there’s still no vehicular or boat traffic, snow- or water scooters, helicopters or mobile phone coverage.

Rounding off their list of what Norwegians value the most were the country’ so-called “cultural landscapes” that include rural communities and farmland, along with wild berry patches, birdlife and sustainable hunting traditions.

“The new wind power report from NVE is a reminder that Norwegian nature is threatened,” Lasse Heimdal, secretary general, of the outdoors organization told Dagsavisen. “We’re talking about as many as 17,000 square kilometers where we can end up with visual- and noise pollution, in addition to all the blasting and excavation for new roads. “They’re called ‘windparks,’ but they’re really wind industry plants.”

Devlopers contend the windmills will reduce carbon emissions, Heimdal noted, “but in reality we’re talking about replacing one form of pollution with another.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund