Thin ice killed an environmental activist

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UPDATED: Norwegian environmentalists were mourning the death this week of Kurt Oddekalv, long one of the country’s most high-profile and radical amongst them. Oddekalv was often referred to as an environmental “warrior.”

Kurt Oddekalv (right) was hailed after his death this week as a “pillar” of the environmental movement in Norway. PHOTO: Wikimedia

His body was recovered by search and rescue crews after alarms were sounded late Monday that someone may have gone through the ice on the lake Bahusvatnet in Bergen.

They spotted tracks on snow over the ice, and then the break in it. The victim was quickly found and brought to land, but he was declared dead at the scene. Both divers and emergency personnel on land assisted in the rescue effort.

The victim was identified as Kurt Oddekalv later Monday night, in cooperation with his family. They later reported that Oddekalv was out walking a dog that belonged to one of his daughters, and apparently tried to save the dog after it went through the ice. The dog, named Kompis (friend), was also found dead along with Oddekalv.

“We are in shock, all of us,” Arne Roger Hansen, regional leader of Miljøvernforbundet, the environmental organization Oddekalv founded in 1993 after deciding that others weren’t radical enough. Oddekalv’s four grown children issued a statement on social media that expressed gratitude for all the support that’s flowed in from the public, and vowed to carry on their father’s efforts to protect the environment. “The shock hit us like lightning from a clear sky on Monday,” they wrote.

‘Pillar’ of the environmental movement
Others called Oddekalv “a pillar” of the environmental movement in Norway, including the leader of the local chapter of the conservative Progress Party, not known as an advocate of climate and environmental concerns.

“This is incredibly sad,” Gustav Bahus, leader of Vestland Frp, told state broadcaster NRK. “Oddekalv was a bauta of the environmental movement and drew attention to many important things in the public debate.”

Norway’s government minister in charge of climate and environmental issues, Sveinung Rotevatn, also called Oddekalv’s death sad and praised his “lifelong environmental engagement.” Rotevatn, who had just unveiled a major government proposal to cut emissions in Norway, noted that Oddekalv “was non-traditional and created many controversies, but his concern for nature was tireless. The environmental movement has lost a clear voice.”

‘Inspiring’
Oddekalv advocated radical means of getting his environmental message across. In 2006, for example, he led a group of activists in boarding a barge that intended to take toxic material on the floor of the Oslo Fjord to a controversial depot at Malmøy. He fought against the huge turbines that he believed scarred natural landscapes and threatened birds in an effort to generate wind power. He held so-called “summer camps” for political leaders that he’d lecture on environmental issues and was not known for being willing to compromise.

“He inspired me and many others to fight for the nature, against the salmon farming industry, highways, bad wind energy projects and a lot more,” wrote Arild Hermstad, deputy leader of Norway’s Greens Party, on social media.  “We didn’t always agree on all issues, but he was 100 percent genuine in his engagement. He devoted his entire life to protecting the nature.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund