Demonstrators protesting the Norwegian government’s refusal to remove wind turbines from Sami grazing land ended up being forcibly removed themselves, from their sit-in at Parliament on Wednesday. On Thursday they were still demonstrating outside the historic building, and at the headquarters of state power provider Statkraft, joined by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.
“For me it’s only natural to stand in solidarity with the young Sami fighting for their fundamental human rights,” Thunberg told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “Norway is bringing shame to itself internationally now.”
Norway’s Supreme Court ruled two years ago that the wind turbines, licensed by the government and generating wind power distributed by Statkraft, violated the Samis’ human rights. As indigenous people in Norway, they’re entitled to carry out traditional reindeer grazing, but wind turbines disturb that.
The Sami want the turbines dismantled and the land returned to its natural state. They have the support of a long list of environmental organizations that also object to how the turbines have scarred the landscape, even though they generate wind power as an alternative to carbon-emitting fossil fuels.
That presents a paradox that government officials cling to in their efforts to develop alternative energy sources. Climate Minister Espen Barth Eide pointed out this week that several of the environmental organizations and political parties including the Social Left (SV) used to support wind power. They no longer do, because of how turbines disturb nature and, in this case, Sami human rights. Eide counters that they’re an important source of renewable energy that can lessen demand for oil and gas.
The standoff thus continues. Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre claims along with other government officials that he has “great respect that the demonstrators are using their rights to freedom of expression.” He had met with them before the protest began and greeted them in Parliament, where they stayed all day and into the evening but were not welcome to spend the night. Police were called to physically carry the chanting demonstrators out of the building.
Støre also acknowledges the state’s violation of the Samis’ human rights, and claims his government and the firms running the Fosen turbines “must find a solution that recognizes the rights of Sami reindeer herders at Fosen.” Frustrated herders describe the situation as deadlocked after months of talks that have involved the state mediator.
Statkraft’s chief executive Christian Rynning-Tønnesen, soon to retire early with a multi-million kroner pension package branded as “grotesque” by labour unions, met briefly with the demonstrators blocking the entrance to Statkraft’s offices at Lysaker. Employees were told to work from home while Statkraft itself adheres to the government’s position, which allows the turbines to keep turning. Production continued as normal, according to a Statkraft spokesman.