To send content items to your account,
please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies.
If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account.
Find out more about sending content to .
To send content items to your Kindle, first ensure email@example.com
is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings
on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part
of your Kindle email address below.
Find out more about sending to your Kindle.
Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations.
‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi.
‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.
What was the environmental impact of the booming petroleum industry? It looked minimal from the vantage point of most political observers. The exception was that of the environmentalists who pointed out that the oil would generate airborne acid rain that was damaging to the environment. The question of how to deal with acid rain turned into a formative environmental debate as the underlying question addressed the future of an oil-driven industrialization of Norway. How one viewed the petroleum industry was dependant upon which rationality and whose knowledge one trusted in visioning the best future for the nation and the world. The work of the geologist Ivan Th. Rosenqvist undermined the efforts of the Minister of the Environment Gro Harlem Brundtland to halt European industrial pollution of sulfuric acid, some of which ended up as acid rain in Norway. In the 1970s, his research made him an anti-environmentalist in the eyes of his opponents. Yet he claimed he cared for nature and that his scientific research was in the world’s best interest. His alleged anti-environmentalism should be understood within the context of competing socialist styles of reasoning as well as the disunities of sciences.
When vacationing, Norwegians would pursue contact with pristine environments as a reaction to the rapid modernization of the country. Vacationing in remnants of old mountain homes or fjord farms was the ideal because it suggested a life lost and spoke to the way of life of the peasants and fishermen that the vacationers had replaced. For the growing counterculture, these peasants and fishermen would gradually come to represent both the origin of and future for Norway. At the same time these imagined lifestyles served as a contrast to the unhealthy and polluted life in the cities, especially Oslo, which was believed to be corrupted by material lifestyle and lack of direct contact with clean environments. Scholars in the field of archeology and anthropology were prime movers in setting the stage for the reimagining of Norwegian identity, including Thor Heyerdahl, Helge Ingstad, and Fredrik Barth. Their explorations and research into life on the Pacific island of Fatu-Hiva, hunter-gatherer living in North-America, Viking settlements in Newfoundland, and the ecological order of the people of Swat in Pakistan allowed a larger reflection about what one could learn from the Norwegian heritage.
The most dramatic environmental debate in Norway in the late 1970s was whether to build a hydroelectric dam at the Alta-Kautokeino River. It was a debate the Deep Ecologists lost with a Supreme Court verdict in 1982. The defeat meant an end to Deep Ecology as a movement and an intellectual endeavor in Norway as they became increasingly fundamentalist and thus politically irrelevant. However, at the same time they enjoyed their first international breakthrough in North America, thanks to the environmental organization Earth First! The end of the Cold War in 1989 also meant a turn towards global climatological perspectives. Propelled by the sentiment that capitalism had won over communism, Gro Harlem Brundtland would, as Chair of the World Commission on Environment and Development, frame the solution to climate change in cost–benefit terms, rather than in socialist terms. Climate change problems were to be solved by treading carbon dioxide equivalent quotas and by buying clean development mechanism certificates. Norway would be an active buyer in these markets, making sure Norway would look like a virtuous “pioneer country” to its own citizens and the world.
At Environmental Studies at the University of Oslo, students began their semester by taking a weeklong hike over the scenic Hardangervidda mountain plateau. It was designed to take the students away from the capitalist and industrial setting of the city and deep into the periphery of a picturesque nature. Empowered by the mountains they could enter the valleys of industrialism and shallow ecological thinking with a do-gooding gaze of knowing what’s right from wrong. The institution was the intellectual think tank for the Deep Ecologists who were under attack from both Marxists, who saw them as counter-revolutionary, and supporters of the European Community, who thought they were unable to appreciate international cooperation empowered by capitalism. These tensions would energize and radicalize Environmental Studies scholars towards an ideological vision of a future world in ecological equilibrium. Environmental Studies was to point out an alternative direction for the nation other than communism and consumer capitalism. As the vanguard of social change, the scholars associated with Environmental Studies saw themselves as harboring an environmental vision for Norway that could inspire the world.
In 1974 the Norwegian physicist and co-author of Limits to Growth (1972) coined the phrase “a sustainable society.” It was meant to capture his vision for a viable environmental future, while also open a new endless frontier for science with the larger goal of mobilizing Christian religion and respect for the almighty. It was an ecumenical hope in the coming of the Golden Age and the Kingdom of God that framed early understandings of environmental sustainability. In Norway, Randers directed the Resource Policy Group, an influential think tank that provided policy papers to the Labor Party and beyond. The notion of a “sustainable development” was adapted from them by the Norwegian politician Gro Harlem Brundtland, who chaired the World Commission on Environment and Development leading up to the Our Common Future report from 1987.
The chief place Norwegian ecologists would meet, train their students, and explore the environment was The High Mountain Ecology Research Station, established at Finse in 1965 and located in one of the most beautiful mountain regions of Norway. When finished in 1972 it was, perhaps, the largest and most expensive ecological research station in Europe. The formative years of ecological research in Norway took place at Finse and were supported by ecologists such as Arne Semb-Johansson, Eilif Dahl, Rolf Vik, Eivind Østbye, and the International Biological Program. The picturesque Research Station at Finse was idyllic in comparison to the ecological destruction described in a growing body of environmental literature. Propelled by the publication of Rachel Carson’s warning against pesticides in Silent Spring (1962), the ecologists at Finse became powerful lobbyists in favor of large-scale national parks in the nation’s periphery. They sought an “eco-politics” founded on science, as our common future depended on the development of a “steady-state” social economy that would mirror the steady-state balance of the zero-growth economy of nature at Finse.
The act of doing something good was the cultural Archimedean point from which Norwegians tried to move the Earth in a new, and, to them, more environmentally sound direction. This cultural point has taken the form of a self-confident, do-gooding gaze towards the rest of the world. This reflects the official foreign policy of establishing “Norway as a humanitarian super power” and “as a peace nation” in the world.
In Norway it is normal for even devoted Christians to skip Sunday church in favor of a nature walk or cross-country skiing, as the nation’s spiritual life takes place outdoors in scenic environments rather than inside buildings. The Deep Ecologists were instrumental in giving the Church of Norway the eco-theological focus it has today. How and why environmentalists came to adapt religious language, and how theologians responded, reflected deep seated pietist traditions. For the Church, environmentalism represented an opportunity to revive the Church’s pietist Lutheran doctrine among the young and thereby mobilize a new audience.
In 1971 Norwegian ecophilosophers Sigmund Kvaløy, Arne Næss, and Nils Faarlund traveled to the periphery, to the faraway mountains of Nepal. It was a transformative experience for them. In the lives of the Sherpa, they saw an alternative environmentally friendly way of living. Upon their return to Norway they wrote about Sherpa life as an Oriental harmony juxtaposed with the harsh Occidental values of their own Western culture. This demarcation between Oriental ecological wisdom and the Occidental stupidity of the West eventually came to frame the deep-ecological debate at home and abroad. Sherpa life was to be a model for all Norwegians, and Sherpa-informed Norwegians were to be a subsequent model for the world.
“It is in the wilderness that the line must be drawn; there we must begin to build a wall of silence around those values in nature that die when they are taken by force, and that unfold their deepest wonders only in the still hour of prayer.”1 The philosopher Petter W. Zapffe’s words, written after having climbed the steep Stetind Mountain in 1937, would ring true to the Deep Ecologists discussed in this book. Indeed, many of them would conduct a yearly pilgrimage to Stetind in the north of Norway to honor Zapffe with an outdoor seminar on how to stop the troubling eco-crisis.
The Norwegian philosopher Arne Næss lived and worked at his mountaintop cabin Tvergastein, which was located as far as possible from the social realm, yet close enough to suggest various ways of improving both the household of nature and society. Being situated above everybody else environmentally, socially, and intellectually resulted in a bipolar ecophilosophy in which the good environmental life on the mountaintop and Tvergastein were juxtaposed with the evils down in the valley and urban life in general. This contrast would evolve in Næss and his friends’ thinking into a more general contrast between the clean and environmental healthy Norway and a contaminated and unhealthy globe in need of Norwegian environmental wisdom. The high mountains represented what was clean while the city was dirty and polluted, both literally and morally. Tvergastein served Næss and his ecophilosophy compatriots as a material representation and manifestation of a rich life with simple means. First among these friends was Peter Wessel Zapffe, along with Sigmund Kvaløy and Nils Faarlund. They came to mobilize for the Mardøla demonstration (1970), a defining event for environmentalism in Norway, in which taking a stand on hydropower developments would distinguish friends from foes.
What is the source of Norway's culture of environmental harmony in our troubled world? Exploring the role of Norwegian scholar-activists of the late twentieth century, Peder Anker examines how they portrayed their country as a place of environmental stability in a world filled with tension. In contrast with societies dirtied by the hot and cold wars of the twentieth century, Norway's power, they argued, lay in the pristine, ideal natural environment of the periphery. Globally, a beautiful Norway came to be contrasted with a polluted world and fashioned as an ecological microcosm for the creation of a better global macrocosm. In this innovative, interdisciplinary history, Anker explores the ways in which ecological concerns were imported via Rachel Carson's Silent Spring in 1962, then to be exported from Norway back to the world at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. This title is also available as Open Access on Cambridge Core.
Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this to your organisation's collection.