The Sami protested in central Oslo against the Fosen wind farm, in northern Norway (Jannicke Totland/ Natur og Ungdom)
  • by Karlos Zurutuza (Gypsy)
  • Interpress service

But it’s not a mirage.

– The wind farm crosses areas of winter pasture that can no longer be used because the reindeer never come near the windmills. Thus, a crucial migration route for us has been destroyed,” says Maria Puenchir, a 31-year-old human rights activist who is well known in the region, and who presents herself as “queer, Sami and disabled”. told IPS over the phone.

The Sami, also known as Lapps or Sami, are a people spread across the northern borders of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia, in a territory they call Sápmi.

Puenchir spoke from his home country of Trondheim, very close to the peninsula where the wind complex is under scrutiny today. Its construction began in 2016 despite numerous calls for a shutdown, including one from the United Nations, citing its potential impact on the way of life of local communities.

Five years later and one year after its completion, Norway’s Supreme Court ruled unanimously among its eleven judges that the installation was illegal and violated the reindeer herders’ right to develop their culture.

– The judgment is clear, but it does not explain what to do with the wind turbines. Not only have they been dismantled, but they continue to function,” laments Puenchir.

On January 30, Amnesty International launched a campaign asking that the judicial resolution be respected and that “a continuous violation of human rights be stopped and repaired”.

It was on February 23 that a group of young people dressed in traditional Sami costumes decided to wrestle with the Norwegian state. After occupying the Oil Ministry office for four days, they were evicted by police, but managed to block several other ministries before a packed sit-in in front of the Royal Palace on March 3.

“The initiative arose from an Instagram campaign among the Sami youth. They started counting the days that passed without a finger being lifted since the Norwegian Supreme Court’s verdict. When the account reached 500, they took to the streets,” recalls Puenchir.

She did not hesitate to fly to Oslo to join the group, neither did Greta Thunberg. The well-known activist for climate defense this time joined a protest against a “green” energy project.

“I got the chance to come and show my support for this struggle. All those who have the opportunity to support local struggles like these should do so,” Thunberg explained to IPS, by phone from the streets of Oslo.

“All over the world we see the continuation of land grabbing and exploitation of indigenous people’s land, but we can also see that the resistance continues and grows,” the activist claimed, before demanding “an end to the colonization of Sápmi.”

On March 2, the Sami heard a excuse from the Norwegian government delivered by Terje Aasland, the country’s oil and energy minister

– They have spent a long time in a difficult and uncertain situation and I feel sorry for them, said Aasland after meeting the chair of the Sámi Parliament Silje Karine Mutoka

At the moment, Oslo has repeated a mantra that the wind power project can coexist with reindeer husbandry. However, a firm decision is missing on the future of the controversial infrastructure.

From north to south

According to data from the International Energy Agency, 98% of Norway’s electricity supply comes from renewable energy. The six wind farms in the Fosen complex produce more energy than all the wind farms built in the rest of the country combined.

Although Fosen’s turbines are the work of a multi-company conglomerate with Swiss and German participation, 52% of the investment remains in the hands of Norway’s Statkraft.

In response to questions from IPS, Statkraft stressed that the Supreme Court’s ruling “does not mean that the licenses for the wind farms have expired and that it has not arrived at what should happen to the turbines.”

The operation of the Fosen wind farm, the company adds, “can be maintained without irreparable damage to reindeer husbandry as long as there is a process to clarify the necessary mitigation measures required for a new permit decision that does not violate the rights of the Sami.”

The company claims it is “actively working to help reach a solution that allows the Sami people to continue their cultural practice in line with international law.”

On its websiteStatkraft claims to be “Europe’s largest producer of renewable energy and a global company in energy market operations.” Their figures point to 5,300 workers in 21 countries.

Complaint and legal rulings against the Norwegian energy giant has also come from other continents.

On February 23, Chilean police violently suppressed a demonstration against the Los Lagos power plant project Statkraft is building on the banks of the Pilmaiken River, 370 kilometers south of Santiago de Chile.

“It is a place of great importance to the Mapuche people with a ceremonial complex and a cemetery. According to ancient beliefs, the Pilmaiken River is where souls travel after they die so they can continue their cycle, Fennix Delgado, a 35-year-old construction worker active in the Pilmaiken support network, told IPS by phone.

Everywhere in Sápmi

“Both in Chile and in Norway we are witnessing the plundering of original ancestral territory without the consent of the affected communities or any respect for their cultural reality.”

That’s what Eva María Fjellheim, a member of the Sami Council’s working group – its largest civil society organization – thinks. She spoke to IPS on the phone from Tromsö, 1,100 kilometers north of Oslo.

“Although the Sami Council supports efforts to combat the climate and ecological crisis, these cannot be implemented at the expense of fundamental rights,” explains 38-year-old Fjellheim.

She combines her work for the council with her research for her PhD at the Arctic University of Norway on ‘green colonialism’ and Sami resistance to the development of wind power on grazing lands.

Indigenous peoples’ ancestral knowledge and practices, she believes, “can be considered part of the solution and not an obstacle.”

The researcher also points out that in addition to Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia are promoting similar wind projects over Sami territory.

“The Nordic countries tend to defend their image as leaders when it comes to respect for rights and sustainability, but their reaction to the Supreme Court ruling in the Fosen case is the latest evidence of the very opposite,” says Fjellheim.

“It is as if human rights violations only occurred in other regions, and not in a democratic welfare state like Norway.”

© Inter Press Service (2023) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service