28th May – Everything’s political

(For anyone not of the right age and taste in music to get the Skunk Anansie reference, this blog title needs screaming loudly and with passion!)

As mentioned last week, Environmental Protection is a big talking point in Svalbard, as is the future of coal mining here. The ‘paradox’ between the two, is perhaps no different to other nations calling for more international action on climate change which have not maxed out on national efforts. However, in Svalbard these factors are drawn together in stark relief visually: coal – black – bad; ice/snow – white – good (especially when not melting!). Coal mining and scientific research (especially into climate science) makes up two of the three main ‘pillars’ of activity here (the third being tourism), so throw in a long cultural history and attachment to mining here, energy challenges, the issue of reinforcing sovreignty rights and the desire to be an environmental flag ship, and we have a very interesting melting pot which is not as simple as it might at first appear.

Today a 3 day conference that the research base and Norwegian Ministries had organised to stimulate internation action on climate change in Ny Alesund drew to a close. After her visit to Svalbard, the UN Executive Secretary on climate change, Christiana Figeures came out of that meeting with a message to Norway and Svalbard – stop mining coal, it doesn’t fit with the climate research goals and image, though from her statement she clearly understands the challenges such a move would bring, insisting on needing to pull out in a responsible, fair and planned way that could set a good example.

From my perspective, this is all about value, values and how these input into the future strategies for Svalbard. If Norway is going to continue to push hard for positive environmental action, perhaps it will no longer be able to do so without re-evaluating how it’s environmental ‘flagship’ is run both on and offshore (I might return to Grenpeace action off the coast another time!)…


Mural and power plant in Longyearbyen – coal fired society – no longer the elephant in the room?

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