Four hundred youth from across the globe, including a couple from the Northwest Territories, are demanding protection of the Norwegian Arctic from oil and gas exploration.
The youth from over 26 different countries – starting at ages as young as 10 – gathered in the small fishing village of Lofoten, Norway from July 27 to Aug. 5 for the annual Friends of the Earth-Europe Summer Camp where climate justice, the fossil fuel industry and correlative activism efforts were discussed at length.
The NWT’s Kiera Kolson, a young Tso’Tine-Gwich’in activist and the Arctic Outreach Campaigner for Greenpeace Canada, was among the four Canadians who attended the camp with the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition. She was joined by Nicole Labine from Fort Smith as well as one Yukon and one Nunavut representative.
“There were so many brilliant youth. It was inspiring to hear everyone’s stories, to dialogue about these important issues that are impacting our resources and our rights,” Kolson, 27, said.
The group spent the week networking, making “keep the oil in the soil” signs for the Aug. 3 rally, engaging in lectures on dirty energy and training for non-violent actions to stop potential exploration rigs heading north.
The youth were specifically calling on the Norwegian government to protect the pristine areas outside the Lofotens Islands – home to cold-water reefs, pods of sperm and killer whales and some of the most abundant seabird colonies in Europe – as the oil industry has been pushing for the past 20 years to open the area to drilling.
The Lofoten Islands are also the spawning grounds of the largest remaining cod stock in the world.
“If Norway, as one of the richest countries in the world, were to show that not even the valuable and unique areas of the Lofoten Islands are ‘off-limits’ for the oil and gas industry, it would set a disappointing precedent internationally,” Cameron Fenton, National Director of the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition, said in a recent press release.
New clean energy alliances were formed over the week, paving the way for future solidarity, Kolson said.
“There were youth from Russia talking about nuclear waste being spilled. People from Nigeria were talking about how they can’t even drink the water, which has no fish or life in it. These things resonated with a lot of us from the Canadian North because we are dealing with a grave influx of developmental pressures…It’s inspirational to hear of other youth fighting for the same causes.”
Kolson also made a presentation during her time in Norway on the Canadian oilsands and its impact on the Mackenzie River basin.
“I also talked about my trek to the North Pole and the campaign to save the Arctic…and indigenous rights and about how water is an international human right and there hasn’t been much consultation pertaining to those rights for the past 40 years,” she said.
“We also had a cultural sharing evening and a media relations workshop where it was discussed how to talk with media.”
A local festival in Lofoten the same week as the camp drew many of Norway’s political leaders (the country is preparing for its upcoming election). Some dialogue was accomplished through a panel including leaders and a selection of Nordic youth, Kolson said.