The Norwegian dark side
A “goo” story
M. Michael Brady
Norway ranks among the top countries in the world when it comes to the well-being of its citizenry. In 2019, the country also ranked third in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita, according to the International Monetary Fund ranking. Further still, Norwegians ranked third in happiness that year, according to the World Happiness Report, compiled by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network. Along with their fellow Scandinavians, Norwegians also enjoy universal health care and quality education at all levels, from kindergarten through doctoral studies.
Indeed, in the pages of this newspaper and elsewhere in the media, Norway is often lauded for its success in applying the principles and practices of the Nordic Model of social democracy. But there’s a hitch, which, until recently, has not been much mentioned. The Scandinavian countries, particularly Norway, make up an ecological disaster zone. According to the Sustainable Development Index (www.sustainabledevelopmentindex.org), developed by anthropologist Jason Hickel and discussed in the Dec. 27 issue of The Norwegian American (www.norwegianamerican.com/jason-hickel-nordic-model), Norway ranks near the bottom, 157th of 163 countries listed.
The cause of that hitch is that Norway became wealthy on oil and now ranks 13th among the world’s oil exporting countries. According to Naturvernforbundet (the Norwegian Society for the Conservation of Nature), that status has besmirched the country. The curse of the goo of oil is irrefutable. Evidence of that is meticulously and disturbingly provided in its white paper entitled “Olje” (“Oil”) published in 2019 as the second issue of its biannual magazine Natur & Environment (naturvernforbundet.no/naturogmiljo/tema).
Is there a way out? Maybe. This past April, Hickel, of the University of London, England, and ecological economist Giorgos Kallas of the Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain, published an in-depth analysis of the question “Is Green Growth Possible?” (doi.org/10.1080/13563467.2019.1598964). In a nutshell, they conclude that yes, it is, provided we forsake GDP growth as the prime measure of progress.
This article originally appeared in the March 6, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.