On the northern coast of Norway, just above the Arctic Circle, lies a small archipelago where big things are happening. The famously scenic Lofoten islands are best known as a cod-rich fishery and eco-tourism destination. But now that the government of Norway is eager to get its hands on the dirty oil in its Arctic waters, Lofoten has become a defining battleground in the politics surrounding Arctic protection in Norway.
That’s why last week, over 400 youth representatives and activists from diverse climate action groups all over the world travelled to Lofoten to attend a summer camp organized by Norwegian environmental organisation NaturogUngdom (Nature and Youth). The goal was to share the experiences of those who have been severely affected by the oil industry – from the Niger Delta to the Canadian tar sands – while raising awareness of the latest attempts to open this region to offshore drilling.
In support of the struggle these communities are facing, the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise sailed to join the camp over the weekend with four extraordinary young people of our own aboard. Luby, Olly, Daniela, and Thomas were brought together by their hard work and determination to protect the Arctic. Luby and Olly both won the trip through their participation last year in the online activist platform “Arctic Rising,” while Daniela and Thomas came aboard by winning a competition for Greenpeace Direct Dialoguers (also known as frontliners or canvassers).
Daniela, from Mexico, had never left her country or set foot on a ship before, but she singlehandedly collected more than 9,000 signatures for the Save the Arctic petition. “This trip has changed my life,” she writes. “It’s changed my perspective, for the better. Working together, we can achieve anything.” Her fellow frontliner, Thomas from Sweden, was the lucky winner of this year’s Direct Dialogue raffle.
Luby, originally from Slovakia, has been part of the movement to save the Arctic from the beginning. When the petition to create a global sanctuary in the Arctic hit one million signatures just one month after launching, Luby had recruited more than 1,500 people to the campaign. Her most powerful memory of the trip is of watching the midnight sunset from the bridge of the Arctic Sunrise. “I never saw beauty like that,” she says. “When you turn around and around, the ocean is the only thing you can see. It felt amazing. My ‘once in a lifetime’ moment.”
The other Arctic Rising winner, Olly from the UK, was only 16 when he won. Because of his age, his mother Emma accompanied him on the trip. Both described their exhilaration after spending time with the young people at Lofoten’s protest camp. “Surely this passion will win over politicians and the public to support the protection of this fragile environment as it duly deserves?” Emma asked. Inspired by their meetings with the youth ambassadors of Lofoten, Emma and Olly have vowed to continue to spread the message of Arctic protection in their home country when they return.
Much the same way that Lofoten could be a defining battleground for Arctic protection in Norway, the Arctic itself is the defining environmental battle of our time, the canary in the coalmine for the runaway climate change that is increasingly affecting our planet. There’s still time — but not much. One year ago, Olly, Luby, Daniela, and Thomas were just like you. Join them now in standing up for the Arctic, in any way you choose. Sign the petition and become part of the movement at www.savethearctic.org
Shai Naides is Greenpeace International's head of offline mobilisation for the Arctic campaign