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“Havorn I Austerveg” expedition

Viking ship Havorn

Gunnar ALBUM

One planet — many worlds

Self-sufficiency and self-respect

Lately, interest for our own culture has increased and our voyage with the “Havorn” is part of this. In a world facing eco-sociological crisis, we cannot let go of the knowledge we have accumulated through thousands of years’ existence in this natural environment.

This is knowledge not easily transmitted through books and studies. It must be gained through experience. In Norway we have a coastal culture which has used the resources of the sea continuously from the time ships like “Havorn” sailed the coast and long before. More than two hundred hamlets in the north of Norway are founded on coastal fishing. The settlements along the coast have not arisen willy-nilly, but are based on the wanderings of codfish and other types of fish. This has not only been the basis for the survival of the coastal populations. For twelve hundred years fish has been exported from here. In this way people in the north of Norway have managed one of the richest larders of the world without destroying its resource base. If you put the question to people why they happen to live exactly where they do, their reply is not: “I have chosen to live here in order to encourage sustainable development and ecological conscientiousness.” The adjustment to Nature has evolved over hundreds of generations’ encounters with sea and land. The complex unity which characterizes such societies are not easily documented through questionnaires.

The ecological advantage of this small settlement structure is not principally an ecological awareness in each individual. The adjustment to Nature is integrated in the social structure and the culture. It is not possible to separate the ecological insight a population has from the society in which it lives. This is difficult to understand for people in our extremely individualistic society. It appears that people expect Indians or the Same-people to have greater ecological insight than the ordinary Norwegians or Americans. This is racism. As with all of us, their ecological knowledge is associated with the societies they live in. When they become developed (that is involved in the bigger economic society) much of the knowledge they needed in order to survive in a natural environment disappears. In order to allow a development to evolve from within the world’s diverse cultures, the pressures from the outside must be reduced. Aid is not what is needed in the first place, but ability to develop on one’s own terms.

Traditional knowledge — an alternative to global management.

This conflict cuts deep into the international work for the environment. As a reaction to the accelerating environmental crisis, panic ensues. We search for the strong man. In reaction to a crisis developing when the multitudes of small societies collapse, we adopt systems which further undermine these societies in the name of environmental protection and fighting poverty. Norwegian policy on fishing gives us a foretaste of where this may lead us. The introduction of trawlers at the beginning of the century and the further industrialization of the fishing industry after the second world war led to overfishing which needed stricter and stricter regulations. All along, the intention was for the trawlers to act as a supplement to the coastal fishermen. It is also a fact that the trawlers use around three times as much fuel per ton catch. Besides, the trawlers are a much greater drain on the resources in relation to what they deliver than is the coastal fleet.

In the years between 1986 and 1988 the trawler fleet flushed around a third of the codfish they caught back in the sea. The fish they bring ashore is also of poorer quality than what the coastal fleet delivers. The coastal fleet employs more people and needs less state subsidies that the trawler fleet Nevertheless, the trawlers are constantly given a bigger share of the total quota. I believe there are two main causes for this. Firstly, in the trawler fleet there are so many large individual investors that in order to service capital costs, such as loan and interest payments, they depend on ever bigger catches. Therefore, powerful institutions like the banking system are dependent on large quotas. Another reason is that in order to partake effectively in the lobbying for quota allocations, large organizations and financial resources are needed. These resources are more concentrated around the trawler industry than around the coastal fishing fleet. The management of the resources are elevated to a level where the smaller and the most ecologically adjusted operators lose their influence. Even within the fishermen’s organization, “fiskarlaget”, where 90 percent of the members are coastal fishermen, it is the voices of the trawler companies which carry most weight

If we imagine that the management level was at European or world level, for instance managed by UN, the voices of the small societies would drown completely. In order to avoid submitting a whole world of diverse human societies to global administration, people in the rich North must find their roots in the knowledge of the natural environment which is still there. The management of living resources, such as fish and forests, and administration of local societies cannot take place at central planning level, be it socialist- or capitalist-based. Nature, including Man exhibits such an inventiveness as to give planners the world over grey hairs. Such management, which is more closely related to figures than to people, ignores the fact that human beings have other needs than purely materialistic. Calculating how much food people in a big country need is not enough. Being part of a society, having an identity in relation to one’s culture and one’s history is an important part of the human condition. We human beings are not static. We are created and create ourselves through our actions. Our actions have an equally great influence on us as we have on our actions. Sailing a viking ship to Istanbul may seem a fantastic adventure and a strange project in relation to the environmental perspective. But the viking ship is a symbol of our culture. It is not difficult to see that the boats employed in fishing well into this century are curiously similar to “Havorn”. And the connection between those fishing boats to today’s coastal fishing is similarly close. Like people the world over we search for our roots as a defense against being subjugated to international administration. We have travelled through Denmark, Sweden, Estonia, Finland, Lithuania, Russia, the Ukraine, Bulgaria, Rumenia and Turkey to demonstrate that we seek international contacts and co-operation based on what we can offer others, in order to save us from the environmental crisis. This winter Russian fishing authorities have contacted Norway to discuss the development of a Russian coastal fishing fleet to replace the environmentally degrading one at present based on the Kola peninsula. This is an example of international environmental co-operation on the terms of ancient knowledge. We believe that the target of the global co-operation for the protection of the environment must be to remove the forces which have the same effect as acid on society and Nature, on which we depend.

On the other hand, there are parts of the UN system, like GATT and the World Bank and part of the international environmental movement where the economic globalization and inherent global administration are steaming ahead. The voices coming from innumerable minorities have reached sufficiently far to grant ethnic and small societies special concessions from the free trade regulations. But we will not accept that we are to survive on the concessions which the world economic superpowers are willing to grant us at their pleasure. People have lived in the Norwegian coastal areas for 10,000 years. GATT is 48 years old, EC 35. In a historical perspective they are the exceptions, not us.

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