Environment & Sustainability

Viking Oil

I am liking the way the Norwegians do business. From the article:

When the government tabled a new law that would boost taxes on oil profits to almost 80 percent, the stage was set for a showdown. According to Lie, “Companies were furious when they heard about the new taxation law. They started a media campaign saying that they would leave Norway and that it was impossible to work in a socialist country like this that does not understand the rules of international capitalism.”

After demanding a meeting with the Minister of Finance, oil executives around the room all pounded the table and threatened to abandon their concessions unless Norway backed down. The unfazed minister instead turned to his aides and said in full view of the enraged oilmen, “Why are they all still here? We should have taken more!”

That attitude, in a nutshell, is why the country now has more than $1 trillion in the bank. In spite of the usual industry fear mongering, the new tax law easily passed Norwegian parliament and has been supported by every government since 1975.


What can the world learn from the oil Vikings? Obviously good policies and strong institutions matter, but perhaps most important is the fierce sense of place to back it up. In a fragmented natural world, that strong connection to the land increasingly resides with indigenous peoples and cultures. Unsurprisingly, indigenous people are also disproportionately the ones confronting extractive capitalism around the world.

The United Nations just released a global report on biodiversity showing that areas with some form of indigenous governance—amounting to a whopping one-quarterof the world’s land base—have significantly better protection of ecosystems. Culture, connection and protection seem to naturally flow from continuous occupation. The report calls for governments to support indigenous involvement in conservation efforts as a key part of helping to “transform the public and private sectors to achieve sustainability at the local, national and global levels.”

Philosophy & Thought

Are Planet Rights Different Than Human Rights?

The protected Cathedral Grove, British Columbia, Canada. Photo by Sang Trinh/Flickr (Creative Commons)

An interesting article over on by Anna Greer that posits It’s Wrongheaded to Protect Nature with Human-Style Rights.

“After all, it is a hubristic belief in our own singularity and exceptionalism that’s partly responsible for destroying the planet. One thing seems certain: if the law is to respond to the multiple crises afflicting the Earth, and if rights are to be deployed, we need to get rid of the notion of a rights-bearer who is an active, wilful human subject, set against a passive, acted-upon, nonhuman object. The law, in short, needs to develop a new framework in which the human is entangled and thrown in the midst of a lively materiality – rather than assumed to be the masterful, knowing centre, or the pivot around which everything else turns.”

“Some might object that such a decentred approach is likely to be more complex and challenging than relying on existing assumptions about the centrality of ‘the human’. That’s certainly true. But such engagement is preferable – more empirically faithful to what’s there – than continuing to elevate the human as the ethical apex of the legal system. The ‘human’ cannot continue to be the sole benchmark against which other beings must be measured in order to count.”

A novel concept for sure that I agree with at first blush. I can’t begin to comprehend how everyone could find agreement on this as well as what ‘rights’ non-human entities would be entitled to – though I think it’s a discussion worth having.

I can’t quite get my head around the concept of ‘the law’ as mentioned in the first quote developing a new ‘non-human-centric’ framework, when ‘the law’ is itself a human construct. One could argue possibly that what is ‘moral’ or ‘true’ or ‘right’ exists outside of the realm of humans and is there whether or not we as a species are there to perceive it, but if that is the case, then words would seem not able to describe it and make it difficult to translate into any form of ‘human law’.

Guess I’ll leave it up to the environmental lawyers to sort out.