Coexistence in a Competitive World: Norwegian Study Tour Reflections

I selected this course on a whim, expecting it to serve as a bridge between the first and last sessions. Not quite finding an option that aligned with my interests in healthcare, I phoned DIS to ask for their recommendations. Sustainable Development in Northern Europe was first on their list. Why not study sustainability in the world’s first carbon neutral city?

I didn’t think too much about the class from then on to its start date. Frankly, I didn’t think too much about the environment until the course’s start date. I even used hairspray everyday.

In order to exact the least amount of carbon, we traveled by ferry from Copenhagen to Oslo. A slow but peaceful way to travel.

View from the back of the ferry
Oslo opera house

My life hit a turning point as we studied in Norway. Amidst the beautiful surroundings of Oslo and Rjukan, I realized that environment and humanity weren’t necessarily opposing forces, as I’d assumed they were. And, reducing my carbon footprint wasn’t as overwhelming of a task as I’d previously thought.

Lake by our hotel in Rjukan

Our visit with Andreas Slettvoll, the CEO of Chooose, a carbon offsetting firm based in Oslo, demonstrated that not only can we monetize goods extracted from the environment, but we can also monetize the preservation of the environment via offsetting (and hopefully other eco-friendly activities).

This visit was my favorite of the entire trip because Andreas highlighted how a commitment to preserve the environment can be integrated into the lives we’ve become accustomed to, with the caveat that carbon offsetting should be a supplement to an increasingly eco-conscious lifestyle. 

Andreas’s presentation also illustrated that eco-innovation in the past years centers around effective communication of existing climate science. Since realizing that I not only have an effect on emissions, but that there are steps I can take to reduce those emissions, I’d like to create (or be part of) a project that suggests small ways that people can reduce their carbon footprint.

Such tips could include becoming a “flexitarian” or even making sure waste is sorted properly. I also think that gamification could play a role in the development of this project to motivate adults and children alike to be more conscious about their choices, big and small. 

Speaking of changing one’s ways, Norway is an interesting example of a country that is domestically committed to becoming a lower carbon society while actively polluting other parts of the world as the third largest exporter of natural gas.  52% of Norwegian exports are either crude petroleum or petroleum gas (OEC – Norway (NOR) Exports, Imports, and Trade Partners).

Therefore, the biggest steps Norway could take to become an even lower carbon society revolve around shifting away from their extreme economic dependence on non-renewable gas. Since Norway’s sovereign fund has recently divested $1 trillion from gas exploration, I suggest that this money is reinvested into Norwegian climate preservation-oriented startups with international earning potential (like Chooose) so as to bolster the sustainability of their economic dependencies as the world moves away from gas (Davies). Further, more of these funds could be invested in research of renewable energy sources that Norway could in turn export for profit. 

Ultimately, our study tour to Norway underscored both the triumphs and pitfalls of “going green” in a modern world. There is no one solution to the problems that we face on a global scale, which is why we must try to exact change on a local level. I am excited to return to my campus in the fall with a heightened level of commitment to actionable environmental consciousness.

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