“The streets of Stavanger are now flowing with cava… no, regular wine,” Tale Ellingvag jokes about Norway’s oil capital in the midst of a downturn in oil prices. Having long been campaigning against the stranglehold of the oil industry on her country, the recent price crash helps reinforce her message: dependence on oil is not good for Norway, the economy, it’s workers, or the rest of the world. “We thought the government would rescue the oil industry, but it hasn’t happened yet. It feels good to be able to say I told you so.”
The big question now is whether the government’s next budget will be a bailout for the most profitable industry in history, or funding for a “green shift” to renewable energy. As national climate coordinator for Natur og Ungdom (Nature and Youth), Norway’s largest youth environmental organization, Tale is front and center in making sure it is the latter. “They know we’ll make hell,” she says, crossing her fingers against the chance of a bailout.
When she’s not working with Nature and Youth, Tale can be found as a climate campaigner with Greenpeace. Indeed, look to a climate initiative in Norway and she’s likely been part of it. This includes a role as a youth delegate to the annual United Nations climate conferences. “This year Obama said “if the world was like Norway, it would be a green place”. If that’s the public perception, it’s bullshit and we have some work to do here in Norway.”
“I grew up in a radical family,” Tale laughs, when we ask after the seeds of her activism. “Green became my track. I was in the Revolutionary Socialists Youth party, which is not that crazy here in Norway. My passion was war, peace. I soon realized climate change was about people, about solidarity.”
We’ve long worked to communicate the idea that the climate crisis will not be averted by lightbulbs and hybrid cars, but by building people power, community and deep system change. From now on, I’m borrowing Tale’s answer when I asked after why it is that Nature and Youth works on a political level. “We work on this scale because the problem is on this scale. I don’t want to push that responsibility on to the shoulders of normal people.”
Since the 1990s Nature and Youth has been fighting at every corner to keep oil and gas activity out of the world-renowned and ecologically-sensitive Lofoten Islands region. In 2013 the national government closed the region to exploration for at least another four years, a huge win for the campaign that saw powerful collaboration between young people and local fisherman. “It was the Lofoten campaign that got me hooked,” Tale says. “What keeps me fighting? Victories. And the people in this movement. We’re all working on the same things, thinking about the same things. Like you two and me.”