Environmental Champion from Norway

Erik Solheim elected UN environment chiefErik Solheim is elected as UN Environmental boss .Photo: Vegard Wivestad Grøtt / NTB scanpix

A Big Salute to the Environmental Champion from Norway

Erik Solheim is an environmental champion who wears several hats. In his younger days, he was interested in politics, it also empowered him to help several people out of poverty. He was engaged as a peace negotiator in Sri Lanka actively mediating between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Sri Lankan Government. His model of connecting environmental degradation with war, poverty, climate change and corporate exploitation can be applied in developing countries across the world.

 

A Spiderweb of interconnections and interspersing stakeholders like bureaucrats, policymakers, politicians, doctors, engineers, citizens, and ethical Corporate companies, creates a strong foothold for the country to progress further. Wrongdoing done by any of these stakeholders can be costly. Our guest writer, Rajesh, T. V. – who is a Business and Economic Journalist – shares his thoughts on the subject by applying this model in a remote part of Tamilnadu, India.

I usually get my daily dose of news from print and online versions. On May 27, 2018, there were some articles in the newspapers dedicated to Erik Solheim[i], his meeting with the Chief Minister of Kerala[ii] and his visit to world’s first fully solar energy-powered Cochin International Airport.

Immediately, out of curiosity, I searched in the internet to find out the personality and I was stuck with an online website[iii], which had a full length interview with Erik Solheim.

Erik Solheim in short

Erik Solheim’s passion and dedication towards environment is popular across the world. His multiple skills of peace negotiations [iv]in war-ravaged countries [v]and his ingenuity in connecting environmental degradation to war, terrorism, and multinationals, finding out the root cause to the vexatious problems that countries face and carving out sustainable solutions is amazing.

An amazing exhibition that showcased different dimensions of poverty in his hometown propelled young Erik to think beyond a cocooned life that every European of his age was accustomed to. This enlightened him to lead a life for ameliorating the conditions of human beings.

Born in Oslo, he was always connected to the Mother Nature which was inextricably connected to the human habitats. The intertwining of nature with its climatic conditions coupled with the coexistence of human beings and animals, an ecosystem, always captivated him.

Erik’s birth in Oslo and his connection with nature during the childhood days instilled in him an impeccable admiration for the environment. This further infused him to connect the predestined life of embracing the nature to the lofty ideal of protecting it. In addition, his expertise in several other disciplines helped him to find clear-cut solutions on a war footing, which otherwise remains a conundrum to bureaucrats and policymakers.

‘Erik’s model’, is especially suitable for developing countries, where the multinationals and Corporates have spread their tentacles into every nook and cranny of people’s lives.

 The Thoothukudi Protest

Thoothukudi[vi] is a place in Tamilnadu, India, where Vedanta Sterlite’s copper [vii]operations were established 20 years ago since then it has become a ‘killer company’. People who were living proximate to the plant started developing symptoms leading to lung, cancer and skin diseases.

The rules and regulations were recklessly flouted, assaulting the ‘mother nature’ in a variety of ways. The untreated water and arsenic were seeping into the groundwater and air pollution [viii] was rampant, leaving the vast tracts of land unsuitable for human habitat.

This led to the protest from the community comprising women, children, and villagers to close the company’s plant and its operations. The police fired at the mob leading to 13 deaths[ix].

This incident is a failure of the democracy, it is also a negligence of the bureaucracy to protect innocent lives, but ultimately it is also an assault on the ‘mother nature’. Every strand is inter-connected; we cannot disentangle one element and treat it. Instead, we need to consider the problem as a whole. This is the approach taken by Erik Solheim.

If the corporate company has followed ethical practices, the company town would have been a healthy place to live and work, improving the human resources of the country, further improving the quality of the environment. But this didn’t happen.

When the company applied for constructing the plant, the officials could have been diligent, scrutinized every minute aspect of the application and visited the plant periodically to identify any shortcomings. However, the officials lacked the grit and determination to confront the corporate syndicate

The second layer of time-to-time inspections would have detected the violations, fined a penalty, if the infraction is serious abruptly closing the operations of the company. At the minimum, the symptoms that people developed would have been an eye-opener for the authorities to take action against the errant corporate company.

Further, when the community protested, the police force massacred the picketers. At least the firing would have been averted.

Every strand of incidences mentioned above is linked to the environment and ‘Mother Nature’. Every stakeholder is a cog in the wheel, anyone transgressing the law is guilty enough to be prosecuted because we cannot afford another man-made catastrophe or epidemic.

References

[i] http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/unep-chief-erik-solheim-concerned-over-thoothukudi-shooting/article23998349.ece

[ii] https://www.keralatourism.org/

[iii] http://www.sanctuaryasia.com/people/interviews/10704-meet-erik-solheim-environmental-champion-politician-climate-and-peace-negotiator.html

[iv] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w8Ym5AdeNZM

[v] http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/sri-lanka-ready-for-peace-says-erik-solheim/article8328808.ece

[vi] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thoothukudi

[vii] https://www.sterlitecopper.com/reach-us/

[viii] https://in.reuters.com/article/india-sterlite-copper-smelter-tuticorn/sterlite-industries-copper-smelter-ignites-toxic-debate-idINDEE93803120130409

[ix] https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/madurai/death-toll-rises-to-13-in-tuticorin-police-firing/articleshow/64301103.cms

 

© Rajesh.T.V. / #Norway Today

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