Crikey reader Paul Johannessen — an Australian who has a home in Norway and is presently living in Japan — writes part I of a two-part series into living in the whaling nations:

Norway is known for perhaps only a few things: fjords, whaling, smoked salmon, and being one of the richest countries in the world. And, of course, the whole blonde blue-eyed gorgeous women thing. Being born to a Norwegian father landed me in the blonde blue-eyed (though male) category. When, at the age of 27 I ended up living in Norway and applying for residency, I had a feeling that my application transitioned fairly smoothly through the bureaucracy; my surname is the Norwegian equivalent of Smith, and my photo ID had me looking more Norwegian than half of the immigration office employees. But, I had never had a Norwegian passport — it was one of those quirks of the rule of law, left over from times gone by, that if you were a subject of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, then you could not also be a subject of another just as figurative monarchy.

I lived in Norway for almost five years, and am now a permanent resident, but presently I am living in Tokyo where my wife has received an art scholarship. We have a little apartment in Bergen on the west coast of Norway that we will return to in a few years.

So apart from the fish, what else has Norway been responsible for? At the time my father emigrated it was  one of the poorest countries in Europe. A house in our street in Norway that today accommodates a family of five — in a modest space by Australian standards — used to have 50 people living there. Hence it was known as the “50-man house”. Most of the men would have eked out a living at the docks right next door, selling dried cod to Portugal and Spain, and pickled herrings to Germany.

Now, the fishing industry remains strong, as does the whaling. Though I have it on good authority that the whaling and fishing run by Norway is sustainable. My uncle works for the fisheries and oceans institute. They count before they catch, they monitor the stocks, and they respect the advice of scientists. This is one reason why they are not in the EU — they want to retain their own fishing grounds and management, whereas the rest of Europe have destroyed their own fishing industries through over-fishing and poor management.

Norway has become a leader in all sorts of industrial design and engineering fields. Shipping, offshore oil and gas exploration and drilling, as well as renewable energy technologies. They are world leaders at building drilling platforms, and have also been capturing and re-injecting carbon dioxide into an oil reservoir in the north sea since the mid-nineties. They introduced a carbon tax around the same time and have 90% hydro electricity, but yet they are way up there with the US when it comes to per capita carbon emissions.

A company selling frozen fish was found to be sending Norwegian-caught fish to China on a plane where it was filleted and packaged and then sent back to Norway by plane to be sold on the local market. All because the company could save 20 cents per packet by using Chinese labour. And this from a country with a carbon tax?

Read the rest of this post over at our Back in a Bit blog

Peter Fray

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