there is no peace for the reindeer of the Sami, between climate change, wind turbines and new mines –

there is no peace for the reindeer of the Sami, between climate change, wind turbines and new mines –

Sweden: not c

We are in full Christmas mood. And we are all kinder, more optimistic and more understanding with others. Might as well, then, talk about reindeer. And of progress. But here, Santa Claus and the “engines” of his magical sleigh count for little. The reindeer we are talking about are not in the heart of Lapland, but a little further down, in Sweden; indeed, in Northern Sweden, near the city of Ume, where most of the Sami reindeer herders live: more than 50 percent of these ungulates present on the face of the Earth graze just a few kilometers from the University of Ume, very known for medical and technological research. It is a pity, however, that it is precisely technology, the future – in short, progress – that starves the reindeer of this area, which risk being left without pastures where they can feed. And all this, paradoxically, happens in the country of Greta Thunberg, who has something to do with this story, and how.

In Sweden, near the city of Ume, the “Sami” reindeer risk being left without grazing, taken away from the construction of mega-wind farms. Furthermore, it does not snow and the frozen fields prevent the animals from feeding on the grasses and lichens in the pastures between the forests

In truth, there are two dangers for these animals, among the few that are at ease in the Arctic regions: the first is represented by climate change. The snow – which usually falls profusely in these areas from the beginning of November, thick and soft – was very little this year: only a lot of rain and sleet. The result that this type of sleet freezes quickly and makes it difficult for the reindeer to feed on lichen, their main source of food, says Elle Merete Omma, a reindeer breeder, interviewed by the BBC in a recent report. The lady says she is very worried about the future of the reindeer: also because the second danger is no less impactful than the first. On a hill near the farms, the construction of a wind farm has greatly reduced the extension of the pastures.

The War of the Breeders

It is as if progress has taken a step backwards. The turbines have cut the pastures in two in the places where the snow usually settles the mostOmma adds. What to do? Certainly, the reindeer will decide to keep well away from a pasture where turbines are in operation, with their strange and impressive noise for animals with a long and fast trot. However, by doing so, they will leave those same pastures to other farmers, explains Mrs. Omma, who is part of the Sami Council, an independent organization for the rights of the Sami. In short, between the climate crisis and “invasive” turbines, we are also witnessing a war between the poor: in fact, there have been legal battles with local industries or conflicts between farmers. Meanwhile, knowing what science thinks about all of this isn’t a bad idea.

Goodbye to reindeer meat, fur and antlers

But, even here, opinions are discordant: on the one hand, both the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and the National Agency for Environmental Protection encounter particular problems for reindeer. But yesAccording to other Swedish and Norwegian academic studies, the wind farm would not have such an impact on animals. Meanwhile, the requests to increase the number of turbines in the pastures do not give peaceful dreams to reindeer farmers: one in 10 Sami who live in Sweden earns from the trade in reindeer meat, fur and horns. Many others work in tourism and craft jobs related to the Sami culture. Where can this come from tug-of-war between shepherds and wind turbine managers (which is so reminiscent of the fight between David and Goliath) soon to know. It must also be said that “No one touches the Sami culture” is not always an attitude shared by all farmers: The assessment of any potential impact on the reindeer is always ‘an important part’ of the planning process: in some areas, in fact, we have reached agreements between the company and the Sami village, in other cases the court that decided what conditions apply to the operation, recalls Kristina Falk, head of permits for the renewable energy company “Svevind”, which operates many of Sweden’s wind turbines .

A little local decarbonization

There Svevind is not the only “danger” for reindeer in the Vsterbotten region, of which Ume is a part. Other realities under the banner of decarbonization as if they were encircling the freedom of these animals: da one of the largest European factories of electric batteries to the nascent fossil fuel free steel plant, and which will run on hydrogen (goodbye blast furnaces) until the construction of mines from which to extract the raw materials for this type of industry. Call it, if you want, the paradox of the green industry? Listening to the opinion of Maria Petterson, professor of environmental law at the Lule University of Technology, one has the impression of remaining in the middle ground: Investing in a fossil-free industry is necessary for Sweden to meet its climate goals, but I greatly fear that the clashes between reindeer herders and green industry leaders could escalate further.. There isn’t a bad guy here, there are so many bad guys, so many industries that want to come here and take, take, take only these so-called natural resources, recalls Rikard Lnta, 54, a Sami reindeer herder.

Jokkmokk, same landscape, same problems

Leaving Ume to move to Jokkmokk, further north, not that things change. Here too, Sami reindeer herders say they feel crushed by the growth of the new industrial revolution. In fact, an iron mine managed by the British “Beowulf Mining” should be built here. Yes, indeed a mine of ferrous materials in the heart of the green industry. The managers of Beowulf Mining apparently refused to give explanations, but Svemin, the Swedish group that includes producers of mines, minerals and metals, thought about it to give an answer: Recycling metals is extremely important and we must commit ourselves more to researching methods as reliable as possible: but it will not be enough and we will need mining for a long time to come, says Maria Sunr, CEO of Svemin.

Greta raises her voice

Luckily there is Greta Thunberg. We had written her name at the beginning, because the Swedish activist for sustainable development has been to Jokkmokk several times, describing the industrial plans against local farmers as an example of colonialism. And his charity last month raised just under £160,000 to donate to pastors to help with legal costs. The British company Beowulf Mining has yet to obtain a number of permits from the Swedish government. And there is no shortage of warnings for Beowulf Mining itself, which could obtain the concession of the mine on condition that it manages to minimize the impact on reindeer herds, as well as a compensation for the farmers. For example, it is thought to support the costs of trucks on which to load the cattle to move them to an area not affected by the works of the mine.

Shepherds don’t trust

But all these “precautions” do not convince local farmers. This is absolutely contrary to the traditional way of herding reindeer, says Henrik Blind, a local Green Party politician from a family of reindeer herders. He adds: Let’s not forget that this is a fight for our rights. Of the opposite opinion, a nurse from Jokkmokk, which, we must not forget, is still a very small town, with just over 5,000 inhabitants: I hope that the construction of the mine will encourage more people to move to Jokkmokk: we would have more shops and more opportunities for the development of our community.

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