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3 May 2022

Amnesty Sápmi

Sweden: Locals protest wind energy construction due to concerns over impacts on Sami reindeer grazing lands

Samuel Strömberg

Unofficial translation of the Swedish original, available here.

"Locals block wind energy construction in Sollefteå, Sweden", 2 May 2022

On 1 May 2022, the wind power construction "Twin Peaks" in Sollefteå municipality was blocked by some determined locals who have literally stood in the way of the establishment of another wind power industry in the interior of Norrland. Kim Hultgren, one of the initiators of the protest, writes in a press release.

They are a number of committed citizens who have seen it necessary, through direct action, to draw attention to, and try to put an end to, the ruthless exploitation of the northern countryside that is currently taking place throughout Sápmi. With their bodies, they have blocked the road used to build wind turbines up on the hill in Salsjö.

"This is not something we want to do. We would rather not. We would rather focus on digging farm beds, taking care of the animals, fishing, chopping wood, renovating homes, spring plowing, building wetlands, building social networks and petting cats. We would much rather fight to contribute to a positive development, a vibrant sparsely populated area and a restoration of our landscapes than to try to put the finishing touches on this colonial project. But now that no parliamentary means work, we have to try something else, ”says Kim Hultgren.

Sollefteå municipality already contributes greatly to Sweden's electricity production. It is the country's second largest supplier of hydropower with its 26 hydropower plants. In addition, there are 111 wind turbines. It has involved major interventions in the environment and living conditions and now the activists believe that it must be enough.

Since Sollefteå municipality decided to approve the plans for three new wind power industries in the forests between Ångermanälven, Fjällsjöälven and Faxälven, what is now called Twin Peaks Salsjö, Twin Peaks Ranasjö, and Vindpark Vaberget, it has become increasingly clear that these establishments threaten the entire area. At a time when immigration is increasing at a record pace, house prices are rising, schools are being filled with new students and tourists are flocking to fishing waters and hiking trails, companies in the immediate area are now threatened with bankruptcy when nature is devastated and living conditions deteriorate.

The current intervention entails another restriction on the Sami reindeer grazing lands. Since the decision was made by the County Administrative Board to grant a permit for these wind turbines, the Sami Parliament has repeatedly protested strongly against these intrusions. The municipality of Sollefteå and the county administrative boards in both Västernorrland and Jämtland counties have chosen to completely ignore this. Instead, it is stubbornly claimed that "the national interest in wind power takes precedence over the national interest in nature conservation and reindeer husbandry".

But the devastating effects of wind power do not only seem local. It's not just about the local population, the reindeer herding industry, the disturbances, the wildlife and the microplastics.

“This has consequences far beyond the wind farm itself. What you see, a white pillar with three rotating wing blades, is only a small part of what a wind turbine really is. A wind turbine is also cables, slabs, roads, drainage, substations, power lines and masts. All these materials come from somewhere. Trucks are also required to transport materials, excavators, trains, ships, and large cranes. And all these machines are powered by diesel, ”says Kim Hultgren.

The wind power industry is inevitably interconnected with other very dirty industries. The production of steel and cement are major climate culprits, and are needed in large quantities in the construction of a wind turbine. More wind power means, for example, iron ore from Gállok, copper from Aitik, Viscaria and Laver, rare earth metals from Norra Kärr, cement from Gotland and nickel from Rönnbäcken. It is currently planned to double the number of mines to meet the so-called "green transition". A change that needs mining, fossil fuels, and that drives over local people and indigenous peoples, is not a paradigm shift. It's just more of the same. It is about "green colonialism".

“For us, this fight is bigger than just against wind power locally. This is a struggle against a completely colonial system where the rich live at the expense of nature and sparsely populated areas. It is a struggle against the industrialization of our landscapes. It is a struggle for clean water, solid mountains, living soils and ultimately for life itself. Now it must actually be enough ", says Kim Hultgren.

We demand that the destruction of our cultural lands be stopped.

We demand an immediate stop to the wind power projects in Salsjö, Ranasjö and Vaberget.

Committed residents in Sollefteå municipality