Six hundred miles above the Arctic Circle, sits the town of Akkarfjord. A cluster of colorful houses hugging the steep sides of an inlet of the North Barents Sea. About 80 people call the town home, mostly employed as fishermen or at the local fish factory. It is even named for fish: akkar, or cuttlefish, was the main catch until the populations mysteriously disappeared. About 50 km away gleams a behemoth called Goliat, a new oil rig named for a fallible giant.
Finnmark, or Samiland, is Norway's Northernmost territory, a place where even few Norwegians visit. The coastal people operate on the industries of fishing and energy extraction. Inland, the communities are primarily Sami, an indigenous group with rich roots across Northern Scandinavia. Many in interior towns like Kautokeino and Karasjok maintain a lifestyle and economy centered around reindeer herding, and speak mostly Sami.
On Christmas Eve in 1969, oil was discovered in Norway. The nation's parliament crafted "ten oil commandments" in 1971, including the belief that the oil and the wealth that came from it belonged to the Norwegian people. Since the discovery, Norway has been transformed into a social welfare state, with the wealth from oil and minerals leading to increased national and individual security.
“There are more than 300 words in the Sami language to describe the snow and in the Norway language is maybe five. So we describe the snow. If someone asks me how is the conditions for the reindeers, I can describe the snow with the right word and then he knows what the snow is like, if it’s packed, how the bottom layer is, how is the top layer is. Last year, the warm period came in the middle of March and it warmed up the snow and then got colder again. And then everything was ice, for six weeks. And the reindeer can’t eat through the ice. We lost a lot of reindeers, they died. These days we start giving them grass and food pellets. And I see that every year we have to give them more and morefood in wintertime. That’s the only way to survive when it’s icy.”
- Nils Mikkal Guap
“When you are follow the reindeers from birth, it’s just the way you live. When you are reindeer herder you are a lot alone. You have to like your own company. You see amazing things. The Aurora Borealis can be so strong and bright, you can see and count the herds by it’s light. You can see the mountains. It’s all colors: red, green, yellow, pink.”
-Nils Mikkal Guap, reindeer herder
"We need the ocean to stay in balance. This ecosystem needs to stay in balance. We rely on capelin (lodde in Norwegian) and krill and this small crayfish for food for the larger fish that we catch. If the ocean gets more acidic, these small, small fish will die because their habitat and bodies can not cope with acidic water. And if they die, then the other, bigger fish can not survive. The sea has become more acidic here in Norway, you see it all over the world. The small stuff is very important. "
- Knut Olsen, fisherman
"Sami people and other indigenous people are very depending on the environment, maybe in more ways than other people living in the same area because we are using it more as a basic for our culture and our future. Sami people and the Sami Parliament are quite active in the international process on climate change. It’s important to the Sami Parliament to stress how climate change affects indigenous people, more than it affects other people. Climate change has big impacts when it comes to the nature we are living in and depending on."
- Hege Fjellheim- Deputy Director, Department of Rights and International Issues at the Sami Parliament
“Everything is in balance when you go out hunting. A few years ago I started realizing that things weren’t as they were before. The animals didn’t stay in the same areas. I’ve been hunting since I was a small child and I’ve always found animals in the same places. Now suddenly, two, three, four years ago it started changing. I felt I needed to learn everything again. We were used to having really cold winters with a lot of snow. Then, it started being so hot in the summer that our dogs wouldn’t smell the animals because everything dried up. You went hunting and just shoot and missed the shots. It’s a bit difficult to say what changed, but something did.”
- Jørn Mathisen
“I’ve lived on this island, Sørøya, all my life. I think there’s less snow than when we were small, before we grew up, there was much more snow than now. When we used to go ice fishing in March it was normal to have thicker and harder ice. Now, the ice is very soft and slushy. It will be raining and then get colder again. It’s changing very much, it’s not like it was, when we could get snow and it stay. There is more rain in the winter time here.”
- Paul Nilson
"It’s like an Arctic paradise here in Akkarfjord. You feel like you traveled a long, long way and have arrived at the end of the world. You can lower your shoulders and leave all the hustle behind. You really feel the calmness and tranquility of this place surrounding you. You get really close to nature because everything depends on the weather. Whether you can go to the shop or if you can go out in nature to enjoy your spare time, what you are doing is always depending on weather. The day-to-day struggles and practical things can feel big because it’s such a harsh climate. Living here is a challenge, but a challenge you want to master. If you want to have an easy life, you don’t choose this place. But if you like challenges and you like to feel the weather on your face, and feel that you can manage and achieve things with your hands and your body, than it’s really satisfying to live in a place like this. It’s a different life than the city, but it’s more fulfilling in the way that you feel a sense of accomplishment. All the different seasons are joyful because they are so different."
- Oddveig Iren Digre Satereng