UPDATED: Kurt Willy Oddekalv - Memorial page

Kurt Willy Oddekalv – Til Minne

We have lost yesterday, 11 January 2021, a great environmental warrior. Through a long and rich life, Kurt Oddekalv has left a big mark in Norway, and also around the world. His life and work were dedicated to nature, the environment, family, people and environmental protection. He was known for his clear opinions and for his steadfastness and will to fight. There was more than one environmental sinner, politician and bureaucrat who got something to worry about when they didn't have everything in order. You don't mess with the environment. To many, he was both loud and controversial, but everything he did was with a good heart and in the best of intentions. And Kurt always had a twinkle in his eye and could both smile and joke with his best enemies and opponents.

For Kurt, it was always about caring. Both about their fellow human beings and about those fellow creatures who could not defend themselves.

The way forward

The Norwegian Environmental Protection Association has for a long time struggled with tight finances and is in a demanding financial situation. Our good supporters have loyally stood up for us, but the job of raising money for environmental protection and operations has never been easy. We have probably been a little too good at bothering the environmental sinners and the industries that profit the most from failing the environment. As head of the Norwegian Environmental Protection Association, this has been a very strenuous and burdensome task for Kurt. As Kurt himself said, we in the Environmental Protection Association have been more concerned with working on issues than recruiting members. In order to improve on this, we switched to a new membership system and invested more in membership recruitment and communication to our members, local teams and local environmental groups recently. We want a stronger and more robust Environmental Protection Association to tackle the environmental challenges we face, and it is the members and our loyal supporters who are the backbone of the environmental campaign and the Environmental Protection Association.

The environment, nature, species diversity, and the many local communities and individuals across the country need us. The Norwegian Environmental Protection Association is committed to continuing Kurt's work, and to continuing his thoughts and visions by continuing to build a strong and powerful organization that works on environmental issues. We have a strong voice, and not least, many good friends.

With the loss of Kurt Oddekalv, we have lost our very best. The time after his passing will be long and tough, but that is exactly what he taught us and prepared us for. The road continues and we have started it now.

Growing up

Kurt was born and spent his first childhood in Senja, before he and his family later moved to Bergen where he attended school from the age of eight. He gained some of his toughness from having to fight his way through the first years of school as the smallest boy and with the wrong dialect. This has been clear in shaping the environmental warrior that Kurt would later become known for. With his mother from Senja, and his father from Solund, at the far end of the sea gap in Sogn in Western Norway, he has had most of nature and weather conditions with him from childhood. He has used both places diligently when he has been on holiday and disconnected at one of his cabins.

He was a keen hunter and fisherman, and was very keen to harvest nature's bounty. He called the catch a gift and greatly appreciated what he could get home from nature. Being able to live in harmony with nature was something he liked to share with others, and spoke both willingly and enthusiastically about the importance of this to anyone who would listen. Much of this and the respect for what we have around us he has gained from his time with the Lakota tribe in the USA, and from his good acquaintances from our own indigenous people, the Sami. Their deep ecological way of thinking and the approach to nature meant a lot to him. He himself was an inexhaustible source of knowledge about everything from conservation methods to old building customs, history and good environmental solutions. As a builder, he has been able to try this out in practice. There are, for example, not a few buildings in Western Norway that Kurt has had a sod roof in his career.

An environmental warrior leaves a mark

Kurt has left many solid traces in Norwegian society and politics. Not only has he built up the Norwegian Environmental Protection Association, but he has also ensured that the association has many important tools for the environment. One of his many darlings is the eco-hotel Seletun close to his home south of Bergen. Here, he and the Environmental Protection Association have collected several older buildings and tested good environmental solutions and building practices. He has also had a state-of-the-art catamaran, MS Miljødronningen, built, which has been traveling along the entire Norwegian coast to expose environmental criminals and carry out information work. In recent years, it has mainly been used to clear plastic waste from Hordaland to Finnmark, and in 2019 it helped remove a whopping 220 tonnes of plastic waste in collaboration with "In The Same Boat" and thousands of school youth and volunteers. With a large helicopter deck and a large conference room on board, there are quite a few who have received training in environmental protection in the many large and small ports it has visited along the coast.

In addition to the environmental hotel Seletun, the Norwegian Environmental Protection Association has several other buildings and businesses. Kurt was always proud of the story and how everything is built up. There wasn't a single lecture he gave that didn't include this one. Kurt founded Norway's Environment Protection Association in 1993 when he left the Nature Conservation Association. He had no patience with delay and casualness. He wanted action and results. In the very first brochure that was made in the new association, it is clearly stated on the front page; "ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION ASSOCIATION - DEFENDERS OF THE ENVIRONMENT!", and especially "The greatest possible environmental protection in the shortest possible time.". For Kurt, it was not just about working with environmental protection, but about winning as many cases as possible. That is what is and has been the driving force. Caring, and making a positive difference to society, to the individual and to nature.

Always fearless

Another thing that characterized Kurt was that he was never afraid of being unpopular or ridiculed. As a self-taught robber, he was incredibly knowledgeable and was never afraid to read through heavy technical reports or to go in new directions. Many of the cases he worked on were handled by him alone, but often the others followed when he had received attention for the cases. There are many who ridiculed him and called him both a fool and what was worse, who later had to admit that he was actually right. Some of his best friends, or "jommiers", as they are called in true Bergensk, he has previously reported to the police, such as one of the country's biggest mackerel fishermen whom he previously reported for dumping small mackerel, or the farmer who he found with an excavator in a protected watercourse. There was both a review and a good discussion, but his good heart, twinkle in his eye, and generous demeanor have given him many friends where you wouldn't think they existed. Kurt was in many ways bigger than himself.

Environmental crises can be solved

Kurt was also concerned that most environmental crises can be resolved. This applied not least to the fight against acid rain, the hole in the ozone layer and the smoking law. In the fight against acid rain, he said:

"I created an action where we got a two-tonne gneiss (Norway's national stone) from Hardangervidda and a pine from Fanafjellet which we mounted on gold-plated bolts, and a sign with an inscription was mounted on this pine branch. "I was born in 1785. Been standing on this place in fighting, wind, rain and snow, watching my children grow. Now, I'm sadly watchin my children dying in the acid rain».

Then costumes were borrowed from Stiklestadspelet, and we rented the Gokstad ship from Ragnar Thorseth. We then rowed out with 30 Vikings, 15 of our own, and 15 of the most bearded and hairiest we could find in town. 

This stunt received full coverage on both CNN and the BBC, where I read out the text of a Margaret Thatcher lookalike who was engaged for the occasion. In the text, I threatened to return as at Stamford Bridge in 1066 when Harald Hardråde fell. England should stop the emissions or feel the consequences from angry Vikings...

Of course, we also did many other things in the fight against acid rain, but one of the most important things was to draw attention to the matter outside our own country as well. This battle was a victory when emissions in Europe and the UK were cleaned up, and new strict emission laws were passed.”

Resistance is useful

An important rule of life Kurt was always concerned with is that resistance is useful. With more than 37 years of experience as one of the country's most controversial and inventive environmental warriors, he has set the tone in the environmental fight. Many things we today take for granted or do not reflect on are Kurt's merits. Many former environmental criminals have had to build treatment plants or change their business, and good transport projects have been created after Kurt got involved in the issues. Many rich and powerful players have had to feel Kurt's opposition deep in their bank accounts, not least among others the farming industry which has experienced lost income and plummeting sales in other countries as a result of information about an unhealthy business and environmental toxins in farmed fish from the Environmental Protection Association's information campaigns.

Solving the environmental problems has been the driving force and not where the income has come from. This has meant that the Danish Environmental Protection Association, despite its many assets, has always been broke when the salary of the employees had to be paid. That there has been money to pay salaries when the new month begins has been more the exception than the rule. This is also why many people have quit their jobs over the years, but also why those who work in the Norwegian Environmental Protection Association are tenacious and genuinely concerned with solving environmental issues. Kurt gladly said he would "environmental warriors with the knowledge of professors, the strength of an elite soldier, the morals of a priest, and who can talk like a taxi driver".

Old and new environmental challenges

Throughout his career as an environmental warrior, Kurt has followed his own path and has not been concerned about whether what he fights for is popular or pays off in money. Here has often gone against the flow and in a number of areas been far ahead of its time. While a united environmental movement early on actively advocated the construction of wind power, Kurt has always been completely against it. He saw early on what consequences this would have for nature, species diversity, the landscape, the local environment and for individuals. There was no stable or good energy source either. Kurt always went deep into the cases to understand mechanisms and consequences. When it comes to the climate, he was also early on, and at the environmental summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, he stormed into the actual meeting and confronted the then Minister of Environmental Protection, Torbjørn Berntsen, with some truths. In the climate issue, he never saw wind power as a solution. He already saw all the negative consequences we point out today at the very beginning.

Right from the start of the Norwegian Environmental Protection Association, he worked on issues around pollution, environmental toxins in food, classical nature conservation, species protection and protection of habitats, protection of waterways, consumption and consumption patterns, electromagnetic radiation, traffic, spatial planning and public transport. There are many of the same environmental issues we have today as when Kurt started his life as an environmental warrior. Many problems have now become both more numerous and much larger, and what they spent months building out now goes away in a few weeks with large and efficient machines. We have all taken nature for granted, because we have always had so much of it. Now that we have less and less left, and what we have now has been fragmented and degraded in so many ways. Kurt saw it as a life's task to raise awareness of the values we are now about to lose forever and ever. We must use nature, not consume it.

Our environmental warrior has now passed away

Everyone in this country, and also outside our borders, has had a relationship with Kurt Oddekalv, whether we are aware of it or not. He has achieved many positive things that are important to many of us. He has been good at highlighting issues and getting them on the agenda. Many others have come lagging behind when the cases have received attention, but it is an undisputed fact that Kurt has been one of the great pioneers in the Norwegian environmental movement and he has left a big mark in his wake. The work he has led will also continue after him, but it goes without saying that it will be difficult to achieve the same as he has managed and carried out over the years. Fortunately, he has also made a deep impression on many people who are now standing together and are engaged in carrying on the environmental fight.

The time after Kurt will be long and difficult, but tens of thousands of enlightened, nature-loving and environmentally committed people have over several decades been inspired by his courage and good heart, and with his life and life's work as a driving force, there is hope for the future. It was also what Kurt himself wanted, that he built something bigger than himself, and which would give people hope far into the future.

The loss of Kurt is a great blow to his family, those closest to him and to his many environmental warriors, supporters and friends. His life and work that has inspired so many will now live on. Kurt was the one who never gave up. Let his life and life's work be our guide. Kurt's memory is best honored by continuing his work.

Rest in peace, Kurt. We will continue the fight. To you and your life's work, we are eternally grateful.

Some news articles and words of remembrance

We would also like to take this opportunity to thank you for the great support and kind words we have received.

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