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ENVIRONMENT

Greta Thunberg protests against Sweden iron mine on Sami land

Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg and members of the Nordic country's indigenous Sami community on Saturday protested against a possible iron ore mine in northern Sweden.

Greta Thunberg, Sweden
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg protests iron mine. Photo: Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP

The government is next month to decide whether to greenlight the controversial project led by UK firm Beowulf, which has promised to create 250 to 300 jobs in the area.

But the Sami, an estimated 20,000 to 40,000 of whom live in Sweden, say the plan will prevent reindeer herding, disrupt hunting and fishing, and destroy the environment in their homeland.

“We believe that the climate, the environment, clean air, water, reindeer herding, indigenous rights and the future of humanity should be prioritised above the short-term profit of a company,” Thunberg said in an English-language video message.

“The Swedish government needs to stop the colonisation of Sapmi,” she added, using a term for Sami land.

Stina Lanta, a young resident of the village of Jahkagasska near the proposed Kallak mine, said she was worried.

“A mine would have a permanent negative impact on our grazing lands,” she said.

The European Union’s only indigenous population, an estimated 100,000 Sami live across the vast Arctic wilderness of northernmost Finland, Norway and Sweden as well as Russia’s Kola peninsula.

For much of the 20th century, governments denounced the indigenous people and their culture as uncivilised and inferior.

In the last five years, Finland, Norway and Sweden have stepped up moves to atone for past injustices, setting up truth and reconciliation commissions and repatriating stolen Sami artefacts.

But the Sami argue that their rights continue to go unrecognised, pointing for example to government plans to open up parts of their mineral-rich homeland to mining companies.

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2022 SWEDISH ELECTION

Greta Thunberg deplores lack of climate debate in Swedish vote

Sweden's most famous climate activist, Greta Thunberg, on Friday deplored the lack of debate on the climate as the nation prepares to go to the polls on Sunday.

Greta Thunberg deplores lack of climate debate in Swedish vote

Climate concerns have taken a backseat in the election campaign. Voters are more focused on rising gang violence and soaring energy prices.

“The climate crisis has been more or less ignored in this election campaign. At best it’s been reduced to an issue about energy. So we have a lot to do,” she told AFP.

Sporting a striped T-shirt, the young activist took part in a protest with several hundred others in central Stockholm on Friday.

Sweden’s legislative elections on Sunday, where 349 seats in parliament are up for grabs, are expected to be a nail-biter, with the left- and right-wing blocs polling dead even.

READ ALSO: Your guide to The Local’s Swedish election coverage

“I am protesting because only voting is not enough,” Thunberg said, criticising politicians for not doing enough on the climate.

“Right now none of the political parties are delivering,” she added.

The 19-year-old activist, who is eligible to vote in her first election this year, has said she had not yet made up her mind which party to vote for.

But she stressed it was important for people to voice their concerns “to show politicians that the climate and the environmental emergency is something that we care about and we are not going to let them get away with another four years of nothing”.

In recent years, Sweden’s left-wing Green party has struggled to attract voters and stay above the four-percent threshold needed to be represented in parliament.

READ ALSO: LATEST POLLS: Who is in the lead with two days to go until Sweden’s election?

The latest polls credit the Greens with between 4.5 and 7.9 percent of voter support.

Thunberg, who began her “School strike for the climate” outside Sweden’s parliament two weeks ahead of the 2018 election when she was 15, has risen to become one of the world’s most famous champions of action on climate change.

Spearheading a global youth movement, Thunberg has spoken at the United Nations, been named a Time person of the year and been tipped as a favourite to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

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