Reine, a picturesque fishing village in the Lofoten islands.

Though it is a wealthy country with a high standard of living, a sparse population, abundant natural resources, and a public commitment to living sustainably, Norway is facing some tough decisions. Does it continue to expand its oil drilling and mining operations that supply much of its wealth, and risk harming the natural environment, the wildlife and marine populations, and the culture and livelihood of some of its citizens to the north? And what stand should it take on such issues as land and water rights for the indigenous Sami population, aquaculture (fish farming), whaling, and the future of small, rural schools?

Norway has been a global leader in the green movement, with aggressive goals for cutting carbon emissions, a commitment to renewable energy development, and a fishing industry that has been said to be a model for sustainability. It also has a 100 percent literacy rate among its citizens, and a detailed plan for incorporating education for sustainable development into its national curriculum. How are these concepts playing out in everyday life, and what unique issues are faced by those living in the northlands?

The village of Sørland on the island of Væroy in the Lofotens.

Northern Norway sits almost entirely north of the Arctic Circle, with the exception of the southern tip of Nordland. Though there has been a steady decline in population since the mid 1970s in this region, the population has begun to increase slightly over the past few years, with growth concentrated in the urban areas, while the rural areas and schools continue to lose residents. In northern Norway there is found a mix of remote villages and small cities, several distinct cultures and languages, and a number of diverse ecosystems. These factors have led to some unique educational and environmental challenges, along with some creative commitments to sustainability, which are key reasons why Earthducation chose to visit this region.

Stretches of white sandy beaches are not uncommon in the Vesterålen and Lofoten islands.

Some of the pressing issues of sustainability that will be investigated by the Earthducation team during Expedition 2 include oil exploration, alternative energy development, toxic pollutants, sustainable fishing, schooling challenges in small remote communities, and the quest to sustain culture, language, and land and water rights in the indigenous Sami communities.