Norway, the country that consistently tops the global happiness rankings, is facing a series of challenges that could undermine its well-being and prosperity. According to experts, Norway is suffering from an identity crisis, a debt crisis, a drug crisis and a climate crisis that are putting its social model and its future at risk.
Norway has long been known for its high standard of living, its generous welfare system, its egalitarian values and its peaceful foreign policy. However, some Norwegians are questioning their place in the world and their sense of belonging, as they struggle to define their culture and their role in a globalized and changing world.
“We have an identity crisis. We spent four centuries under Denmark and Sweden, and in many ways are still trying to establish exactly what our culture is and what we want to be known for,” said Kenneth Haug, a sociologist at the University of Oslo.
Norway’s oil wealth has also given its inhabitants an unparalleled amount of prosperity, but also a huge amount of debt. Norway’s household debt is among the highest in Europe, as Norwegians have been borrowing money to buy homes and consumer goods at an unsustainable rate.
“Most of us are head over heels in debt. We have been living beyond our means for too long, and we are not prepared for a possible downturn in the economy or a drop in the oil price,” said Ingrid Hjort, an economist at the Norwegian School of Economics.
Norway’s drug problem is another source of concern, as the country has one of the highest rates of drug-related deaths in Europe. Norway’s drug policy has been criticized for being too punitive and ineffective, as it criminalizes users instead of providing them with treatment and harm reduction services.
“We have a drug problem. We have been treating drug users as criminals instead of as patients, and we have failed to address the root causes of addiction and marginalization,” said Lars Olsen, a former drug user and activist.
Norway’s climate problem is perhaps the most ironic and paradoxical, as the country that prides itself on being a leader in environmental issues is also one of the biggest contributors to global warming. Norway’s oil and gas industry is responsible for a large share of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, and its dependence on fossil fuels is incompatible with its commitments to the Paris Agreement.
“We have a climate problem. We have been hypocritical and irresponsible, as we have been profiting from oil and gas while preaching about green transition. We have not done enough to reduce our emissions or to invest in renewable energy sources,” said Anna Berg, an environmentalist and member of the Green Party.
Norway’s social problems are not insurmountable, but they require urgent action and collective responsibility from all sectors of society. Norway still has many strengths and opportunities to overcome its challenges and to maintain its happiness and well-being.
“We are not doomed, but we need to wake up and change our ways. We need to find our identity and our purpose, we need to manage our finances and our resources, we need to help our drug users and our vulnerable groups, we need to protect our environment and our planet. We need to be more humble and more honest,” said Haug.