Tag Archives: Arctic Council

Mixed Emotions

Sunrise/sunset: 09:04/13:58 Daylength: 4hr54min

We are, once again, reaching the time of year when the hours of daylight start to drop away faster and faster. We currently have almost five hours when the sun is above the horizon, but it is only two and a half weeks until the polar night arrives. I am feeling very tired at the moment and the lack of sunshine might be having an effect on that, but this week the landlord woes I wrote about before have taken an odd and unsettling turn.

I will say first though, that outside of that, I have had a very interesting week. A couple of weeks back, an e-mail dropped into my work in-box about a table top exercise in Tromsø. The subject was emergency readiness in an Arctic setting. There were two scenarios that would be looked at. One was an outbreak of bird flu, the other a more subtle situation where there began to be sickness in reindeer, where the cause was not known. The meeting was being held under the auspices of the Arctic Council in line with the One Health Initiative. I was not aware that there was an Arctic Council, nor did I know anything about the One Health Initiative, so as you can imagine, it was a steep learning curve. That said, I found myself included (alongside my colleague Anja) more or less by accident, in two projects which are of huge relevance to the job I do, but on a scale that is so far above my pay grade that it felt like a whole new world was opening up.

To explain a little, the Arctic Council is an intergovernmental forum which includes the eight countries which exercise sovereignty over the land that falls within the Arctic Circle, so Norway, Canada, the United States, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden and Russia. There is also a focus on including indigenous groups so that their concerns are properly represented and their knowledge brought forward.

The One Health Initiative is a movement which brings together medics, vets, researchers, environmentalists and other professionals to work towards a better understanding of the interdependence of human and animal health and the way that changes in the environment might impact these balances. Many of the diseases we monitor in animals at Mattilsynet (the Norwegian Food Standards Agency) are zoonotic (they can pass between animals and humans) or might become so. For example, we are currently keeping a close eye on bird flu, which can pass to humans when there is close contact between birds and people, but so far doesn’t spread easily between people after it made that jump. Similarly, we monitor salmonella (which spreads readily between humans and animals) and diseases like BSE (mad cow disease) and illnesses in other species that are related to it.

My job then, is right on the front line of dealing with that monitoring. I take samples from the animals, send them off to the lab and receive information back about whether they were positive or negative. Because I am interested in the wider picture, I quite often dip into Mattilsynets national emergency readiness website to see what is happening in other areas, to get a taste of how disease outbreaks are being handled. If an outbreak occurred in my local region, I would doubtless be involved in any testing that occurred, but generally all decisions about what happens from there are taken much higher up and other activities (for example, the disposal of the carcases of animals that present a risk) are then handed off to other agencies. I might be peripherally aware of it going on, assuming it was occurring in my locale, but I wouldn’t have any direct involvement.

Mattilsynet had apparently been contacted a good deal earlier about this exercise, but hadn’t responded. As it was getting later and later, the woman organising it had reached out to someone she knew in the local region, who had then put out an urgent call for representation (and unusually, had made the suggestion that someone relatively new to Mattilsynet might be suitable, as they would perhaps learn a great deal). Anja said she could go on days one and two, but asked if anyone could go on the third, or better still every day. I, despite still being up to my elbows in seasonal meat inspection, tentatively suggested that I might actually be free all three days. So I can only say that I went from a small, local perspective on emergency readiness as it relates to zoonotic diseases (with a quiet eye on the national situation in moments when time allowed) to a global perspective on the same topic. My mind was genuinely so blown by this that it took me until day three to really pick myself up and start to properly contribute, which I am proud to say I did.

Unfortunately, there was another factor thrown into this mix. On the first day of the exercise, in the morning, a letter from Husleietvistutvalget (the rent disputes tribunal) thudded into my digital mailbox. As regular readers will know, my ex landlord is making a vexatious claim against me for a huge sum of money and I previously have responded to his accusations, in what I believe was a careful and truthful manner. This new letter was his response. In a way, it was easy to respond to. It was filled with bizarre lies, which in some cases were easy to undermine.

For example, he has thrown away and replaced a cooker, which he says I had set on fire. This was an ancient cooker, which was acknowledged by his wife when we went round the flat together at the end of the tenancy. I was surprised to read then, in this latest letter, that it was actually relatively new and had been bought in 2018. The “proof” he provided was a receipt for a cooker bought in 2018. Had I been less prepared, or had he been luckier, I would have been at a loss regarding how to counter this claim. However, my photograph of the kitchen area had a reasonably clear (if rather distant) picture of the cooker. Though his receipt was for a Gram cooker, it was possible on my photo to home in on the logo on the cooker in the flat, which was a Zanussi.

There was other stuff, of a similar nature. The receipt he had sent for a sofa was one where, zoomed in, you could see it was bought in 2020 (after we moved in) and not now. It wasn’t the sofa in the apartment, so this was neither proof that the sofa we used was new when we moved in, nor that he’d had to buy a new one after we had left. To be honest, his lies have now reached such a level of inconsistency and outrageousness that I’m not too worried about the way the case handlers will view it, but I am worried about what he might do if and when he doesn’t get his way. He also has some money of mine, which was a rent payment, accidentally sent after I moved out. When I called the bank, shortly after realising what had happened, they advised me that if he didn’t send the money back, I should contact the police. I am now seriously considering whether I should go to the police and make sure they have details of the whole sorry case, from the start, when he stood in the apartment shouting at me, rather than explaining what he felt I needed to do to rectify faults he believed I needed to address, to this latest missal, which suggests to me that he is really starting to lose the plot.

Anyway, it was unfortunate that this fell onto me during this wonderful conference. However, despite that, I still managed to enjoy my trip. By the end of it, I was wondering how on earth I could get more involved, as it seems unlikely I will be included in the next exercise, which will be in Alaska. I even started to look up Masters Degrees in Public Health, but at 53, spending two years back at university would be a huge and significant change. It has certainly given me a lot of food for thought though.

I was very tired as I was driving back yesterday, but I stopped to take a picture of the snow, which has now come down from the mountains, though it is still patchy at sea level.

Snowy track leading out across the moors on the E6 north of Buktamoen.

And now I have to go. My car has been in at the garage in Tromsø. It had a major fault that could only be fixed there, and now I have to go catch a boat so I can pick it up. Have a lovely week all!