An Intergenerational Séance on Extractivism



Herman Hjorth Berge

To the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate, Oslo
On the 27th of June, 1935, we sent a concession application for a high voltage electric power line from Rettedal to Forsand. Additionally, in the application we requested a quick processing of the application because construction was due to start in autumn. We have not yet received the concession. For about 5 weeks, we have had 13 previously unemployed men working on the power station, but now we have to halt the work as we will not receive the bank loan until the concession is processed. We therefore once again ask you to send the concession as soon as possible.

On behalf of Forsand Elektrisitetsverk Most respectfully,
Peder P. Berge, Forsand, 1935 [1]

As a consequence of the new law, the electricity-works was transformed into a limited liability company in 1994. It was a transformation from municipal administration to business management. The price of electricity was to be determined by the market, in the intersection between buyer and seller. Electricity was no longer a public good benefitting and available to everyone, but a commodity similar in nature to other products. The energy law enabled the market powers, through free competition between electricity suppliers. Formerly, one was used to balancing expenses and profit. Rational operation should benefit subscribers in the form of low-cost electricity. Now, the new order was to factor in returns on the operation to then yield revenue for the owners.
We should take care of the past for the future. The past had values that were vital and that we can benefit from in the future. The story of electricity only goes back 100 years in time. For us living in today’s society, with every possible technical aid, it is hard to imagine an existence without electricity. It was these kinds of thoughts Arne Espeland brought forward in his prologue for the 25th anniversary of the Maudal Hydropower Association in 1955:

Why were we
the chosen
to empty the power
that moves itself
in stream and waterfall,
and not the millions
of people that lived
thousands of thousands of years before us? [2]

Per Ingvar Berge, Bryne, 1999

My grandfather, an electrical engineer, was born on the Berge farm in the nearby Forsand village, at the entrance to Lysefjorden. His aunt and uncle lived on the Bergsvik farm and were without direct descendants. When they became too old to live there, my grandfather and grandmother started using it as a recreational home, along with a hytte they helped build on a rocky part of the property facing the sea. When my grandfather passed away, my father inherited the cabin and my aunt the old farmhouse.

The hytte has traditionally been a point of access to the commons and a place for collective labour. However, it has increasingly become defined by private property rights and is now an object of capital accumulation. The common thread through different hytter has been a feeling of freedom, experienced by many as challenging conventional social constraints; a life out in the open, preferably where social interaction is different from that back home and where one can live out alternatives to modern life.[3] However, this recreational occupation of the natural landscape is increasingly artificial and destructive. The cabin in Bergsvik gets its electricity from massive dams up in the mountains, the farmers’ sheep are dependent on imported artificial feed, and there are less and less fish in the fjord every year. We don’t work the land but go there to work remotely. How did we end up here and how can we cultivate a more sustainable relationship to nature through a place like Bergsvik?

[1] Peder P. Berge, handwritten letter to NVE, November 11, 1935.
[2] Per I. Berge “Føreord frå administrerande direktør (preface from the managing director)”, Historia om Time Elektrisitetsverk 1915 – 1998, Arthur Løvik (Bryne: Jærbladet, 1999).
[3] Arne Lie Christensen, The Norwegian hytte: from peasant cottage to suburban fantasy?, Nordic sport science forum, February 1 2018, accessed March 19 2023,