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Safety Science Monitor

In 1926, two years before he died, Fridtjof Nansen, the Norwegian arctic explorer, scientist and humanist, gave a speech at St. Andrews University in Scotland. The speech had the title “Adventure” and Nansen talked about the human need for challenges. “It is our perpetual yearning to overcome difficulties and dangers, to see the hidden things, to penetrate into the regions outside our beaten track - it is the call of the unknown - the longing for the land of Beyond, the driving force deeply rooted in the soul of man which drove the first hunters into new regions - the mainspring perhaps of our greatest actions - of winged human thought knowing no bounds to its freedom” (Nansen, 1927:20). He did, however, not only speak about the deep longing for the ultimate challenges, but also about our everyday lives. “You have to take risks, and cannot allow yourself to be frightened by them when you are convinced that you are following the right course. Nothing worth having in life is ever attained without taking risks.” (Nansen, 1927:36). Now one could think that these are the words of a very special person, a risk-taking explorer. What would ordinary citizens say? In a national survey of opinions, attitudes, values and behavior in a representative sample of the Norwegian population above 15 years, 10 percent completely agreed to the statement “I am willing to take big chances to get what I want out of life”. 34 percent agreed to some extent. 36 percent disagreed to some extent and only 18 percent disagreed completely. That means that almost half of the population to some extent are willing to take big chances in life. When one bears in mind that this includes not only the young and daring men, but the total population above 15 years, it is a strong indicator of a need for taking chances that is in total contrast to the idea of a safe society. Does this mean that the idea of a secure and safe society has to be given up? Has the safety work failed? Do we have to work even harder to get people to think about safety? Are there big differences concerning safety in different arenas and sectors of society? Are there big and stable individual differences? A lot of interesting and pressing questions arise.

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Norwegian School of Sport Sciences

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