The men woh made Iceland go cap in han to the IMF ar now bent on ruining its landscape

After touring for 18 months I was excited to  return home 8 weeks ago to good, solid Iceland and enjoy a little bit of  stability. I had done a concert there earlier this year to raise awareness  about local environmental issues - especially alternatives to aluminium  smelters - and 10 per cent of the nation came to it; but I still felt it  wasn’t enough.

So when I got home I decided to contact people all over  the island who had attempted to start new companies and bring in new ways of  working, but had not succeeded. For a long time Iceland’s main income had been  fishing, but when that become uneconomic, people started looking for other  ways to earn a living. The conservatives in power thought that harnessing  Iceland’s natural energy and selling it to huge companies such as Alcoa and  Rio Tinto would solve the problem.

Now we have three aluminum smelters,  some of the biggest in Europe; and in the space of the next three years they  want to build two more. A lot of Icelanders are against this. They would  rather continue to develop smaller companies that they own themselves and keep  the money they earn. Many battles have been fought in Iceland on these  issues.

In one of these battles  the Minister for the Environment forced Alcoa to include the impacts of energy  exploiting in their Environmental Impact Assessment. The smelter would need  energy from a handful of new geothermal power plants and possibly also some  dams. This would damage pristine wilderness, hot springs and lava fields. To  take this much energy from the geothermal fields is not even sustainable.

And then the economic crisis hit. For the  first time in my life, I was surrounded by economists and financiers, and  people with small businesses in trouble.Young families are threatened with  losing their houses, and elderly people with losing all their pensions. This  is catastrophic.

There is also a lot of anger. The six biggest venture  capitalists in Iceland are being booed in public and on TV and radio shows,  with furious voices insisting that they sell all their belongings and give  them to the nation. Gigantic loans, it was revealed, had been taken from  abroad by a few individuals and without the full knowledge of the Icelandic  people. Now the nation seems to be responsible for having to pay them  back.

What makes people furious is that the same people that put  Icelanders in this situation are now the ones trying to get us out of it.  There are a lot of people here that want the people in charge to resign and  allows others to tidy up after them. Most criticism is aimed at Davíð Oddson,  the head of the Central Bank, with people now gathering once a week in  downtown Reykjavik demanding his resignation. He is being criticised, among  other things, for making himself head of the Central Bank after 19 years of  being the Mayor of Reykjavík and then 13 years of being Prime  Minister.

then a huge and most spectacular strike came surprisingly  from your own prime minister . So I quote a petition signed by 10 % of the  nation : “ Gordon  Brown unjustifiably used the Anti-Terrorism Act against the people of Iceland  for his own short-term political gain .This has turned a grave situation into  a national disaster . . . hour by hour and day by day the actions of the  British Government are indiscriminately obliterating Icelandic  interests.”

Usually I  don’t notice politics. I can quite happily live in the land of music-making.  But what did get me caught up in it was how politicians seem bent on ruining  Iceland’s natural environment. And I read last week that because of the  economic crisis, few parliament members have even  suggested that the law on Environmental Impact Assessment should be  ignored so they can build their  dams as quickly as possible, in order to give Alcoa and Rio Tinto the energy  they need for the two more aluminium smelters they want to  build.

Iceland is a small country. We missed out on the industrial  evolution and my hope was that we would skip it completely and go straight to  sustainable hi-tech options. If someone could facilitate this, we could do it.  There is a wonderful characteristic in the Icelandic mentality - fearlessness,  with an addiction to risk-taking to the point of being foolhardy. I´m not sure  the stock market is the right place for these characteristics . In music  making, storytelling and creative thought, this risk-taking is a great thing.  And after being introduced to a lot of Iceland’s small, growing companies I  realize how many of them have shown this fearless approach either in  biotechnology or high technology and can diversify in the  future.

Icelanders are highly educated in advanced sciences. We have  hundreds of people with phd in molecular biology , biotechnics  and  similar fields . We have Orf in biogenetics, one of the best of its kind in  the world; Össur, an artificial limb-maker, CCP, a computer games maker, and  so on. We also have a lot of doctors and people educated in the health  industry .  because of the hundreds of naturally hot pools all over the  island and our ( so far ) almost untouched nature , we could easily become one  big lush spa where people could come and nurse their wounds and relax …

In the final analysis, flexibility is important: we will have to live  with the three aluminium smelters that are here already and try to find ways  of making them “greener” (harnessing CO2 for example). But do we need five? In  the past having all our eggs in the same basket has proven far too risky, as  was illustrated in the days when we got 70 per cent of our income from fish;  now we are facing a disaster from betting everything on finance (we now owe 12  times our annual income in foreign loans). If we build two more aluminum  smelters, Iceland would become the biggest aluminum smelter in the world, and  be known only for that. It would leave little room for anything else. If the  price of aluminum falls (which it is doing at present) it would be  catastrophic.i am not going to go into the obvious environmental damage 5  aluminium smelters can do to one small island . One thing that the icelandic  energy companies have ever revealed is the low price alcoa and rio tinte are  paying for the electricity here . This is unheard of . These figures are  supposed to be public . In this article , written 3 years ago on the Alcoa  website it is said though that they pay half of the price they pay in brazil ,  30 dollars per megawatt-hour .  Which must mean 15 dollars per megawatt hour . . All the icelandic businesess , the  greenhouses who grow vegetables , many on the verge of bankruptcy , have to  pay full price . This is just one of many ways where the icelandic goverment  and the icelandic energy companies have made it a lot easier for alcoa and rio  tinte to operate here than the companies of their own countrymen .

Iceland can be more  self-sufficient and more creative - and have an approach that is more 21st  century than 19th century. It can build fewer, smaller and greener dams. Let´s  use this economical crisis to become totally sustainable !!!!! Teach the world  all we know about geothermal power plants .  Support the Icelandic seed  companies. Support the grassroots. It may take longer to build and deliver  profits but it is solid, stable and something that will stand independent of  the rollercoaster rides of Wall Street and volatile aluminium  prices.

And it will help Iceland remain what it is best at: being a gorgeous, unpredictable force of nature.

Article in The Times

Oct. 29, 2008
Björk Guðmundsdóttir „After financial meltdown, now it's smeltdown“, Náttú Oct. 29, 2008 URL: [Skoðað:June 12, 2024]
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skrifað: Jan. 28, 2014
breytt: Jan. 30, 2014