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Apr 25 2013
In his much celebrated play, Accidental Death of an Anarchist, Italian absurdist Dario Fo brings forth a tragicomic picture of the scandal and its most typical aftermaths in democratic societies, thus described by the main protagonist, the Maniac:
People can let off steam, get angry, shudder at the thought of it… ‘Who do these politicians think they are?’ ‘Scumbag generals!’ […] And they get more and more angry, and then, burp! A little liberatory burp to relieve their social indigestion.
These words came to mind last month when Iceland’s media reported upon the current situation of river Lagarfljót in the east of Iceland. “Lagarfljót is dead,” some of them even stated, citing the words of author and environmentalist Andri Snær Magnason regarding a revelation of the fact that the river’s ecosystem has literally been killed by the the gigantic Kárahnjúkar Dams. The dams were built in Iceland’s eastern highlands in the years between 2002 and 2006, solely to provide electricity for aluminium giant and arms producer Alcoa’s smelter in the eastern municipality of Reyðarfjörður.
The revelation of Lagarfljót’s current situation originates in a report made by Landsvirkjun, Iceland’s state owned energy company and owner of the 690 MW Kárahnjúkar power plant, the main conclusions of which were made public last month. Although covered as breaking news and somewhat of a scandal, this particular revelation can hardly be considered as surprising news.
Quite the contrary, environmentalists and scientists have repeatedly pointed out the mega-project’s devastating irreversible environmental impacts — in addition to the social and economical ones of course — and have, in fact, done so ever since the plan was brought onto the drawing tables to begin with. Such warnings, however, were systematically silenced by Iceland’s authorities and dismissed as “political rather than scientific”, propaganda against progress and opposition to “green energy” — only to be proven right time and time again during the last half a decade. Read More
Apr 07 2013
In October last year, high levels of fluoride were discovered in hay grown on three farms around Alcoa’s Fjarðaál aluminium smelter in East Iceland. In response, the company announced that their much-acclaimed pollution control technology had failed at some point in the summer and claimed that they had “acted immediately” to deal with the situation. In mid January the results of tests on hay which Alcoa itself had submitted to the Food and Veterinarian Authority (MAST) came back, showing that fluoride levels were “below the maximum limit” – 50 mg/kg for cows, goats and sheep, but 30 mg/kg for dairy cattle – and therefore safe for livestock. Two out of seventeen samples were, in fact, above the acceptable fluorine limit for milking cows for human consumption but this was deemed to be fine since that farm only had horses.
The truth is that aluminium smelters and serious fluoride poisoning go hand in hand. Aluminium smelting is the largest single producer of fluorides worldwide. These toxic compounds are released from smelters in both gaseous and solid forms. ‘Scrubbers’ are usually used to remove the majority of fluorides from factory smoke today, but when those scrubbers are spent they are also dumped in landfills where the soluble fluorides absorbed into them can leak out into the soil. Fluorides are phytotoxic (toxic to plants) and actually accumulate in vegetation, making long living trees particularly susceptible to fluoride poisoning. When animals or humans eat fluoride polluted plants or meat, or drink fluoride rich water, they can develop ‘fluorosis’ which weakens bones and teeth and can, in extreme cases, lead to bone deformation and birth defects. Fluoride can also build up in soft tissue in the body causing a range of serious health effects1.
Swollen Jaws and Weak Teeth
In West Iceland, a number of farmers living around the Century Aluminum (Norðurál) smelter in Hvalfjörður have been suffering serious fluoride pollution in their sheep and horses – in particular since a major pollution incident at the factory released large amounts of fluorides in August 2006. Read More
From our friends at Foil Vedanta.
Declare solidarity with grassroots movements fighting Vedanta in India, Africa and elsewhere!
Kick Vedanta out of London for it’s corporate crimes, murder and destruction. Noise demonstration and picket at Vedanta headquarters, 16 Berkeley Street.
Mayfair, W1J 8DZ . Green Park tube.
1 – 3pm. Friday 11th January.
On Friday 11th January the Supreme Court will finally announce its historical decision on whether to allow the mining of the threatened Niyamgiri mountain in Odisha, India1. Simultaneously tribals and farmers from a number of grassroots organisations2 will hold a rally of defiance in Bhawanipatna, near the mountain. They will call for closure of the sinking Lanjigarh refinery and an absolute ban on the so-far-unsuccessful attempt to mine bauxite on their sacred hills3.
On 10th of January activists in New York will rally outside the United Nations Headquarters pointing out Vedanta’s clear violations of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including right to participate in decision making, right to water and cultural and religious rights. They will call for the Indian Government to put a final stop to this contested project, and for the state owned Orissa Mining Corporation to be pulled out of dodgy deals it has made with Vedanta in an attempt to force the mine through the courts on Vedanta’s behalf (see their facebook event).
Here in London we will draw attention to Vedanta’s nominal Mayfair headquarters from which they gain a cloak of respectability and easy access to capital. We will call for Vedanta to be de-listed from the London Stock Exchange and thrown out of its cosy position in the London corporate elite for proven human rights and environmental abuses, corruption and poor corporate governance4.
Please join us and bring drums, pots and pans and anything that makes noise!
Our solidarity demo on 6th Dec was covered in all the Indian papers and our solidarity was felt directly. Let us do it again!
See you there! More information below. Read More
Dec 05 2012
By Snorri Páll Jónsson Úlfhildarson, originally published in the Reykjavík Grapevine.
There is a photograph by Richard Peter of a statue of an angel overlooking the card-house-like ruins of Dresden. During three days in February 1945, the German city was annihilated by the allied forces using a new firestorm technique of simultaneously dropping bombs and incendiary devices onto the city.
The photo resonates with philosopher Walter Benjamin’s essay ‘On the Concept of History,’ in which he adds layers of meaning to a painting by Paul Klee titled ‘Angelus Novus’. Benjamin describes Klee’s angel as ‘The Angel of History’ whose face is turned towards the past. “Where we see the appearance of a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe, which unceasingly piles rubble on top of rubble and hurls it before his feet.”
Wanting to “awaken the dead and to piece together what has been smashed,” the Angel’s wings are stretched out by a storm from Paradise, which “drives him irresistibly into the future, to which his back is turned, while the rubble-heap before him grows sky-high.”
“That which we call progress,” Benjamin concludes, “is this storm.”
Can You Stand in the Way of Progress?
If the storm disenables us to fix the ruins of the past, what about preventing the storm from blowing? That would not be so simple according to art collective Angeli Novi, comprised of Steinunn Gunnlaugsdóttir and Ólafur Páll Sigurðsson, whose exhibition is currently showing at The Living Art Museum (Nýló). Read More
Dec 05 2012
From our friends at Foil Vedanta.
Declare solidarity with Odisha grassroots movements! Stop the Niyamgiri mine once and for all!
Noise demonstration and picket at India High Commission, Aldwych, WC2B 4NA, Holborn Tube, 2 – 4pm, Thursday 6th December.
On Thursday 6th December tribals and farmers of the grassroots organisations Niyamgiri Surakhya Samiti, Loka Sangram Mancha, Samajwadi Jan Parishad, and Sachetana Nagarika Mancha will hold one of the largest demonstrations ever on the threatened Niyamgiri mountain since the movement began. In anticipation of the final Supreme Court decision on the planned mega-mine ten thousand people are expected to rally on the mountain in a show of defiance. They will call for closure of the sinking Lanjigarh refinery and an absolute ban on the so-far-unsuccessful attempt to mine bauxite on their sacred hills.
Here in London we will be holding a noise demonstration outside the India High Commission in Aldwych calling for the Indian Government to put a final stop to this contested project, and for the state owned Orissa Mining Corporation to be pulled out of dodgy deals it has made with Vedanta in an attempt to force the mine through the courts on Vedanta’s behalf.
Please join us and bring drums, pots and pans and anything that makes noise! The movements in Orissa will feel your solidarity!
Oct 08 2012
Saving Iceland would like to draw its readers attention to a currently ongoing exhibition by art collective Angeli Novi, comprised of artists Steinunn Gunnlaugsdóttir and Ólafur Páll Sigurðsson who both have strong ties to Saving Iceland. Sigurðsson was the founder of Saving Iceland and both of them continue to be active with the network today. You Can’t Stand in the Way of Progress is the collective’s first extensive exhibition and is on show at The Living Art Museum (Nýlistasafnið) in Reykjavík.
At the heart of the exhibition, which consists of audio, video and sculptural pieces, is a 20 minute long film in Icelandic and English, bearing the same title as the exhibition. Around 30 people were willingly buried alive during the making of the film, which was shot this year in Greece and Iceland. Soundscapes were created by Örn Karlsson in collaboration with Angeli Novi.
Corporate green-wash and the Kárahnjukar dams play a key role in You Can’t Stand in the Way of Progress. In one of the film’s scenes, the 700 m long and 200 m high central Kárahnjúkar Dam is digitally blown up by the very same explosion that blew up the Dimmugljúfur canyon in March 2003. The first destruction of the 200m deep canyon, which was carved out by the 150 km long river Jökulsá á Dal, played a strategical key role in the conflict about the power plant’s construction, and was meant to signify the government’s determined intention to steamroller Iceland’s eastern highlands in order to produce electricity for the US aluminium corporation ALCOA. As environmentalists warned from the beginning, the construction has turned out to have devastating environmental, social and economical impacts, and contributed also heavily to Iceland’s infamous 2008 economic collapse.
Asked about the cinematic blast, artists Gunnlaugsdóttir and Sigurðsson said: “It was particularly pleasurable to blow up the image of the dam that has now become the main symbol of corporate power abuse and ecocide in Iceland.” Sigurðsson added that it was “Very appropriate to use for our purpose the same film footage that was used by the Icelandic government in 2003 to dash people’s hopes of saving the Kárahnjúkar area from deeply corrupt forces of corporate greed and governmental stupidity. These same forces have learnt nothing from their past crimes and mistakes and are now lining up for taking power next year in order to continue their destructive rampage through Icelandic nature.”
A press release from The Living Art Museum states the following:
Angeli Novi create a kind of a kaleidoscopic time machine, examining the plight of generations which, one after the other, become tools and puppets of economic and historical structures. Through symbolism and imagery, Angeli Novi examine the ideological backdrops of these structures, the variously substance-drained core values of occidental culture, as well as as the reoccurring themes of doctrines and clichés in the societal rhetoric, necessary for society to maintain itself.
You Can’t Stand in the Way of Progress opened on 29 September and will run until 2 December. The Living Art Museum is located on Skúlagata 28, 101 Reykjavík.
Police forces from a number of EU countries are meeting in secret as part of the covert International Specialist Law Enforcement project (ISLE). The project is designed to help police officers exchange and communicate information on secretly gaining access to rooms, vehicles and electronic devices.
This was the critical response of Andrej Hunko, Member of the Bundestag, to the German Federal Government’s answer to a minor interpellation on this topic. Andrej Hunko continues:
“The Federal Government calls this ‘bypassing security systems’. Police officers can use surveillance technologies like microphones, cameras and Trojans to listen in on private conversations.
At the initiative of the European Commission, Britain’s Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) has taken on the management of the covert working group. Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office is involved in the joint steering committee. ISLE receives funding from its members, as well as from the EU programme entitled Prevention of and Fight against Crime. Read More
Sep 11 2012
Why do we allow a handful of politicians to make decisions about the fate and future of our natural heritage, decisions that will be condemned by generations to come? How come we don’t have the guts and solidarity and wisdom to stop this madness?
— Guðmundur Páll Ólafsson
After a hard struggle with cancer, our dear friend and comrade Guðmundur Páll Ólafsson — naturalist, author, photographer and a truly genuine environmentalist — passed away on August 30th, 71 years old. Guðmundur was a pioneer of environmentalism in Iceland and a big supporter of direct actions, which he also practised himself. Among many of his great contributions, he relentlessly pointed out the destructive impacts of damming glacial rivers and thus restraining their natural flow, directly affecting fish stocks as well as rivers’ role in binding greenhouse gases. As such Guðmundur played a key role in the deconstruction of aluminium and energy companies’ greenwashing attempts, pointing out that what they generate by harnessing glacial rivers is not green but indeed grey energy.
As an author of a good number of books, Guðmundur also played a great educative role. His books, which are illustrated by his own photographs, take on issues such as the seaside, bird life, Iceland’s highlands and the Ramsar listed Þjórsárver wetlands, which have been besieged by Landsvirkjun (the National Power Company) for more than half a century. For the last couple of years he travelled around the world due to his work on a new book entitled ‘Water, the World and Us’, for which he collected extensive knowledge about the situation of Iceland’s rivers, the country’s main arteries, from glaciers to deltas, from fluvial sediment transport to fishing grounds — and especially how all of this is interwoven and integral to all life.
Wherever one looks into the struggle for the protection of Iceland’s nature — the successful struggle to put an end to plans to dam river Laxá by lake Myvatn in the early 70′s, the fight against the construction of the Kárahnjúkar Dams, the campaign to save Þjórsárver wetlands and river Þjórsá — the list could be much longer, Guðmundur’s name is always prominent, ranging over an extensive area from written and spoken words to symbolic and direct actions. Most recently he voiced his serious criticism at the process of the creation of Iceland’s Energy Master Plan — a plan which, despite its official aim being to settle the constant conflict between nature conservation and energy extraction, is set to have devastating results for Iceland’s glacial rivers and geothermal areas.
While we at Saving Iceland, as other environmentalists, mourn this now gone friend, some one you could always count on being a mine of information about what ever you wanted to ask him, we strongly believe that the most honest and respectful way to honour Guðmundur Páll’s memory — keeping his name and works alive — is to continue his and our struggle and not watch passively as the authorities, energy and aluminium companies march forward in their crusade against the wilderness. This we owe him for his deep love of the Icelandic highlands, a love that nourished the spirit behind the passionate and unselfish work of his life.
The Saving Iceland network send deeply felt condolences to his family.
Aug 29 2012
While driving Iceland’s national ring road, in a southerly direction from Reykjavík, one cannot miss noticing the steam coming up from an extraordinarily grey infrastructure covering a large piece of land around mount Hengill, approximately 30 km from the capital. Filled with roads, drills, pipelines, and a large powerhouse, this once untouched geothermal area is now the site of the Hellisheiði geothermal power plant, operated by the publicly owned Reykjavík Energy (“Orkuveita Reykjavíkur” in Icelandic, abbreviated “OR”), generating electricity almost entirely for aluminium production.
Geothermal energy is commonly praised as a “green” alternative to environmentally unfriendly power sources such as fossil fuels, coals and nuclear energy. As a result of “the development of what were once thought to be non-viable resources”, a glossy brochure from engineering firm Mannvit states, “more and more public and private entities are looking into geothermal power as part of their strategy to mitigate global warming while still meeting growing energy demands.” In a promotional text for the Geothermal Energy Exhibition at Hellisheiði, the plant is said to be a “striking example of how geothermal energy is harnessed in a sustainable manner in Iceland and a showcase for the rest of the world.” Additionally, Reykjavík Energy has not hesitated maintaining that “general public opinion of exploiting the geothermal resources in the Hengill region is positive.”
So many men, so many minds. Only about ten kilometres away from the plant stands the small town of Hveragerði, wherein one gets to hear a completely different story. “We cannot accept that OR will be permitted to continue polluting the atmosphere,” Hallgrímur Þ. Magnússon, clinical doctor in Hveragerði said to newspaper DV last June. A few days earlier he had voiced his worries to local newspaper Sunnlenska, encouraging the town’s residents to start taking magnesium and iodide supplements to counteract the health impacts of the power plant’s sulphur (hydrogen sulphide) pollution. “I maintain that the pollution is of such quantity that the human body needs those two materials in order to resist the effects,” Hallgrímur said to Sunnlenska.
Recent inspection makes it clear that the sulphur pollution, which does not only reach to Hveragerði but also to Reykjavík, often goes far above Icelandic and international standards. In the case of Hveragerði, the quantity of polluting materials in the atmosphere is such that the town should be considered within the plant’s dilution area (the area in which residential homes are not permitted). Read More
More than 100 protesters from Foil Vedanta and other organisations crowded the entrance to British mining company Vedanta Resources’ London AGM and poured red paint on the steps on Tuesday in an attempt to disrupt the meeting. In Goa and Odisha in India where Vedanta operates, parallel demonstrations involving thousands of people affected by the company’s activities took place on Monday and Tuesday. Inside the AGM the meeting was once again dominated by dissident shareholders who pointed out Vedanta’s racism, major environmental and social violations and poor governance.
See the Foil Vedanta website for further information and photos.