Archive for 2006

Feb 03 2006

Icelanders Dissatisfied with Environmental Issues


Iceland Review

Half of the Icelandic population is unhappy with how the government and the public addresses environmental issues according to a new Gallup poll as reported by the Icelandic Broadcasting System, RÚV.

Women are more likely to be dissatisfied than men, and people living in the urban South West are less content with the state of environmental issues than the rural population. Read More

Feb 03 2006

Killing Iceland – The Movie! (Clay animation)


CLICK HERE!

Feb 01 2006

Young Icelandic Activists Storm the Ministry of Industry


ministry-of-industry Twenty teenage activists stormed the offices of the Icelandic Ministry of Industry and staged a sitdown and noise demo inside the ministry for about an hour. This was to demonstrate against the international aluminium invasion into pristine Iceland.

The message was tainted more than little by irony: “We want more pollution, more smelters, more destruction of nature, only jobs in smelters, more Alzheimer, fuck nature, fuck the future”

Suddenly the teenagers sat down on the floor and produced tubs of ‘skyr’ (in symbolic support of the activists who drenched delegates at the 10th International Aluminium Conference with the yoghurt like substance) and proceeded to “eat their own words”.

The staff of the ministry called the police, who were well and truly ignored by the vigorous youngsters, and gave up sowing their usual brand of disorder.

This was a very cheerful protest and a total success. Most of the press and all TV stations turned up for the edifying spectacle and no one was arrested.

The action coincided most conveniently with a news release from the Ministry of Industry about four spanking new aluminium smelters that are to be built or extended (ALCAN and Century) in the south-west and north (ALCOA) of Iceland, promising amongst other horrors, according to scientists, to make the bay of Faxafloi the most heavily polluted area in Northern Europe.

Arms manufacturers ALCOA are deliberating a smelter in the north (possibly in Húsavík) on top of the monster 360.000 tons smelter war-profiteers Bechtel are already building for them in Reydarfjordur in the east of Iceland. Europe’s last great untouched wilderness is to be sacrificed to generate bogus “green” electricity for the ALCOA smelter.

Jan 31 2006

State TV Host Growls One Night and Fawns the Next


Kristjan-woofwoof-grrrr.jpg Grapevine.is

On 5 January Icelandic State TV host Kristján Kristjánsson interviewed Damon Albarn in the news programme Kastljos. The following night Kristjánsson interviewed the Minister of Industry Valgerður Sverrisdóttir. Below, for comparison, are the transcripts of both interviews and an analysis of the contents.

Interview with Damon Albarn:

Intro: Announcer points out that Damon Albarn “was a pop star in the late 1990s”, and will be playing a concert with Björk on January 7. (A curious introduction, as Damon Albarn’s band Gorillaz was both one of the best-selling and most critically acclaimed bands of 2005.)

Kristján Kristjánsson: Are you very much involved in these issues, nature conservatism [sic]? Read More

Jan 24 2006

Stop the Dams Concert a Massive Success


5_0.jpg The Stop the Dams mega concert, featuring a once in a lifetime collection of artists, was a huge success. At the concert the dates to the next protest camp at the Kárahnjúkar project were announced, 21st July. Hundreds if not thousands of Icelanders are expected to attend. The destruction will be stopped!

Almost 6,000 people partied in protest against the devastation of Iceland’s wildernesses on January the 7th.

The lineup included KK, Björk and Zeena, Múm, Sigur Rós, Magga Stína, Rass and Dr. Spock, Damien Rice, Mugison, Lisa Hannigan, Hjálmar, Ghostigital, Damon Albarn (from Blur), Ham, and Egó. Performance artists and film-makers were also among the nearly two hundred artists that contributed to the event.

In an interview with the British newspaper The Guardian (13 Feb ’06), Björk had this to say about politics and the dam: Read More

Jan 18 2006

Icelandic ‘Skyr’ Activists Sentenced


Two of the activists who took part in the June 2005 Hotel Nordica ‘skyr’ action at the International Aluminium Conference, have recently been sentenced in Reykjavik municipal court to two months in prison suspended for two years and a £6000 “cleaning up bill”, fines and expences.

Hotel Nordica is frequently host to international heavy industry conferences. According to the owners of Hotel Nordica it cost over £5000 to hire a carpet cleaner for two hours! The original claim of Hotel Nordica (owned by Icelandair) was £55.000. ‘Skyr’ is a perfectly harmless jogurt like substance and nobody was hurt during the incident.

The action was a prelude to the Saving Iceland international protest camp which took place in the Icelandic higlands near the building site of Kárahnjúkar dams. The Kárahnjúkar dams are being built to provide bogus “green energy” for a 360.000 tons ALCOA owned aluminium smelter which is now being built by war profiteers Bechtel in the east of Iceland. This project alone threatens to destroy the largest pristine wilderness of Europe.

The protest camp was heavily persecuted by the Icelandic police through out the summer and exposed the repressive nature of the Icelandic government. The actions invigorated the Icelandic environmentalist movement and the opposition to the Kárahnjúkar dams and numerous other similar dam projects planned all over the Icelandic highlands, just to create energy for foreign aluminium corporations. These “developments” will destroy some of the most ecologically sensitive and beautifully preserved wildernesses in Europe. Read More

Jan 16 2006

‘Damned Iceland’


Kringilslarrani - Protected but now submerged Peace News, Issue 2470

Over the summer of 2005, about a hundred activists from around the world got together to protest against overwhelming environmental destruction and corporate greed. No, not the “pop Muppets” in Hyde Park, this was a gathering of international protesters — who trooped into the Arctic Circle to show much-needed support and solidarity to the Saving Iceland campaign.

The Saving Iceland campaign began in 2004, when the Icelandic government had bypassed a series of laws in order to allow the national power company, Landsvirkjun, to build a gigantic hydroelectric dam, now being constructed in the country’s eastern highlands.

The National Planning Agency originally refused to grant permission to the first proposal in 2001 due to the irreversible negative environmental impact the dam would have.

Incredibly, the then environment minister (whose only qualification is a GNVQ in physiotherapy) announced that the project was actually environmentally sound, and overturned the NPA decision — even though the dam will be of no benefit to her country or its inhabitants.
Power will not be generated for the Icelandic people, but for a smelter for US aluminium giant Alcoa: they are building their metal furnace in a pristine fjord at Reydarfjordur. With abulging back-pocket of cash, this hugely costly project — both financially (it will ultimately cost $1 billion) and of course ecologically — was set to begin. Interestingly, Alcoa is also facing massive criticism over a proposed 340,000 metric ton smelter plant in Cap De Ville in the Caribbean Island of Trinidad.

A hellish creation

Karahnjukar, the location chosen for the dam, offers a stunning landscape of jagged black mountains and sweeping green hills which frame the ferocious glacial river, Jokulsa Bru. It is this river which is being diverted into another large river — Jokulsa iFljotsdal — and dammed to power the hydro-electric plant. Not only is a glacial river being manipulated, but the construction of the plant also involves dynamiting a dormant volcano, and the entire hellish creation rests on a cluster of active geological fissures.
Sound dodgy yet? Well, the environmental vandalism doesn’t stop at Karahnjukar, as most of Lansvirkjun’s other plans envisage the harnessing of several rivers formed at Europe’s largest ever glacier Vatnajokul and the creation of reservoirs in surrounding areas. The biggest reservoir, Halson, will reach 57 square kilometres in area and be created by the highest rock-fill dam in Europe — covering three percent of breathtaking Icelandic beauty in murky water. All to generate power for a long queue of salivating multinationals.
People living in towns and farms near the dam-affected areas have been persuaded by the promise of employment — even though there is virtually no unemployment in Iceland and most people interviewed said that they would not work in an aluminium smelter in any case. But once the natural resources have been exhausted, employment in these regions will probably be lower than ever, because all that will be left for bored teenagers to hang out on — and for visitors to marvel at — will be a barren corpse of nature.

Greenwashing, skyr style

Unsurprisingly, the announcement that Europe’s least polluted country (a virtue the government has used to lure tourists onto the island for years) is to be given an industrial makeover has been met with outrage from most of the people who live there.
Icelanders have stood for hours in silent vigils outside the commons and Bjork’s mother did a three-week hunger strike. However, fluffy protest seemed to have little effect.
Direct action finally arrived in Iceland when three activists chucked green skyr (Icelandic yoghurt) over delegates at an international aluminium conference, drawing attention to the greenwashing that has been used to cover up the real cost to the environment of aluminium smelters and the dams that power them.
The meeting was completely disrupted and the three activists were arrested and later charged with trespass and cleaning bills of up to #320,000. Their case returned to court in January, with two of the activists sen tenced in a Reykjavik municipal court to two months in prison (suspended), a #6,000 “cleaning up bill”, plus a fine and court costs. The owners of Hotel Nordica reckoned it cost more than #5000 to hire a carpet cleaner for two hours.

Time for more action

The support and attention generated by the yoghurt incident suggested that more spiky actions were the way forward. When environmentalists from the UK, US, Poland, Sweden, Spain, Germany and France landed in Karahnjukar during the summer, Icelanders were treated to a fireworks show of direct action with the area seeing the nation’s first ever protest camp!
The hills of moss mattresses decorated with fairy-sized flowers of the most vibrant colours became beds for six weeks, and the delicate streams that laced them, washing facilities. Here, in excellent proximity to the dam (the entrances to the site were five minutes’ walk along the stream) they were able to reccie, plot and carry out a succession of actions. As more protesters arrived in Iceland after the G8, sufficient numbers were gathered to carry out an effective blockade.
On the anniversary of the signing of contracts with Alcoa — 19 July — activists decided this was an appropriate date to lock-on to road vehicles at one of the main road intersections of the site.
Baffled policemen stood scratching their heads for three hours whilst work on the entire site was halted: people were arrested but not charged.
Although the police and security responded peacefully on this occasion, on a second blockade — where protesters were locked onto the front of vehicles by their necks — officers instructed drivers (many of whom are Chinese or Portuguese and do not speak Icelandic) to turn on their engines, risking people’s lives. Fortunately no one was hurt, but three people were piled into a bus by specially flown-in riot police (the “Viking Squad”!) and one young man was reportedly held down and repeatedly punched in the stomach by the poice.
Due to pressure from the authorities, the owners of the land where the camp was based withdrew their permission to let people stay. The camp relocated nearby and, despite heavy police surveillance, more actions were successfully carried out. During one action a group of protesters entered the construction site and unravelled a long banner down the dam wall displaying a massive jagged black line. This drew attention to a newly-developed crack in the dam area which, geologists fear, is just the first of many to come. If the dam bursts the results will be catastrophic, killing thousands and wrecking the viable farmland in the east.
In a separate action three cranes were also occupied at the aluminium smelter, stopping work for five hours! The police nervously climbed the cranes to remove protesters and arrested them when back on the ground.

Catalysing support

Although much more Icelandic support had been gained as a result of last summer’s events, the international network of support for the campaign also represents a global struggle. The conversion of powerful, living and beautiful nature into heavy industry in Iceland is a microscopic example of what’s taking place all over the world — from the Narmada Dam in central India to the Three Gorges Dam in China.
In January there was a big environmental benefit gig, held to draw attention to the situation in Iceland. Acts included Bjork, Damon Albarn, Damien Rice and Sigur Ros. It tookplace in Reykjavik and all proceeds will go to “ecological resistance”. We don’t know if it will go to Saving Iceland but if it does then it will fund this summer’s protest camp. Two more benefit gigs will also take place — one in Sheffield [held as PN went to press], followed by one in London in spring.
Over the next few months, Saving Iceland campaigners will also be spreading the word in a European Tour and preparing for the next protest camp — due to start on 21 July 2006. The flooding of Karanhjukar is scheduled to start at the beginning of September — so we will need all the help we can get!
Although we can sometimes feel small as activists, if we can stop what will only be an environmental tragedy in Iceland, we can send a powerful message to the other corporate monsters — to wrench their filthy claws out of our planet.

————————————————————————————————————

For more info see the “Join the Fight” section at http://www.savingiceland.org.
Support actions are very welcome – anywhere in the world. Email  savingiceland at riseup.net.

Jan 14 2006
1 Comment

Saving Iceland Interview with Björk


bjork The interview was conducted at the time of the Stop the dams! gig in January 2006. Björk is an internationally acclaimed musician and has often spoken out against the heavy industry policy of the Icelandic government. Björk will be joining the international protest camp near Kárahnjúkar this year.

Josie Demuth: What, for you, makes Icelandic nature so special that you want to stop it’s destruction and participate in this concert?

Björk: It is the largest untouched area in Europe and I feel it is not only my duty to speak out as an Icelander but as a European. The situation has reached a cross roads, Iceland’s economy which was 70 per cent fish went down, so what instead? The attention went from the sea to the land. Fifteen years ago they stopped building a dam in the 1970s because people spoke out and there were artistic protests. But now in 2005 there is this industrial revolution and this way of thinking to sacrifice nature for progress. They are not long term benefits and we can do so much more with nature. We can work with nature, for example, hotels have been put up all over Iceland, and there are tourist centres to tell tourists about the nature. We will not be able to rewind this natural destruction and as I’ve travelled I’ve begun to realise that this is not a modern way of thinking. 50 years ago were independent but what are we gonna do in 100 years now? We are not making progress with this. Read More

Jan 13 2006

Saving Iceland Gathering Sheffield UK


21-22nd January 2006 Read More

Jan 06 2006

Narmada: Call for Action – Sardar Sarovar Dam Might be Raised Again


Dear Friends – Narendra Modi (CM, Gujarat) has called a meeting of CMs of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh on 7th January 07 (tomorrow) to seek consent on erecting the gates on the Sardar Sarovar Dam wall, which is already raised to 122 mts height when thousands of affected families are yet to receive land and get resettled and rehabilitated. If the gates are erected and height is raised to 138.68 mts, it will lead to a watery grave, unjust and illegal. This must not happen after 21 years of struggle by the people, adivasis and farmers, who raised basic questions related to development. Please therefore get into action here and now. Read More