'Skjálfandafljót' Tag Archive

May 24 2013

In the Land of the Wild Boys


Andri Snær Magnason

First published in Grapevine. Based on a 2010 article entitled “Í landi hinna klikkuðu karlmanna.” (“In the Land of the Mad Men”). Translated in part by Haukur S. Magnússon.

After the election, we see the old parties of economic mass destruction are coming back to power. Giving enormous promises of easy money to be wrestled from evil vulture funds, debt relief and tax reduction, The Progressive Party doubled in size after a few years of hardship. There is a jolly good feeling between the two young new leaders of a brave new Iceland, and when a radio host called them up and offered to play them a request, they asked for Duran Duran’s ‘Wild Boys.’ I Googled the lyrics, not quite remembering the lines, and got a nice chill down my back:

Wild boys fallen far from glory
Reckless and so hungered
On the razors edge you trail
Because there’s murder by the roadside
In a sore afraid new world

They tried to break us,
Looks like they’ll try again

Sounds quite grim. This, coupled with the new government’s announcement that it would be effectively dismantling the Ministry for the Environment and Natural Resources and that there will be no Minister for the Environment, gave me a strange flashback feeling. I decided to revisit the state of mind that we used to call normal in 2006. When the economic policy, the energy policy, the expansion of our towns, the mortgages on our homes—almost all aspects of our daily life had become totally mad. This is not my own diagnosis; if you search the homepage of the IMF for the phrase “Collective Madness,” you’ll find this:

“’Iceland, in the decade and a half leading up to the crisis, was an example of collective madness,’ said Willem Buiter, chief economist at Citigroup, a remark that elicited spontaneous applause from the more than 300 participants, many of them Icelandic policymakers, academics, and members of the public.”

In our daily lives, we usually sense what is normal and what is over the top. Sometimes the discourse will blind us; PR and propaganda can create a kind of newspeak. It can be a good exercise to try to talk about things in a foreign language, to view them in a new light. As an Icelander, you could for instance try to tell someone from another country that Iceland’s government sold one state bank and received payment in the form of a loan from another state bank—and vice versa. That the state banks were thereby handed to men that were closely connected to the then-reigning political parties. The manager of one of the parties became head of one of the banks’ board of directors, while the other party’s former Minister of Trade belonged to the group that was given the other bank. That man had access to every bit of inside information about the bank’s standing.

In the meantime, this former Minister of Trade became Central Bank Manager. He went to the US and made Alcoa an offer that the company could not refuse. He had thus set in motion the largest-scale construction project in Icelandic history, greatly increasing economic activity in Iceland—a grand boon for the bank he just finished selling to himself.

If you tell this story in a foreign language, people shake their heads. They gape in disbelief. They use words like “corruption” and “mafia.” They exclaim, full of disbelief and even disappointment, “no, not in Scandinavia!”

THE ACCEPTED INSANITY

It is insane to expand a banking system by tenfold in eight years. We know that now. It isn’t technically possible to grow all the knowledge and experience needed to build up and manage such a contraption in such a short time. Not even by shoving an entire generation through business school. It is impossible.

But the megalomania was not just confined to the banking sector. Energy production in Iceland was doubled from 2002–2007, when the huge Kárahnjúkar dam was built in the eastern part of the highlands—to serve one single Alcoa smelting plant. The energy it produces, about 650MW annually, is enough to power a city of one million people. Doubling the energy production in a developed country over a five-year period is not only unheard of, but it would also be considered ridiculous in all of our neighbouring nations. Most industrialised states increase their energy production by around 2–3% annually. Doubling it would be unthinkable. It has been proven again and again that gargantuan investments generally destroy more than they create. Read More

Mar 05 2011
1 Comment

Alcoa: Where Will the New Dams be Built?


By Jaap Krater

Last spring ALCOA released the first draft of the joint environmental impact assessment for the proposed Bakki smelter and power plants at Krafla and Theistareykir. Recently Iceland’s National Planning Agency commented on the draft assessment in a damning commentary.

The agency stated that the environmental impacts of the project are high and cannot be mitigated. 17,000 ha of untouched wilderness will be affected. Greenhouse gas emissions of the project would constitute 14% of Iceland’s total. There is a great deal of uncertainty on the full impact of the planned power plants and particularly on how much geothermal energy can be sustainably produced. Finally, the assessed energy projects will not be able to fully power the smelter, with 140 MW of capacity missing.

This confirms three key points of critique on the smelter that we have been voicing for several years now. Read More

Nov 29 2010
1 Comment

Damning Environmental Assessment of ALCOA’s Smelter Plans for Northern Iceland


November 25th, the joint Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) on Alcoa’s planned 346 thousand ton aluminum smelter at Bakki, Húsavík, was finally published. In response, Iceland’s National Planning Agency released an extremely critical commentary regarding the planned smelter and the geothermal plants that are supposed to power it.

It states that:

– Environmental impacts of the project are high and cannot be mitigated.
– 17,000 ha of untouched wilderness will be affected
– Greenhouse gas emissions of the project would constitute 14% of Iceland’s total.
– There is a high amount of uncertainty regarding the full impact of the planned geothermal power plants and particularly their impact of the geothermal energy resource base.
– The assessed energy projects are not sufficient to power the smelter, with 140 MW of capacity missing.

“These reports confirms three key elements of critique that Saving Iceland voiced now several years ago,” says Jaap Krater, a spokesperson for Saving Iceland. Read More

Aug 22 2008

Bakki Impact Assessment Should Include Dams


Jaap Krater, Morgunbladid – Thórunn Sveinbjarnardóttir’s has said the environmental impact of Alcoa’s planned Bakki smelter and the associated energy production needs to be considered jointly (1). This poses the question whether or not new dams will be needed for heavy industry in the north. Looking at what can be realistically realised from geothermal plants, it becomes clear that a number of hydro projects will inevitably be necessary to power the Bakki smelter, and they should be taken into the assessment. In this article Jaap Krater analyses the energy calculations for the smelter and potential power plants. Read More

Aug 11 2008

Blowing up Mountains, Taking Drugs and Pink Toilets


Jaap Krater, Iceland Review – As someone who has been active with Saving Iceland for a number of years, I read James Weston’s column about media coverage on our campaign with much amusement. Many of his comments are not only funny but also have a ring of truth.
For me, they also illustrate something that is quite sad. People watch TV and see others chaining themselves to machines, according to polls most might even agree with them that they do not want more dams or smelters, and they get bored. Read More

Aug 19 2007
1 Comment

The Myth of an Aluminium Plant at Húsavík


Hrafnabjargafoss

Is the Energy on the Doorstep?

By Dr. Ragnhildur Sigurðardóttur

Many things have been said and written about plans for ALCOA´s aluminium plant at Bakki near Húsavík. One after another, important men have praised the idea and by now the only political parties not supporting it are the Iceland Movement and the Left Green party.
The propaganda of the supporters follows these lines: “utilise the national energy potential,” “the people of Húsavík have a right to an aluminium plant,” “the plant will only use energy drawn from the land nearby Húsavík, “damming of Skjálfandafljót and Jökulsá á Fjöllum is nothing but environmental propaganda”, “Geothermal energy has a low environmental impact”, “preparation work has been exceptionally well done.”
But how much truth do those slogans contain? Is there something more that needs to be looked into? Are the people of Húsavík, politicians included pushing the issues forward without really having looked at all the facts? Read More

Jan 24 2006

Stop the Dams Concert a Massive Success


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

Sep 23 2005
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Direct Actions at Anode Conference and Elsewhere


ALCOA to hell

This time around Reykjavík was host to an International Conference on Anode Rodding Plants for Primary Aluminium Smelters. At the conference, which was largely funded by Icelandic tax payers’ money, Iceland was yet again being offered up for sale as a cheap country for aluminium smelting, while undesirable points of view were unwelcome.

skull2

 

So Saving Iceland decided to invite themselves

On the morning of 21 September delegates woke up to a noisy bunch of protestors standing outside the Hotel Nordica blowing whistles and horns and banging away on pots and drums, just to remind the delegates and their hosts that there is active and unfailing resistance to the systematic destruction of Icelandic nature and the increase in pollution of our environment.

Same day in the late afternoon the representatives of the most polluting industry in the world were treated with champagne and canapés at the Reykjavík Municipality. At the same time an International Transport week was being celebrated in Reykjavík; its stated purpose was “to raise awareness among the public on the necessity of reducing pollution caused by traffic”. Greenhouse gas emissions from the ALCOA smelter in Reyðarfjörður will be equal to that of 172.000 cars; the entire car-fleet of Iceland!

Together with NatureWatch and youngsters of Ungrót, Saving Iceland organized another noise protest outside the Municipality as the mayor welcomed delegates of the conference. A heavy police presence was deemed necessary to protect the polluting fat cats while they sipped champagne and listened to fawning speeches of Icelandic dignitaries. For two hours environmentalists put on street performances and vigorously banged on their drums. A large window on the side of the building gave the delegates a good view of the crowd and their banners.

priceof aluminium

The protestors were content with their ample supplies of green skyr (Icelandic dairy product very useful for splashing on poisoners of the earth!) and in the spirit of sharing offered the delegates to have some on their way out from the mayor’s visit. This generosity caused unexplained tremors amongst the cops and delegates alike. Perhaps bad memories from last June had something to do with it…

moon

A 14 year old protestor was arrested for
mooning at the aluminium sophisticates!

23 September

Delegates of the conference visited the aluminium smelters at Straumsvík and Grundartangi. Saving Iceland went to the ALCAN factory to warn them what aluminium smelting can do to their health.

welcome2

To indicate solidarity with the people who have suffered from ALCAN’s immoral and inhuman working practices around the world the protestors sang The Alcan Song:

“It’s ALCAN the Aluminium Man
The Aluminium Man with the Aluminium Plan
For making lots of aluminium
Out of other peoples land!

Will this Man of Aluminium
Realize what he’s done,
Once he’s done what he is about to start?
He’s got aluminium, but he’s got no heart!”

Meanwhile ALCAN’s flag was stamped on, torn and finally burnt.

stamp

Yes, there was some dancing too

Two people were illegally arrested for throwing a harmless and perfectly legal smoke-bomb into an open field. One of them was arrested for driving a “stolen” car from the protest, even if the owner of the car gave immediate proof thathe had his permission to drive the car! Both were held for five hours and released without charge.

finger

Below is a statement from the protestors:

“Today delegates of the 3rd International Conference on Anode Rodding Plants for Primary Aluminium Smelters in Reykjavík are due to visit the aluminium smelters at Straumsvík and Grundartangi. Little attention has been paid by the conference to the negative impact and harmful effects to people’s health of aluminium smelting and related types of processing.

At this conference, which is partly funded by Icelandic tax payers’ money, the Technological Institute of Iceland, City of Reykjavík, the Ministry of Industry, Icelandair and the National Power Company, Landsvirkjun are among the sponsors and participants, Iceland is yet again being offered up for sale as a cheap country to smelt aluminium, while undesirable points of view are unwelcome.

We wish to convey the message to the conference guests that there is active opposition in this country to the further build-up of heavy industry, and point out the impact that this build-up will have on the local people and on the environment of those of us who live on Faxaflói bay.

Our protest is designed to express our opposition to the proposed expansion of the aluminium smelters at Straumsvík (ALCAN) and Grundartangi (Century), as well as the construction of an anode factory at Katanes (R&D Ltd.) and yet another Century smelter at Helguvik. We find it wholly unacceptable that the Faxaflói bay should become the most highly polluted area in Northern Europe, yet this is what will happen if these plans go ahead.

The additional sacrifices of Iceland’s most precious natural jewels, the Ramsar protected wetlands of Thjorsarver and one of Europe’s most beautiful lakes, Langisjor, to facilitate the expansions of the ALCAN and Century smelters are completely unacceptable.

Cost of resistance

We also wish to show our solidarity with the people who have suffered from ALCAN’s immoral and inhuman working practices around the world; from the workers at Straumsvík who have contacted us to describe their unacceptable working conditions and the abuse of employees’ rights, to the inhabitants of the Kashipur district of India who have been fighting for twelve years against a planned bauxite mine and ALCAN aluminium plant which will force at least 20,000 people to leave their farm lands and will pollute their water supply (see www.saanet.org), not forgetting the residents of Hafnarfjördur in Iceland who are demanding a local referendum on the expansion of the ALCAN plant.

We urge the press to better inform themselves about the environmental impact of the planned build-up of heavy industry around Faxaflói bay, and equally about the record and working practices of the foreign companies that the Icelandic government continues to eulogize and acclaim as the saviors of Iceland.”

(Needless to say, there are no signs of the Icelandic media picking up the challenge and doing their home work for a change. Icelandic media is under the tight control of the triple headed hydra; The State, the nouveau riche and the bitter old rich. Investigative journalism in the aluminium republic belongs to the past.)

Aug 29 2005

Iceland: Dam Nation by Merrick


Hjalladalur 

With the growing awareness of climate change, carbon emission restrictions may not be too far off. Because countries that pollute the most may well get the heaviest restrictions, rather than seeking to reduce their emissions many industrial corporations are looking to move operations abroad.
Iceland, despite modern European levels of education, welfare and wealth, has almost no heavy industry. Their carbon rations will be up for grabs. Seeing the extra pollution coming, in 2001 Iceland got a 10% increase on the CO2 limits imposed by the Kyoto treaty. The problem is that the lack of heavy industry means a lack of the major power supply needed for such things. But Iceland has glacial rivers in vast areas unpopulated by humans; land for hydroelectric dams that can be seen as carbon-neutral. Read More

Aug 17 2005
7 Comments

We who have been protesting…


Saving Iceland
Reykjavík

We who have been protesting against heavy industry and the devastating destruction of Iceland’s natural environment at Kárahnjúkar in the Eastern highlands of Iceland and in other parts of the country in recent months would like to take the opportunity to make the following statement:

During our protests we have used methods which may not have a long tradition in Iceland but which do not constitute a breach of the law. We are a broad-based group of Icelanders and people of many other nationalities united by our respect for the natural environment and our intolerance of repression, the misuse of power and the violation of human rights. Read More