Sep 29 2008


By Snorri Páll Jónsson Úlfhildarson, orignally published in Morgunblaðið

“Do you know that your wheelchair is made out of aluminium?” said a police officer to one of those who stopped work in Helguvík this summer. Thereby he swamped all the arguments of the opposition to aluminium for good, didn’t he? Shortly after the publication of Jakob Björnsson’s (former director of energy affairs) article about the singer Björk Guðmundsdóttir and her usage of aluminium, the editors of Morgunblaðið got ready and wrote an editorial where it says that the opposers of aluminium are probably not self-consistent most of the time. Most of them use aluminium everyday and even Saving Iceland cooks in aluminium pots and uses aluminium polse to hold up their tents. “Hypocrisy” said Morgunblaðið.

This critique is far from being new. It has systematically been used against those who object to the further build-up of heavy industry here in Iceland, the destruction of Iceland’s nature for energy production, the destruction of ecosystems worldwide because of bauxite mining, and energy realization to a company that prides itself of its collaboration with the U.S. millitary. In addition to when aluminium opposers are all said to be wanting to move the Icelandic society back to the turf huts and build the country’s economy on picking mountain grass, this has been the main criticism.

No matter how many times it has been pointed out that at least 30% of all produced aluminium is used for the arms industry; no matter how many times it has been pointed out how much aluminium ends as a land-filling after having functions as single use drinking facilities; no matter that the context between low energy prices and the fact how easy it is for us to produce aluminium, use it once, throw it away and produce more – still we are being told that we are not self-consistent.

Then it is hammered in, most recently in the editorial of DV (one of Iceland’s biggest newspapers), that it is our ethical duty to drown the highlands and annihilate geothermal areas for energy consuming aluminium production; that is our environmental input. If the aluminium companies are not permitted to build smelters here in Iceland, they will just do it somewhere else in the world where the smelting will be powered in a less environmentally way. What a rubbish! Alcan wants to increase its production in Straumsvík (Iceland), preferably enlarge the smelter and build more smelter here. At the same time Alcan plans to build a smelter on a tax-free industrial zone in South-Africa, which suprisingly is going to be powered by coal and nuclear energy. The only thing that matters to them is the energy price, not the natural environment. Aluminium production will never become environmentally friendly or humane.

In Orissa, India, live indigenous tribes who have always lived in harmony with their natural environment. Their ecological footprint is hardly visible, at the same time as the lifestyle of the “developed” people in the western world are so destructive that we would not few extra planets if all humans on earth should be allowed to enjoy these “qualities of life”. The above-mentioned tribes live by and in the mountains and are so “unlucky” to literally live on the aluminium industry’s raw material paradise. Their struggle against the destruction of their lands for bauxite mining has lasted for quite a while and has most of the time been peaceful, even inside the framework of laws. However, the reaction of the authorities and other interested parties have been extremely violent, e.g. lead to deaths. Recently the highest court of India judged with the benefits of the British mining company Vedanta. Cultural genocides are one their way.

Author Andri Snær Magnason (e.g. The Dreamland) answered the above-mentioned articles of Jakob Björnsson and the editors of Morgunblaðið, where he asked: “When is there enough?” And Björnsson answered quickly: “When the majority of voters in Iceland has with its votes in parliamentary elections, decided that there is enough. Not until that happens.”

But the fact is different. The global process and impacts of aluminium production extend far away from Iceland. It is not the private business of Icelanders to decide if aluminium should be produces, bauxite mined, societys wiped out and ecosystems dismantled. And even if it would be so we can just remind ourselves about what happened right before and after the parliamentary elections in the spring of 2007. Samfylkingin (the Social Democratic Alliance) showed up with an environmental policy titled “Beautiful Iceland” and announced a heavy industry stop for at least five years. Now, c.a. one and a half year later, the party’s ministers have officially announced their support of two new smelters and the parallel harnessing of geothermal zones and glacial rivers; broken the ground for new smelters and signed contracts behind closed doors. All on the offer of democracy!

It is time to say that there is enough! More aluminium does not have to be produced! Bauxite does not have to be mined and more indidgenous societies do not have to be exterminated. More “green” bombs do not have to be produced, not more light millitary equipment that still kills as well as the heavy one, not more “eco-friendly” cars, not more recyclable beer cans. It is not needed to dam more rivers, drown more waterfalls, reindeer’s habitats and protected areas. There is no need print and send out more “Lowest Energy Prices” brochures, write more reports about the creation of the image of Iceland, or organize more “Pure Energy” tourist and business promotion festivals outside of Iceland. The only thing that has to be done is to push stop!

This article was written in a computer. Hypocrisy? Shold I maybe rather than writing articles about the harmfulness of aluminium production, move to the mountains of Orissa and fight against corporations and state armies with sticks and stones?Then be murdered for the guilt of wanting a healthy society; for wanting to protect the planet and its inhabitants?