Sep 15 2008

Sveinbjarnardóttir: Protect Icelandic Nature from Heavy Industry

Rene DescartesIn a special report on the environment, Thórunn Sveinbjarnardóttir, minister for the environment in Iceland, says that Icelandic nature has suffered from aluminium production and needs increased protection. “It is time to correct the injustice nature and environmental protection has faced because of heavy industry,” says the report.
She says Iceland’s nature is valuable, and conserving it is a way of utilising the resource. In the past Iceland’s nature, it’s rivers and geothermal fields have been seen as ‘unutilised resources’ that are almost asking for exploitation. This view, held by many Icelandic politicians and entrepreneurs, is a modern interpretation of 17th century Cartesian thought.

“Many decision makers in Iceland have a rather outdated, extreme utilitarian view of the natural environment. They have a view on their natural surrounding that is comparable to the American colonists in the wild west. But we need to move to a worldview that sees the ecosphere as inherently valuable and where the ecosystems have an inherent interest,” says Jaap Krater of Saving Iceland.

“Sustainability is not going to happen unless we realise that we are not separate from our natural surroundings and are infinitely entwined with it. Of course this view is not just lacking in Iceland, it is a global issue and I believe the way we see and think about nature is a major reason for the global environmental crisis we are in. Sveinbjarnardóttir’s rejects the 18th century colonial view on nature in this report, and that is quite exciting. I hope she takes further steps and more people start to take these steps. However, words are not enough and we need action to halt the heavy industry agenda,” said Krater.

The report discusses the possibility of Iceland joining the Aarhus convention. The Aarhus Convention grants the public rights regarding access to information, public participation and access to justice, in governmental decision-making processes on matters concerning the local, national and transboundary environment. It focuses on interactions between the public and public authorities.

“Iceland is the only country within the EEA that has not ratified this agreement,” said Árni Finnsson of INCA, an Icelandic nature conservation NGO.
“The convention is in many ways valid in Iceland but lacks one important point: access to legal justice for environmental protection associations. “And that is because of Landsvirkjun, because of fear that legal processes will delay power plant operations,” Finnsson says.