Aug 06 2009

Saving Iceland Targets Alcoa – The Only Way to Real Changes Lies in the Protection of Nature!

Last Tuesday, August 4th,  Saving Iceland targeted the aluminium producer Alcoa. We knocked on the doors of the company’s office by Suðurlandsbraut but nobody answered, so the green skyr (traditional dairy product – historical for being used in protests) and other filthy stuff we had, ended up on the door, walls and the floor in front of the office. Compared to Alcoa’s role in the destruction of Iceland’s wilderness and other environmental and human crimes across the globe, this was a minimum punishment.

Though Alcoa’s aluminium smelter in Reyðarfjörður (east of Iceland) is now working with full force, driven on by the highly critical Kárahnjúkar Dam, there is still a fair reason for attacking the company. The smelter in Reyðarfjörður was the beginning of the heavy industry madness, the first sign of how effect the government’s advertisement campaign about the country’s cheap energy and people’s little as no resistance, was. (1) The smelter in Reyðarfjörður was the ball the pushed forward the idea that aluminium production is the premise for life. After the construction of the Kárahnjúkar Dam, all other energy projects look so small that only very few people seem to see a reason for fighting against them. And the police’s mistreatment towards those who dared to put their feet in between the construction, did for sure not encourage many to continue the resistance. 

Now, Alcoa controls the east. Nothing remarkable seems to take place there without the aluminium producer taking part in it. And that is precisely how corporations gather trust and popularity. In the name of increased population and welfare as well as more flowering cultural life, the people in the east were convinced that the society needed the Kárahnjúkar Dam and the smelter. And the same tricks were used when the people of Húsavík (in the north) were convinced to bring a smelter down on themselves, with free assistance from the media, which systematically displayed the image that not a single person in Húsavík had anything against the planned construction. (2) Recent news prove the opposite: Plenty of people are opposed to the construction of the smelter and the parallel energy projects, which will completely destroy  geothermal fields or glacial rivers in the north-east – most likely both! (3, 4)

Alcoa’s leash on the society in the East is not different from anywhere else here in Iceland or in the western world in general, where corporations have fundamentally taken over human societies and the natural environment. Corporations have become bigger and often way more powerful than governments. We chose to attack Alcoa because of how obvious Alcoa’s takeover of the society is; how obviously dependent on aluminium the arms industry and war institutions are; how obvious it is that aluminium production is one of the roots of the ecological crisis we are facing on this planet.

The newest issue of Fjarðarálsfréttir, Alcoa’s newsletter in Iceland, which was published last June shows Alcoa’s extreme authority  in the society. One example after another is mentioned to prove the so-called positive impacts of the aluminium smelter. Worker’s charity, social funding, increased service, knowledge and cultural life, better transportations, increased population, the country’s biggest theater festival, wally-ball field on the beach, public meetings about environmental issues, gender equality and no thrash – everything sponsored by Alcoa! And still there are people who are surprised and angry about how the recent documentary Draumalandið (The Dreamland) displays the society’s image. Well, Alcoa can be proud of one of its works: Giving the people living in the east of Iceland the idea that without the smelter, there would be no life around there. (5)

Alcoa’s spokespersons in Iceland have systematically tried to hide the fact that the company is one of the foundations of modern wars. They have officially claimed that Alcoa only produces aluminium but has nothing to say about what than happens; what will be made out of it. (6) Saving Iceland has pointed out the opposite and asked how Alcoa in Iceland could think of lying straight forward when all facts are up on the table. (7) Alcoa Defense, the company’s weapon department, is one of the company´s biggest prides according to Alcoa´s website. The company signs – and brags about it each time – one contract after another with some of the world’s biggest weapon producers and military institutions, concerning designing, repairing and producing all types of weapons for ground, sea and air. Alcoa’s plan to try to keep the truth away from people here in Iceland was doomed from the beginning. (8)

Another of Alcoa’s image campaigns – and this time on a global scale – is the greenwash. The company’s propaganda makes it clear that Alcoa is a part of the solution, always and everywhere. It does not matter if it has to do with sustainability, saving endangered animal species, clean drinking water, decreasing and even stopping further greenhouse effects – Alcoa squeezes itself into everything. With the help of a crew of people getting paid for creating and sustaining Alcoa’s image and even volunteers, who according to Alcoa “take on the most challenging environmental issues” of the planet, Alcoa has created an green and environmentally friendly image. (9)

But there is nothing green and environmentally friendly about aluminium. There is nothing environmental about bauxite mining, alumina refining, transportation of raw materials between continents, aluminium production and the final production of an aluminium based product. There is nothing green about the damming of glacial rivers and geothermal areas. There is nothing socially positive about aluminium production. All this only serves one goal: To create and increase few individuals’ economical growth and to hold up an unsustainable economy system. The aluminium companies’ image is false from the beginning to the end. 

Our action is small and we realize it. But it can have much more powerful impact if we make it clear to Alcoa that the company will be attacked again and again if it will not stop further construction. Few splashes of green skyr are not enough on their own and indeed it is not only in our responsibility to fight against the monster that the heavy industry machine is.

There is little as no tradition of resistance here in Iceland but the january insurrection was a good warmup. People learned how to raise their fists against the authorities – even with full force. We hope that actions like our also works as an encouragement to people, so they realize the the january insurrection did not come to an end with parliamentary elections. The protests were only the taste of what is about to come if we really want to enforce real changes. Real changes do not consist in changing a government, but to completely revolt the whole world that we live in, stop seeing it as the human’s sacred right to destroy the planet for financial growth and to fulfill this consumer society’s fake needs.

In Alcoa’s newsletter, Tómas Már Sigurðsson, the company’s director in Iceland, says: “Iceland’s strength lies in the harnessing of natural resources.” i.e. creating more energy for aluminium production.  We renounce this stupidity and say instead: The only way to real changes lies in the protection of nature!

Resources:

(1) An Agency of the Ministry of Industry and Energy and the National Power Company (1995). Lowest Energy Prices!! In Europe For New Contracts
(2) Mikil ánægja á Húsavík með ákvörðun Alcoa, news article Mbl.is, http://mbl.is/mm/frettir/innlent/2006/03/01/mikil_anaegja_a_husavik_med_akvordun_alcoa/
(3) Hvað er þetta hitt?, news article Mbl.is, http://mbl.is/mm/folk/frettir/2009/05/08/hvad_er_thetta_hitt/

(4) Jaap Krater, Bakki Impact Assessment Should Include Dams, an article in Morgunblaðið, http://www.savingiceland.org/?p=2959&language=en
(5) Fjarðarálsfréttir, http://www.alcoa.com/iceland/ic/pdf/2009-06-30_fjardaalsfrettir.pdf
(6) Erna Indriðadóttir, Álið, Björk og Alcoa, an article in Morgunblaðið, http://www.alcoa.com/iceland/ic/news/whats_new/2008/2008_06_bjork.asp
(7) Snorri Páll Jónsson Úlfhildarson, Lygar og útúrsnúningar, an article in Morgunblaðið, http://www.savingiceland.org/?p=1543&language=is)
(8) The webpage of Alcoa Defense, http://www.alcoa.com/defense/en/home.asp
(9) Alcoa’s webpage, http://www.alcoa.com/global/en/eco_alcoa/eco_overview.asp

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