Two of Iceland’s best-loved artists are trying to draw the world’s attention to the plight of the country’s landscape.
Björk and writer-environmentalist Andri Snær Magnason have called for urgent action to protect Iceland’s highlands at a press conference in Reykjavík today.
The highlands, which attract nature lovers from around the world, have limited protection and is potentially facing extensive development. The government has plans to pave roads, erect power lines and install power lines through the centre of Iceland, effectively “cleaving the wilderness in two areas”, according to Magnason.
“Icelanders have a deadline,” Björk said in a video to promote the petition. “For 11 more days, they can go online and protest an overhead high-voltage power line that will be built across the whole island.”
Their petition comes a week after David Cameron’s visit to Iceland, when a new UK-Iceland Energy Task Force was announced to assess the possibility of laying the world’s longest undersea power cable, running 746 miles, to provide the UK with what has been described as “long-term, renewable” energy from Iceland’s volcanoes.
The project has caused great consternation in Iceland, where the highlands form the largest area of untouched wilderness in Europe and provide a home to the nesting place of pink-footed geese as well as a habitat for the great north Atlantic salmon, and some of the island’s greatest waterfalls.
Gætum Garðsins (Protect the Park), launched in March 2014, aims to raise awareness for the conservation of the area. Last year, the organisation staged a benefit event, featuring performances from Björk, Patti Smith, Of Monsters and Men, Lykke Li and others.
In a video released in tandem with the press conference, Björk called for all those who love her country’s landscape to support the cause. “Iceland is now the largest untouched nature in Europe,” she said. “This would end that. Our government has plans to build over 50 dams and power plants in this area – and to start next year. This could end Iceland’s wilderness in a few years. We propose to start a national park in our highlands. Surveys have already proved that the majority of Icelanders are behind us. We ask for the world to support us against our government.”
Magnason is one of the country’s most prestigious writers, known for his plays, poetry, novels and children’s fiction, as well as Dreamland, a non-fiction book that discussed many of the issues facing modern Iceland, especially the threat to its environment.
“The concept of the infinite energy of Iceland is on par with other myths from Iceland like elves and trolls,” he said of the campaign. “You cannot simply plug into a volcano. Iceland has already harnessed its nature for energy production close to the maximum, and the only way this proposal could work would be to build more power plants.” Five such factories were now being planned, he said, claiming it will make it “almost impossible to imagine where all the energy can come from without damaging something incredibly wild and fragile”.
This article was written by Laura Barton, for theguardian.com on Friday 6th November 2015 16.45 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010